In 1976, President Tolbert of Liberia was touring Nimba County. He stopped in Butuo, Tokay’s hometown. A group of young people entertained him with traditional dances. Tokay was one of them. She caught his eye and he recruited her to join the National Cultural Troupe. She moved to the capital, Monrovia. She was 10 years old.
In addition to becoming a dancer with the Troupe, Tokay developed skills as a back-up singer. She toured as a dancer and singer with the National Cultural Troupe throughout Liberia and to England, Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and the U.S. During the civil war, Tokay became a featured singer. She also began to compose songs, many of which were focused on either the push for peace or the hardships that war created for individuals and families.
Tokay worked with the United Nations during the years of civil conflict, too, performing as part of anti-war and anti-sexual violence campaigns. She participated in performances encouraging disarmament and reconciliation as well.
She moved to the U.S. in 2010 where she continued to perform as a soloist and as a member of the Philadelphia-based Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, a group she helped found in 2013. She was honored with a Leeway Transformation Award in 2014 and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2016.
Tokay passed away suddenly in November, 2017. We miss her terribly.
Tokay Tomah 2015 WPEB Radio Interview