Black History Month has always puzzled me especially as it occurs in different months in other countries and I could never quite figure out why Black people need to have a designated month in which to celebrate their heritage when their lives along with their culture continue for the other eleven months of the year?! Well, you guys dun know that G MaG celebrates BHM every month of the year - it is part of who we are as a people and we cannot change that! So, in order to re-instil our African Heritage, we’ve dedicated this particular edition to the Continent of Africa - the place where all Black people and their music originated.
And, talking of Music Of Black Origin, MOBO’s Kanya King came under a lot of scrutiny after the recent Awards show where people complained about one thing or another but, what I have to say to that is this: when are people gonna start supporting the MOBOs like they should instead of sitting back and criticising?? Yes, I’ve been one of the culprits in the past but, I’m pleased to say that the MOBOs have taken note and have acted swiftly to remedy the situation. So, nuff respect to Kanya for her strong tenacity coming from a fellow colleague who understands the complexity of working within a fickle music industry. That said, my only complaint about this year’s ceremony was that Sean Paul who, won the ‘Best Reggae Act’, could not attend and what really incensed me was the fact that the gong was collected by a Hip-hop deejay! What?? Weren’t there any Reggae deejays or anyone from the Reggae fraternity on hand to do the honour?? And, this Hip-hop deejay didn’t actually win an award so, why was he interviewed so many times backstage when other winners weren’t?? Well, without trying to sound cynic, what I’m basically saying is that the profile of Reggae needs to be raised to a level where it’s on par with other genres and therefore, won’t need validation from other genres in the future! And yes, I’m proposing to change that – next chapter…!!
So, like I said, the fourth corridor of the G MaG brings it home to Afrique in celebration of the rich, overflowing musical culture that was the backbone of all other musical forms that were to follow. And, if you’re not too familiar with some of the names and faces then here’s your chance to do some catching up and delve into what’s happening outside of our confined spaces! Tiken Jah Fakoly graces the cover in a setting that simply tempts us to take a vacation and explore that exotic part of the globe that for too long has been portrayed in a negative light. Contrary to the norm, instead of listing all the scrumptious tales that we have on offer, I’m gonna let you guys wait until you actually get your hands on a copy of the mag to check things out for yourselves!
Suffice to say, you’d better catch G MaG’s BHM party on Sunday, 29 October 2006 at the very pleasant Illusions Nightclub in South London where we’re gonna lay down some fine Reggae just like how they used to drop it back in the day! Yes, you definitely gots to get you some of da big, bad G MaG ... yuh dun know!
TIKEN JAH FAKOLY
Africa’s new Roots Reggae ambassador by Gbenga Adelekan
REBEL MUSIC: Tiken Jah Faloky is the latest Afro-Reggae icon that’s turning the traditional form into Black gold…. For the people who know, he needs no introduction. He graces the cover of this issue because he has established himself as one of Africa’s pre-eminent Reggae stars since 2002’s stalwart set, ‘Françafrique’. And, what with distribution through Universal Music France and world tours under his belt, Fakoly can make the further claim to being one of Reggae’s truly international stars, an embodiment of how far Afro-Reggae has come, both as a music in and of itself and in the eyes of Reggae’s worldwide audience.
Of course, we cannot speak of Afro-Reggae without first name-checking a few of the other artists who have put it on the global map – South Africa’s Lucky Dube; Ivory Coast’s Alpha
Blondy; Nigeria’s Majek Fashek and (more recently) artists featured on the Afro-Reggae compilation ‘African Rebel Music: Roots Reggae And Dancehall’. Afro-Reggae, after all, has not been an overnight thing. Indeed, when Dube made the move from Mbaqanga (a traditional South African style) to Reggae with ‘Rastas Never Die’ (a 1984 mini album that initially sold quite poorly), audiences had only started to warm to the idea even though he had been including Reggae numbers in his sets for some time. The release of Alpha Blondy’s ‘Cocody Rock’ in 1984 went some way to changing that though. The album was a prototype for Afro-Reggae crossover featuring a mixture of Jamaican and Ivorian musicians; recorded in Paris and Kingston and sported a couple of straight ahead English-sung Reggae tracks as well as numbers such as ‘Fangadan Kameleba’ sung in Blondy’s native tongue.
In reality, Blondy grew to such international stature that it was whispered by some (and, admittedly, openly claimed in certain African circles) that Reggae had at last found a star to take on the mantle of the great Bob Marley. By the time 1987’s ‘Apartheid Is Nazism’ dropped, these whispers had grown into an audible murmur. Afro-Reggae had come of age with production values and musicianship to match that of its Jamaican older sibling and had brought a political message of its own. Backed by his Solar System Band, the music on this album, whilst it was undoubtedly Reggae, has a distinct African flavour in the backing vocals, polyrhythm and even some of the instrumentation. As we witnessed later, Fakoly had certainly been influenced by this fusion aspect of Blondy’s music.
Into the 1990s, Lucky Dube’s ‘Prisoner’ (a 1989 set only released outside South Africa in 1991) became another classic of the Afro-Reggae variety. It is still one of his biggest selling albums to date and, although Dube did not gain the international notoriety of Blondy, he sold significant quantities all over Africa (Ghana in particular) thus further popularizing the genre of Afro-Reggae and paving the way for the next generation of stars, of whom, Tiken Jah Fakoly is the most established. As with so much of what is classified ‘world’ music, France (Paris, specifically) has been crucial in introducing Afro-Reggae to the rest of the world. It is where Ivorian Alpha Blondy won his first international awards and this is something Fakoly has also had a taste of - winning the coveted title of ‘Best World Artist’ for ‘Françafrique’ at France’s Victoire De La Musique Awards in 2003. Perhaps it is a language thing [both countries speak French] but, again like Blondy before him, being picked up by a major label in France has been key to establishing Fakoly on the world stage.
Born, Doumbia Moussa Fakoly, in a Malinké village in the north-west of the Ivory Coast on 23 June 1968; the Fakoly family belonged to the griot caste. The African griots are the storytellers / musicians who guard the oral tradition of their people, their region and the most important families living there; they relate tales and legends through their music. However, Fakoly discovered Reggae and began releasing tracks in his early 20s. His first group, Djelys, became well known in the Ivory Coast through a successful album and constant touring. A political theme very quickly made its way into their lyrics, however, and the group soon found themselves in trouble with the authorities. By the time of 1994’s ‘Missiri’ set, released during a time of violent upheavals in Ivory Coast, Djelys had grown even more vocal, openly criticizing those in power. In spite of this, the album was a huge success and Fakoly was the focal point of this success. Due to public demand (Fakoly had been playing solo shows to crowds of
20,000), he set to work on a solo album and the result was 1997’s ‘Mangercratie’.The album sold more than half a million copies on the Continent and was released in Europe a couple of years later. This then led to international tours for Fakoly and the opportunity to work in the home of Reggae music, Jamaica.
Outside West Africa, Fakoly has a particularly strong fan base in France where he is the biggest-selling Afro-Reggae artist. His records have sold more than 100,000 units there (even more than Blondy!). By 2002, Fakoly was getting recognition in America and the subsequent ‘Françafrique’ and the ‘Coup de Geule’ set were produced in Jamaica by Tyrone Downie with Sly & Robbie providing the Reggae rhythm sections. West Africa is also well-represented with Wolof Rap from Didier Awadi of Positive Black Soul and singing from griot Saramba Kouyaté. As noted earlier, Blondy’s influence can be seen in the indigenous West African instruments (talking drum, n’goni and balafon) that feature heavily. ‘Coupe De Geule’ brought Fakoly to an even greater audience. He has always been an artist concerned by the social and political evolution of his country, describing what he does when making music ‘to wake up the conscience’. ‘Coupe De Geule’ is an album concerned with the many injustices done to the people of his country and those over Africa. Whilst these issues will obviously have a particular resonance with listeners who have strong links to the Continent, the reason Fakoly’s music speaks so potently to audiences further afield is the ‘fireyness’ of the performances; the authority with which he expresses his insights and the fact he’s the spokesperson for people that are under oppression. This connection with the oppressed is what has helped make Tiken Jah Fakoly a much listened to artist throughout Africa, Europe and America.
‘Coup de Geule’s opening track ‘Françafrique’ sets the tone with the scathing lyrics: ‘they sell us arms… while we’re fighting each other… they pillage our riches… and are surprised to see Africa always at war’. Fakoly also touches on corruption: ‘go and tell the illusion sellers… that our consciences are not for sale’ (A Tout Compris); inequality: ‘Uncle America… he took all the zinc for his metro… he took our hair to do his own afro… he took all the coffee… he took everything without showing us how to follow in his footsteps’ (Tonton d’America). Above all, he sings about justice: ‘justice, you aren’t made for us alone… these people think they are above it… and we are always the victims… wake up justice… Nobert Zongo is asking to talk’ (Justice). Nobert Zongo, a high profile Burkinabé journalist, was assassinated in 1999. To date, the authorities are no closer to finding his killers. Fakoly’s harsh lyrics are not easy listening. Despite his popularity, he has not cooled his fire or taken the edge off his sound and it is this commitment to his roots - both the integrity of Reggae and his West African home - that continues to win global fans. He is at work on the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to ‘Coup de Geule’.