Tokay Tomah

4 Dec 2017


Tokay Tomah, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.


Tokay Tomah, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.


Tokay Tomah in performance at World Café Live, Philadelphia, 2015. Photo by JJ Tizziou.

"I sing because I want Liberian arts to continue and to grow. I sing because I want to pass my knowledge of traditional songs on to new generations of Liberians. I sing because I have a lot to teach the world, and this is my way of doing that."

Tokay Tomah (1968-2017) was a traditional African vocalist, composer, and recording artist who dedicated her career to inspiring dialogue about critical issues facing Liberian immigrant communities. As a singer and dancer with Liberia's National Cultural Troupe, Tomah toured throughout Liberia and internationally in the 1980s. During Liberia's civil war, she was active in peacebuilding and reconciliation work with the United Nations. In 2002, one of her compositions was chosen as the theme song for the Liberian Women's Peace Movement, led by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee. After immigrating to the US in 2010, Tomah became a founding member of the Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, which includes a core group of Liberian singers and dancers: Pew Fellow Fatu Gayflor, as well as Marie Nyenabo, and Zaye Tete. The chorus adapts Liberian folk songs and creates new music in traditional styles, in an effort to generate collective strength and to offer resources for change for Philadelphia's Liberian community. Tomah was the recipient of a Transformation Award (2014) and an Art and Change Grant (2013) from the Leeway Foundation.