Growing up in the heart of the Liberian Civil War, a young Francis "Jaway" Nyaforh never dreamed of pursuing a professional career in music. But inspiration can come at the most unexpected times from the most surprising sources. Jaway spoke recently with Blogcritic Justin Kantor about the unnerving circumstances and life-changing experiences which have led him to release his debut album, Decontee.
Your debut album is entitled Decontee. What is the origin of the word and its definition?
In my tribe, 'Decontee' means that there is time for everything. The album is full of inspirational and feel-good songs based on my experiences growing up in Liberia, West Africa. One of the songs is called 'Liberia,' which is one of the first I ever wrote.
You grew up in the midst of civil war in Liberia. What was the background of that war? What impact did it have on your everyday life?
Liberia is a small country in West Africa. We had a civil war that started Dec 24th, 1989. It was a very dreadful war. It was pretty much based on, in my opinion, greed. It started in the countryside and came all the way up to the city. During that time, it changed from greed for power and money into tribalism. Liberians watched and learned how cruel we were to ourselves and how much anger we kept inside. So many different tribes have been suppressed over time; and this was an opportunity to unleash it all. It was something that the common mind couldn't imagine. It was very bad.
You had people killing their neighbors based on simple jealousy, like, 'You used to have this, and now it's my time to get it.' You had child soldiers killing women and cutting their stomachs up and taking out the fetuses. There were so many dreadful things going on. During that time, my Grandmother was 65. She would get around and try to get food, and we would walk. We'd leave the house at 6 in the morning to go look for food, and we'd return at 6 that night, because it would take so long to go through different checkpoints — since there were so many different warring factions. You had the government forces, you had National Freedom Party of Liberia (NFPL), which split into another group. Then, that group split into yet another group.We were told the reason for the war was to remove the president, Samuel Doe, and his government from power, so that we could have a free and fair, democratic election. But everybody involved soon realized some of them had different ideas.
The war lasted for 14 years. Six years into the war, through some people I befriended, I got the opportunity to come to the U.S. Hence the song 'Liberia' came about. I wanted to write something about my life experience, being a child and how beautiful it was before the war came about; and how dreadful during the war. I know a lot of people who went through that. Most people around the world saw it on the news or read about it in the paper. So, I just put that out there in a positive way.