From the today's episode of BBC Witness History, I learned that Nina Simone had lived in Monrovia, Liberia for a three-year period when she was quite a prominent performer in the soul genre.
BBC reporter Lucy Burns combines her interview of Simone's friend James Dennis with archival interviews of Simone herself to tell the story of how personal and political motivations came together to lead the singer to a country that was at the time attractive to many African Americans. The discussion moves on to changes both in the singer's personal circumstances and in the country itself, which has fallen into very difficult times since its cultural heyday in the 1970s.
Liberian Calypso was written by Simone, but draws heavily on Maya Angelou's marvelous 1957 calypso tune Run Joe.
When I am rowing in New Bedford harbor, we often see the word Monrovia on the stern of ships at anchor, and fellow rowers will ask about the name, or about the Liberian flag, which looks vaguely like the U.S. flag. Although it is a small country with a proportionally even smaller economy, Liberia is the registry of record for many ships; it is one of the world's most important flags of convenience.
|This ship is not registered in Brazil.
Photo: Maritime Studies