Celebrated singer, composer, recording artist and cultural dancer, Tokay Tomah, who joined the Liberian National Troupe in the late 1970s, died yesterday after she collapsed on her way to work in Philadelphia, United States, according to reports reaching the Daily Observer.
Tomah, 49, is survived by her only daughter and a granddaughter, both living in the USA.
Born in Buutuo, Nimba County in 1968, she was the last of six children and was therefore named Tokay, meaning ‘stay in the house,’ because she was her parents’ favorite.
She was recruited as a teenager to join the Liberian National Troupe when former President William R. Tolbert and Director of Culture Peter Ballah visited her county on a tour and were impressed by her dancing. As a member of the troupe which toured Europe, United States, and several African countries during the 80s, she served as a background vocalist for most of the famous singers including Fatu Gayflor, Zaye Tete, and Nimba Bird.
Nicknamed ‘Queen of the Stage,’ Tomah entered the music arena in 2002 as a solo artist with her debut album, ‘Chay Chay Polay,’ which established her as Liberia’s premiere female recording artist at that time. From 2002 she produced six albums, with the last being ‘What You Know About Me’ in 2012. Among the six albums Tomah released, ‘Open the Door’ and ‘Chay Chay Polay’ were the most popular and sold in their thousands.
During the country’s 14-year civil war, she worked with the UN on disarmament and reconciliation through music – which helped to encourage combatants to lay down their arms. As a singer, she was also involved in campaigns on HIV/AIDS, rape, sexual exploitation and abuse.
The ‘Chay Chay Polay’ songstress received awards from the Musicians Union of Liberia, Africare Liberia and the Ministry of Agriculture.
She performed in England, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Nigeria and once served as a speaker on a panel on the relationship between arts and war at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in the United States.
News of her death went viral on Facebook, and tributes began to pour in from friends, family members and artists, including DenG, Kanvee Adams and Friday the Cellphone Man.