SOAS University of London

Liberian Hip-Co artist releases song for SOAS student’s anti-corruption primer for children

22 May 2014

Liberia’s number one Hip-Co musician Takun J has written and produced a song for children’s book Gbagba, (One Moore Book or SOAS Radio) the anti-corruption primer written by SOAS, University of London doctoral student Robtel Neajai Pailey.

The Liberia-born scholar was inspired to write Gbagba because she wanted to “start a revolution from below by giving children the verbal tools to question the confusing ethical codes of the adults around them.”

 “There seems to be a gap in the fight against corruption — in Liberia and elsewhere,” Pailey explained “and I was really interested to explore how corruption affects children.”

Released on Monday 19 May, “Gbagba Is Corruption” joins the canon of anti-corruption songs popularised by politically conscious musicians such as Takun J, who blends Liberian colloquialisms with Hip-hop beats.

The song forms part of a grant Pailey secured from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), an organisation which focuses on governance and transparency issues in West Africa, to pilot Gbagba in schools across Liberia with an initial donation of 1,500 books.

Grant implementer One Moore Book (OMB), which publishes culturally sensitive children’s books for countries with low literacy rates, plans to disseminate copies of Gbagba to 10 rural schools this year, as well as monitor the implementation of a teacher’s guide developed in consultation with Liberia’s Ministry of Education.

OSIWA funded the Gbagba pilot because it “believes the fight against corruption needs to start with teaching children the values of accountability and integrity, which opens the space for an honest discussion of how corruption adversely affects them in their homes, schools, local communities, and within the national landscape on a broader scale.”

Gbagba, meaning ‘trickery’ in the Bassa language, was published to critical acclaim in 2013 as part of OMB’s Liberia Signature Series. It was subsequently launched in Monrovia, Liberia in February 2013 at the University of Liberia; Washington, DC (USA) in November 2013 at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS); and London, England in December 2013 at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Since its publication, the anti-corruption children’s primer has been adopted by the Liberian Ministry of Education as a supplemental reader for 3rd to 5th graders.

Gbagba, illustrated by Chase Walker, and published by One Moore Book (OMB), has been featured in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, The Washington Informer Newspaper, Voice of America, Pacifica Radio’s ‘Africa Now!’, Vox Africa’s ‘Shoot the Messenger’, Transparency International’s UK blog, and the Royal African Society’s blog. It is available on One Moore Book and Amazon for purchase.