‘Tuff’ sounds from Tiken Jah Fakoly

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 27, 2015

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IT is interesting how reggae music continues to dominate cultural politics across the globe, giving musical support to reverse despotism everywhere.


Those old enough to remember will recall that approximately 70 reggae bands criss-crossed Poland with their political music, until the Iron Curtain came down in 1991.


At that time, a younger generation of political identity artistes appeared in places like Africa, reigniting the genre, as well as restoring faith in the victory of right over might.


One such example is singer Tiken Jah Fakoly of Côte d'Ivoire, currently regarded as the voice of revolutionary Francophone Africa. His music and philosophy has led to him being likened to Bob Marley.


Fakoly has lived in exile in neighbouring Mali since 2003 after receiving death threats over his lyrics. He is working on his 13th album, and recently recorded in Jamaica at Marley's Tuff Gong studio.


It is expected to be released in October. He says it will feature a number of collaborations and covers of well-known reggae songs, including Marley's Zimbabwe, Peter Tosh's African and Max Romeo's One Step Forward.


He felt the need to travel to Kingston and worked with Jamaican musicians on the highly anticipated product.


"I have known reggae music since I was about 13, and I have been listening Marley and the Burning Spear ever since. Also U-Roy, Yellow Man, all the old musicians," he explained. But, he insisted that his favourite is Burning Spear.


"Because he was talking a lot about history, Marcus Garvey, slavery. I like Bob Marley too, like everybody else. But the one who I listened to the most, is Burning Spear," Fakoly said.


It was not his first visit to Jamaica, having been here several times since 1999. He has been to places like Marley's birthplace in Nine Miles, St Ann.


Fakoly was a big critic of former Côte d'Ivoire president, Laurent Gbagbo, who led a badly divided country for a decade before losing power in general elections in 2010.


However, Gbagbo refused to hand over power to his elected successor, Alessne Outtara, threatening the country and region with much deeper political conflict.


International diplomacy, led by the former colonial power France, eventually intervened, and Gbagbo and his wife were arrested and placed before the International Court of Justice.


Fakoly says he learnt about music from his brother, a salesman, whose products included Jamaican reggae albums imported from countries like nearby Nigeria in the 1990s.


He said his problem at the time was the fact that he did not speak English and the reggae songs were in English.


Then fellow Ivorian artiste Alpha Blonde started recording reggae in French, with lyrics far more familiar to him.


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