Cameroon has many talented musicians, yet, majority of them remain unknown. Only a handful manage to break into the market, out of which a small fraction such as artists like Stanley Enow, Charlotte Dipanda, Daphne amongst others have been able to create sustainable careers. Also, most musicians in Cameroon struggle to make sales and get airplay due to popularity of Nigerian music in the country. According to a report by the Cameroon Music Corporation in 2018, “foreign music, especially from Nigeria dominated records played in night clubs, radio and TV stations. It further stated more than one million of the three million CDs sold in Cameroon were of Nigerian music.” The media and nightclubs have been blamed for promoting Nigerian songs over local content, however, they claim they are only responding to people's requests.
Critics say the industry has "suffered a major setback due to the influence of foreign trends on local artists who always look for the easy way out." Stakeholders have called on the government to "reinforce laws that require 70% of music played by the media houses to be of local artists, and suspend or fine those who violate the regulations." Despite these challenges which also include a lack of proper infrastructure and legal framework for the industry, zealous young musicians like Liya Yoh are determined to go against all odds and build a sustainable musical career. We had a brief conversation with Liya.
FA: Briefly tells us about you
Liya: My names are Fung Livirene LumYoh with stage name Liya AKA Love goddess. I’m from the Northwest Region of Cameroon, a graduate in Law and currently, music is my occupation. I am also a screenwriter, a personal counselor. A Sagittarian, firstborn and only lady of a family of 4.
FA: How would you describe your style of music to a first-time listener?
Liya: “Afro Merengue”
FA: What made you realize you wanted to be a singer? By what means were you able to convince your parents/family to allow you to pursue a career in music?
Liya: I didn’t know I will get into music professionally until after I started doing my masters. A number inboxed me from a WhatsApp group to join them in a peace song project. After that I started putting my recordings out and my family only discovered from an African music contest online Where I was one of the finalists from Cameroon (AfriMusic Song Contest 2020), they had no choice but to join in the voting campaign and they were so proud but scared about all they have been hearing about Artists and the music industry. As time went on, they understood better, gave me their blessings, and right now they are solidly behind me 100 percent.
FA: What was the feeling like when you officially dropped your debut single, ‘For You’? Did you get the feedback you expected?
Liya: Truth be told I was really disappointed. I didn’t meet my expectations up to 20 percent but I still believe ‘For you’ will be amongst my biggest hits. This experience helped me understand the music industry more as I got depressed in my new experience of deceit and fake support, I later termed the music industry “jungle” or “Game of cheese”.
FA: Can you describe what you do to make your music vastly different in sound to that of other musicians from Cameroon?
Liya: I tell real-life stories in my music. This has no particular genre. I serve the vision as they come in a rhythm called “Afro Merengue” which is a composition expressed via popular African and Cameroon local languages English, French, pidgin, and “vernacular” to come up with my own pronunciation and words. I basically work with my producer from the beat-making process fusing bottle dance and traditional instruments/rhythms that trended in the days of the old in African Pop and soul music and dancehall.
FA: Music is a beautiful form of self-expression, where you have the opportunity to pour out your feelings, thoughts, and passions. How influential do you think your music is in the lives and values of people, particularly the younger generation?
Liya: Very influential; I’ve always considered artists as preachers. Shown the population the soft or weaker side of me like in the song “For You” preaching genuine love, sacrifice, and kindness. Talk against societal ills, preaching forgiveness and reconciliation like in the song “Broken” and on the other hand teaching my fellow female gender life is a “Go-getter” and everyone should stand up for themselves where necessary as in the song “Pay Ma Money”. I believe “self-expression solves depression” and through my music, I express common happenings, #Lovegoddess.
FA: Despite working on your music, you continued schooling and earned a law degree, and graduated top of your class. Just how do you blend both worlds without sacrificing any one of them?
Liya: I started music after I had my Bachelor’s degree. I didn’t complete my masters, didn’t write any entrance exams nor applied for further studies. I didn’t become the Lawyer my dad was already proud of and I gave up searching for menial jobs. All I could think of was to do music and become an entrepreneur alongside. At the moment which I am on the track, “Life is about sacrifices”
FA: Being part of the new generation, would you say that it is easier or harder for musicians in Cameroon to make a living from their craft now compared to 10 years ago? Also, can you briefly share some major challenges faced in the industry by artists such as yourself in their quest to carve a profitable niche for their music?
Liya: It is easier to make money from music as compared to back in the days because of the numerous opportunities like the appearance of the internet and the digitalization of music. However, it is expensive to get music heard all over the nation not to talk of worldwide. Very few good pay shows and endorsement deals. My greatest problem is exposure, promotion, and marketing (based on my vision) When I have that I can take it from there.
FA: So far, how would you describe your musical journey? And what are some of your notable achievements or projects? Also, how would you define the synergy between you and award-winning music producer Dazbel of HL Muzik?
Liya: My Journey has been difficult but I’m experiencing progress. I’ve always had to work extra hard. I thank God for the achievements I’ve gotten within a very short while. I started with mashups and covers, featuring in projects of other Artists, peace/humanitarian songs, got nominations within 3 years. I just recently released my second official single “Pay Ma Money” which has exposed me more in and out of the country. Dazbell Drama is a mentor. We just can’t stay without making plans and working and most times our brains sync when going through the production process of projects. I call him “My Engine”.
FA: Last year was a hard time for everyone due to the coronavirus pandemic. We are still not in normal times. What are some of the innovative ways you have adopted to make your brand relevant in the industry during these challenging times?
Liya: I wouldn’t want to say precise strategies. But one thing I’ll do is connect like a preacher running a tv program. There is no barrier to how music can travel neither is music physical. The hard times can only limit the finances to bring in the entertainment.
FA: Nudity has become a trending topic that has caused controversy and quite a number of explicit videos have been censored or banned. Critics say watching African music videos now is the easiest and unconscious way of turning yourself on, and they further say women in music videos are now a subtle instrument for seduction. What's your take on that?
Liya: I agree there is a nudity trend and the women in music videos are being instruments of seduction. It is no longer news, it is the Century we live in. The world is changing and so is Africa. I call on everyone to be conscious and have self-control. Society can develop means to make adult content served only to adults for their pleasurable uses and messages.
FA: Any upcoming project?
Liya: Plenty of work done on my desk. I trust my team will carefully bring it out as the population demands. Stay tuned the world hasn’t known what Liya is capable of, #Favourite and #SafestBet.
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