Tokay Tomah

2016 Pew Fellow

1/5: Tokay Tomah, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
2/5: Tokay Tomah, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
3/5: Tokay Tomah in performance at World Café Live, Philadelphia, 2015. Photo by JJ Tizziou.
4/5: Tokay Tomah in performance at World Café Live, Philadelphia, 2015. Photo by JJ Tizziou.
5/5: Tokay Tomah performing with the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, Willingboro Library, 2016. Pjoto by James Wasserman.

“I sing because I want Liberian arts to continue and to grow. I sing because I want to pass my knowledge of traditional songs on to new generations of Liberians. I sing because I have a lot to teach the world, and this is my way of doing that.”

Tokay Tomah (b. 1968) is a traditional African vocalist, composer, and recording artist who has dedicated her career to inspiring dialogue about critical issues facing Liberian immigrant communities. As a singer and dancer with Liberia’s National Cultural Troupe, Tomah toured throughout Liberia and internationally in the 1980s. During Liberia’s civil war, she was active in peacebuilding and reconciliation work with the United Nations. In 2002, one of her compositions was chosen as the theme song for the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement, led by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee. After immigrating to the US in 2010, Tomah became a founding member of the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, which includes a core group of Liberian singers and dancers: Pew Fellow Fatu Gayflor, as well as Marie Nyenabo, and Zaye Tete. The chorus adapts Liberian folk songs and creates new music in traditional styles, in an effort to generate collective strength and to offer resources for change for Philadelphia’s Liberian community. Tomah is the recipient of a Transformation Award (2014) and an Art and Change Grant (2013) from the Leeway Foundation.


On Monday, June 16, 2014, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage honored its 2014 grantees. Browse our slide show for exclusive photos from this celebratory event.

Questions of Practice

Performance Senior Specialist Jeff Arnal looks to Philadelphia experimental trio Many Arms as he explores how musical groups form collective sounds.

Grants & Grantees

The Association for Public Art implemented the installation of individual audio programs for 35 public art pieces in Philadelphia, accessible by cell phone or podcast.

Grants & Grantees

Anna Weesner is an award-winning composer and a 2003 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

Montgomery County Community College presented four concerts with African popular artists who derive their music from native traditions while incorporating western instruments and techniques.

The William Way LGBT Community Center presents OutBeat: America’s First Queer Jazz Festival. The four-day festival will highlight intersections between sexual orientation, gender identity, and jazz history and culture.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Blues and African-American folk music specialist David H. Evans is a professor of music at the University of Memphis.

Andrea Clearfield—a working musician, composer, curator, and member of the group—discusses how making and listening to music is changing.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 2002 by two composers, Chamber Music Now provided the Philadelphia community with original concert productions.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 1982, Choral Arts Philadelphia has performed nearly 300 works by more than 100 composers.

Several Center-funded performances and exhibitions have garnered national and regional media coverage in recent weeks.

Grants & Grantees

In 2002 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 57 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations and practitioners in the greater Philadelphia region.