Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post presents information about Liberian singer/danceer Zaye Tete as well as informtion about the Dan (Gio) and Mano ethnic groups in Liberia.
In addition, this post showcases two YouTube videos of Liberia, West African singer and dancer. Information about the Dan and Mano ethnic groups is given to serve as background explanations for selected comments from these two videos' discussion threads.
The content of this post is presented for educational, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to Zaye Tete for her musical legacy and thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these YouTube examples.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE DAN (GIO) AND MANO ETHNIC GROUPS IN LIBERIA
"Liberia .... officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east, the Atlantic Ocean to its south. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000 people. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia."...
...[Liberia's] "Main minority groups [are]: Kpelle 487,400 (15.2%), Bassa 347,600 (10.9%), Gio (Dan) 150-200,000 (4.7-6.3%), Kru (Klao) 184,000 (5.8%), Grebo 222,000 (6.9%), Mano 185,000 (5.8%), Americo-Liberians/Congo People 160,000 (5%), Loma 141,800 (4.4%), Krahn 126,400 (4.0%), Kissi 115,000 (3.6%), Gbandi 100,000 (3.1%), Gola 99,300 (3.1%), Vai 89,500 (2.8%), Mandingo 45,400 (1.4%), Mende 19,700 (0.6%), Kuwaa 12,800 (0.4%), and Dei 8,100 (0.3%)
[Note: Percentages for religions are taken from the 2007 US CIRF report....]
The forest belt in West Africa that covers large swathes of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria has always been populated by a large number of ethnic groups. In Liberia there are at least sixteen ethnic groups, each belonging to one of three major language groupings.
Dan (also inhabiting Cote d’Ivoire) are more commonly known as Gio in Liberia, which stems from the Bassa phrase meaning slave people, but the term Dan is preferred and used by the people themselves. The Dan are a southern Mandé-speaking group and those living in Liberia live in Nimba County surrounded by the Côte d’Ivoire, Ma(no), Bassa and Krahn (Wee). The Dan also inhabit the mountainous west-central Côte d’Ivoire. They originated somewhere to the west or northwest of their present lands.
Unlike many other tribal peoples, Dan largely accepted the rule of the Americo-Liberians. The Ma are Mano, a name given to them by the Bassa and meaning literally ‘Ma-people’ in Bassa. They reside in Nimba County in north central Liberia, surrounded by Kpelle, Bassa and Dan. The Mano also live in Guinea.”...
..."Dan, also called Gio or Yakuba, an ethnolinguistic grouping of people inhabiting the mountainous west-central Côte d’Ivoire and adjacent areas of Liberia. The Dan belong to the Southern branch of the Mande linguistic subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family. They originated somewhere to the west or northwest of their present lands, perhaps among the Malinke (Mandingo). The Dan are closely related to the Gere (also spelled Ngere, or Guere) to the south."...
From https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=cbpubs Some Terms From Liberian Speech compiled by Michael Evan Gold; Cornell University (1979)
"Gio or Dan
a Mande-speaking peoples of central eastern Liberia, closely associated with the Mano. The large number of dialectic and geographic
subdivisions of these peoples has created much confusion i~ the maps and literature. In the Ivory Coast sections, these peoples seem to be
re.ferred to as Dan or Da, while in Liberia they are known as Gio, Ge, Gema, or .Ngere. The latter word is rendered "Guere" by the French.
Insufficient linguistic and ethnographic studies have been made of these groups"
INFORMATION ABOUT ZAYE TETE
From http://www.folkloreproject.org/artists/zaye-tete [Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, United States) Folklore Project)
Zaye Tete is a singer and dancer from Liberia. Born in Toweh Town, Nimba County in the northeastern part of the country, Zaye was one of 13 children of parents who grew coffee and cocoa. Along with one of her sisters, she became part of a local dance and song group that performed on the occasion of the birth of a child, the visit of a dignitary, and on feast days following a death. Zaye had first learned traditional dance and song from her father, who was a performer as well. In the 1970s, Liberia's President, William Tolbert, toured Nimba County, and saw Zaye's troupe perform. He selected her to go to Monrovia, to become part of the National Cultural Troupe. Zaye was just 13, and knew only her Dan language. Once at Kendeja, an artists' village and the home of the Troupe, just outside the capital, Monrovia, she studied English and other academic subjects, along with singing and dancing from all of Liberia's ethnic groups.
At the end of the first year at Kendeja, her father came to take her to the Sande Society in her home county for a few months. There she was instructed in the history and proper social relations of the Dan people, including how to show respect to elders, how to take care of a family, and so on. A big part of the training involved learning and performing traditional songs and dances. When she returned to Kendeja, she sang the Sande Society songs to herself. After a director of the Troupe overheard, she was asked to sing in front of the Troupe's officials. She sang a welcoming song for the first Sande initiates in a given year. From that day on, she was trained as a professional (solo) singer as well as a dancer. As a member of the National Troupe, she traveled throughout Liberia, singing at village feasts and other events. She also performed in South Korea at a Cultural Festival in 1984.
In 1990, when the civil war reached the capital, everyone at Kendeja had to run. She made it on foot - after about two months - to Nimba County, to find her family. From there she crossed the border to the Ivory Coast. She stayed in Danane refugee camp until November 2002, when war broke out in the Ivory Coast. At that time, she escaped to Ghana, where she lived in another camp until she emigrated to the U.S., in the summer of 2004. While in the Ivory Coast, she started a Liberian children's cultural troupe, recruiting kids from the refugee schools. With the help of an international non-governmental organization, she set up a practice hall, found other musicians and dancers to help with the training, and produced and sang and danced in performances in the camp, for the birth of a child, for arrivals of friends or relatives, and so on. Here in the U.S. she performs at Liberian celebrations and clubs.”
SHOWCASE YOUTUBE EXAMPLES:
Example #1: Liberia Zaye Tete
ROWLIN WHITE STUDIO, Published on Aug 17, 2008
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread (with numbers assigned for referencing purposes only)
Note: I've have difficulty discerning which 2008/2009 comments are written as replies to comments because "replies" weren't noted in earlier YouTube discussion threads and also in part because some comments may have been deleted and some commenters may have changed their screen names.
1. Morris Dokie, 2008
"Its beatiful to view our Nimba music and video here in America. I love the song. Its wonderful."
2. Darkhandsome, 2008
"wow! Zaye Tete! I never thought I would have ever seen your video here in Norway. Thank you for posting this video and thank God for the guy who created youtube. please post more if you have. Thanks again."
3. Nikoll23, 2008
"Henridion28, sorry but this is a Liberian gio music, the dialect is also spoken in Ivory Coast. I believe it's called yacouba or dan. The singer is indeed Liberian singing in her Liberian dialect called gio."
4. joculee, 2009
Could u explain this song to us who don't understand Gio."
5. Nganga di Kapinta, 2009
"@Xaymaicana She's singing about the war and her missing relatives. I don't quite understand what she's saying, because I'm from a different tribe."
"joculee" and @Xaymaicana may be the same commenter.
6. Jean-Jacques Paillebeaux, 2009
"Darkhandsome, the guy you're asking to re-read his history won't need to do that for the simple reason that the lady singing here - ZAYE TETE - sings in a language that we call "Yacouba" in Ivory Coast, an ethnic group located at the border with Liberia. I'm from Toulépleu but my mom is "Yacouba" from Bin-Houyé - both cities are situated in the far west of Ivory Coast. So for me she's my fellow ivorian citizen. Now I've made you mad! Right?"
7. Darkhandsome, 2009
"From Ivory Coast? Maybe you need to go and re-read your history my brother and stop calling our Liberian music an Ivorian music, because we also have the same tribe in Liberia, and it is called Dan or Gio, and a similar tribe called Man, so stop calling it an Ivorian music."
8. Darkhandsome, 2009
"I am half Dan and half Mano from Nimba County and I don't consider myself an Ivorian. I am a proud Liberian. I was in Ivory Coast for four years, and not one day I was called an Ivorian. The Ivorians used to always call me petit Liberién(small Liberian)"
9. Darkhandsome, 2009
"Yeah, I am from Nimba County in Liberia. I am a half Dan and a half Man. My mother is from the Dan tribe and my father was from the Mano tribe."
10. Darkhandsome, 2009
"Yeah, Mano is English way of calling it, but when we are speaking it in Nimba County, it is called Man, you get it?
11. yarkpazuo, 2009
"DAN or GIO 4ever."
12. Darkhandsome, 2010
"@kiricool225 When I was studying in elementary school in Liberia, we learnt that the Dan Tribe migrated from Ivory Coast, but they have lived in Liberia for hundreds of years now, which make them Liberians, you see? They held onto their language,cultures and traditions they brought with them from Ivory Coast. That is the reason why you see many similarities between them, but they are Liberians and not Ivorians, you understand now? Just like Europeans called themselves Americans and Australians!!"
I assume that this commenter may have changed his or her screen name as I couldn't find any comments attributed to the screen name"@kiricool225".
13. Darkhandsome, 2010
"@prophetkey Tell them brother!!! The tribe is called Dan and not Gio as the white man calls it."
14. Darkhandsome, 2010
"@kiricool225 Well, thanks for your understanding. I don't really understand all what she is saying, since my mother had an inter-marriage with another tribe from Liberia, we couldn't speak Dan at home, but English in order to communicate with or understand each other, so I have forgotten a lot of my own language, but one of the meanings of the song is "The sorrow of going abroad and never having to see the people you once loved so dearly'' I wished I could explain it more to you, but I can't."
15. Nganga di Kapinta, 2010
"@kiricool225 She's from the Gio (Dahn) tribe of Liberia. Almost all of the people on both sides of the Cote d'Ivoire-Liberia border share the same languages and culture. The reason is, much of what is now the western part of Cote d'Ivoire used to be part of Liberia until those territories were taken by the French during the colonial era. Places like Danane, San Pedro and as far as Mahn, used to be Liberian territories. The same goes for southeastern Guinea and eastern Sierra Leone. Interesting."
16. Joyce Togba, 2014
"She is such a great singer. Saw her performed 2 summers ago in Philadelphia . She was fantastic!"
17. Kougliziam 2015
"What language of Liberia was this song in? I really need to know."
18. Sementa Raynes, 2015
"it's a gio song"
19. Kouglizia, 2015
"+Sementa Kpakpa Thank you, I appreciate it"
20. Henri dion-gokan, 2015
"It is in Gio also called Yacouba in Ivory Coast where many more of this people live (Dan People)"
21. Ernesto Kouglizia, 2015
"+Henri dion-gokan So that's it, that's our Yacouba bothers. No wonder this song speaks so much to my heart. God bless this group. They bring so much joy to people's heart. Would you happen to know who the relative of Ivory Coast Bhete people are in Liberia? I really appreciate your help."
22. Henri dion-gokan, 2015
Bete' is a Krou language (Kru) but I am affraid they totally moved from the other place of the border..they have lived in this area way before the border was established, but did not have some people left there, but the Guerre' people in Ivory Coast have still have their people there called Krhan, fighting with the Dan People for ages..the Kroumen (pronounced Krumen) in Ivory Coast have their people in Liberia"
23. Ernesto Kouglizia, 2015
"+Henri dion-gokan Thank you so much brother for your enlightenment! Always wanted to know what the Bete people counterpart were in your Country. Liberia has a special place in my heart because that's were we trace our origins. So It is always with emotion that I always say: I Love Liberia, Land of my forefathers!"
24. Gifty Jatu Smith Kamara, 2017
"I love my country so I never gets tried of listening to our tradition songs even though I can't understand this but as long it is from mama Liberia I appreciate it, I'm via by tribe."
25. Margrete ben, 2018
"I love this part of the song, don't pick among the children"
Example #2: Zaye Tete Nenwon
kewellen Dolley, Published on Apr 9, 2012
A New Video from Zaye Tete "Nenwon" meaning for the sake of the children
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread (with numbers assigned for referencing purposes only)
1. Emmanuel Ziah, 2014
"Madam tete,you are a true Nimban,I love it"
2. Mary Nuah, 2014
"Zaye Tete, you're awesome! True Nimba beauty."
3. DAN YACOUB, 2018
"Dan Yacouba girl keep going nice Song ivory coast liberia and guinee"
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