MONROVIA, Montserrado – Liberian musician Henry Toe, who goes by the stage name Amaze, has launched the video for his latest song, “Corruption, Corruption.”
The video was funded by the Accountability Lab and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to promote a message of positive governance. The launch took place last Thursday at 146, Takun J’s entertainment club on Carey Street.
The video, filmed at the Ducor Hotel in Monrovia, was produced by the Accountability Lab’s Jim Tuttle. Tuttle said the ruins of the Ducor Hotel provided an excellent backdrop. “The building itself is a vivid symbol of bygone opulence fallen to decay,” he said.
Accountability Lab said the launch was a collaborative initiative to combat corruption in Liberia through the power of Hipco music. The organization regularly works with Hipco artists on anti-corruption campaigns.
While most anti-corruption efforts focus on governance, the song takes a different approach as it examines how corruption begins within the home before becoming a threat to the nation’s development. The lyrics depict corruption as being embraced by parents as they allow their children to develop corrupt behaviors.
“My people, the thing they call corruption, not a play yeah… it can start right from the house then later on it starts wearing coat suit then it enters the government ministry yeah… then the whole place gets messed up,” Amaze rapped.
The song suggests that one of the keys to minimizing corruption is for families to fight it in their homes.
“Corruption, corruption, it can start right from the home, step by step it gets mature when it’s grown, it can be minimized provided if the parent and the child don’t compromise,” the song explained.
Amaze said corruption is a major factor affecting the growth and development of Liberia. The song was his contribution to the fight against corruption.
He wrote the song “because I feel corruption is one of the biggest viruses that’s eating our nation.” He continued, “In order to solve a problem, you have to get to the root cause. I wrote this song to alert parents on the need to monitor corrupt tendencies in children, even at a young age.”
Thursday’s launch is expected to be followed by a discussion on Hipco and accountability, as well as performances to take place at high schools and universities in Monrovia and Buchanan.
Amaze has stressed the need for additional support for the initiative. He said the funding available to spread the music to Liberia-at-large was inadequate. “It’s a great thing to do, but this program is a short-term program because of the funding we got, so probably we will be reaching out, but I don’t think we’ll reach out to all of the people we want to reach out to,” he said.
He called for additional funding that would enable him reach out to a greater portion of the population.
Brooks Marmon, the Programs Director of Accountability Lab in Liberia, said the launching was successful, despite some technical difficulties experienced during the program (Disclosure: Marmon is an occasional contributor to The Bush Chicken).
The Lab plans to facilitate discussions in schools and the media and conduct training for artists in the country shortly. “We hope this will be one contribution to eradicating corruption,” Marmon said.
“We are an incubator for accountability change-makers to develop and implement innovative ideas for integrity in their communities,” he said. “We train, mentor, and [provide resources to] citizens to strengthen systems of accountability to unleash positive social and economic change.”
In addition to its work with film and music, he said Accountability Lab has supported a variety of initiatives in the visual arts, including an ongoing mural campaign and the production of an accountability comic book series.
Amaze began rapping during the Liberian civil war while he was a refugee in Guinea. He started by doing freestyles and prepared verses over beats from popular American rappers Tupac, Nas, and Notorious B.I.G.
Upon return to Liberia, Amaze joined the now defunct 3T’s, a once-popular dance group, in 2005. He transformed the crew from a group that performed to foreign songs to a trio that produced original content, achieving widespread acclaim with the track “Dizzing” prior to it being disbanded in 2010. Currently, Amaze performs as a solo artist and along with Peaches as one-half of the duo known as “Tag Team.”
Amaze is also the Secretary General of the Liberian Secular Musicians Association and is a business student at the University of Liberia.