You are in for a treat, a really big one that you won’t know what hit you. One of the world’s biggest reggae stars, Ivorian born Alpha Blondy will be headlining the 27th edition of Koroga Festival, on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at Two Rivers Mall Grounds, Nairobi.
Since his first success in the 1980s with the pan-African hit “Opération Coup De Poing (Brigadier Sabari),” the Ivorian superstar born, Seydou Koné, has managed to successfully take his unique form of reggae to music fans across the globe and is adored by fans all over including those who are lovers of other music genres. “Brigadier Sabari,” was an account of Blondy’s run-in with an Abidjan police street raid in which he was nearly beaten to death. It was the first time a West African artist had dared to mention police brutality in public.
On the circuit for almost forty years now, he began playing in the second half of the 1970s in the United States and recorded his first hits the following decade in Côte d’Ivoire: “Cocody Rock”, “Apartheid Is Nazism”, “Jérusalem.” With almost twenty studio albums to his credit, Alpha Blondy has been touring the world since then and primarily defends a certain vision of music; That of a magical interlude that lets us point out the evils of our time to build a better one. Moreover, the day Alpha Blondy became a singer, he changed his name from Seydou Koné and opted for a new surname that’s synonymous with a new life.
What many are not aware of is, at some point in his life, he moved to New York (also briefly Texas), where he studied English at Hunter College in New York, and later in the Columbia University American Language Program. He majored in English because he wanted to become an English teacher. He got his big break from friend Fulgence Kass, an employee of Ivory Coast Television who helped him land a spot on the Premiere Chance talent show upon return to Ivory Coast (modern day Côte d’Ivoire).
He’s best-known as the French-speaking reggae singer, but that hasn’t stopped him from expressing himself in the language of his roots, Dioula, as well as the language of Bob Marley, English.
Those who are already familiar with the artist’s discography won’t be surprised by this confirmation of his faith: Jah Glory (Glory to God) claimed the title of his first record, while Jerusalem the holy city was the name of his fourth. Spirituality has always been very much present in him. Alpha Blondy was born to a Muslim mother and a Christian father but was brought up by a grandmother “who taught him to love everyone”. Blondy’s respect for all religions and the spirituality he derives from them can be heard on some of his songs.
He’s a link in the chain that started with Bob Marley and continued with Burning Spear. “What triggered my love for reggae is Burning Spear, who I was fortunate enough to see live. I’d already listened to Marley, but when I heard Burning Spear with his guttural voice that reminded me of African songs, I felt like I was listening to someone from back home singing along with a modern sound system. It made me want to transcribe my emotions, my revolt, the precarious condition of my people through this music. A music full of protest, very demanding. I needed a musical style that could at least waken the conscience of my brothers in Africa, of my brothers from the diaspora in the ghetto. And above all, try to raise awareness of politics back home. That’s what led me to espouse this musical genre.”
As commander of African groove, as he’s often portrayed, Alpha Blondy is only about love and peace. At 65 years old and wearing it well, he’s not ready to retire yet. “I would have liked to sing romantic songs, but my ghetto origins wouldn’t let me. Instead, giving and receiving love is what drives me, in my music as well as in my life. And as long as God gives me strength, I’ll be there.” Let’s hope it never ends.
He will be joined on stage by Kenya’s finest dance hall artists Redsan and Wyre at the 27th Edition of Koroga Festival. The Koroga Festival, an event that is held every 3 months courtesy of Capital FM Kenya, celebrates all things African, from music to fashion and so much more. Its a must attend. We are going Cocody Rock at Koroga this September with Africa’s Finest Brigadier Sabari.
Log onto http://www.korogafestival.co.ke/ for more details on how to get your hands on tickets. Tune into Capital 98.4 FM, your best mix of music, for your chance to win tickets across the day.