Gbahtuo Comgbaye was born and raised in Lower Nimba County, Liberia. His hometown, Nyor-diaplay, is close to the border of the Ivory Coast, which is the homeland of an elder storyteller named Kergongor. Kergongor periodically crossed into Liberia with his singers and traveled from village to village telling musical fables. Villagers from miles around gathered by the light of lanterns and bamboo torches to listen to Kergongor and his entourage spin their musical tales. Kergongor has been Mr. Comgbaye’s artistic role model since he was a youngster. Mr. Comgbaye’s extensive repertoire includes Kweze (Dan term for legends), spider stories, and call and response stories, known as Dangbei among people of the Dan ethnic group.
Mr. Comgbaye was forced to flee Liberia during the civil war, and lived as a refugee in the Ivory Coast before coming to the United States. He currently resides in Philadelphia, where he works as a nurse. He continues to practice his storytelling in performances for adults and children and through school programs, including a residency as a teaching artist at the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter school. He also performs with his wife, singer Zaye Tete, and other artists. Mr. Comgbaye’s storytelling was featured in “Our Stories Are For Survival” in the Spring 2011 issue of Works in Progress.