“God has given us all a roadmap”, affirms the Ivorian singer Alpha Blondy, who has followed his by broadcasting for forty years the positive waves of a flamboyant and committed African reggae, as in his nineteenth studio disc baptized “Eternity”.
The 69-year-old man of today has taken on a bit of old age, his goatee and hair have turned white, but Alpha Blondy still has the art of striking formulas, under the bifocals the look is still lively , and his tongue still hanging out.
This singer who claims to be invested with a divine mission will take up his pilgrim’s staff to come and perform the songs from his new disc and his old planetary hits, in concert in Paris on July 9.
“I am incredibly lucky, God has made me a weaver of dreams,” he told AFP in one of his many professions of faith. Its role is to “give music, hope, joy, happiness”.
“Koun Faya Koun”, “Pompier pyromaniac”… We still find in several songs of “Eternity” this pulsation, this jumping momentum and this good humor which made Alpha Blondy a striking musical personality from his beginnings.
Power of the melodies at the service of a committed discourse and a certain number of messages, delivered in several languages - English, French, Dioula -, which increases its scope.
Excision, arms dealers, elections, are some of the themes addressed in his new opus by the man whose positions have earned him some setbacks in his life.
“At the time of the single party”, under Félix Houphouët-Boigny, president of Côte d’Ivoire between 1960 and 1993, “when you allow yourself to say that the government is a dictatorship, you are crazy. If in addition you smoke big joints”, says Alpha Blondy, who had been placed very young by his family in a psychiatric establishment.
He will respond with brilliance by singing “Brigadier Sabari”, where he humorously denounces police violence in the working-class neighborhoods of Abidjan: he still benefits today from the worldwide success of this song published in 1983.
– “Not in the nasty criticism” –
Impertinent, whistleblower, mocking, sometimes angry, never mean.
“I am not in the nasty criticism, the harsh criticism, explains this tribune. I assume that I do not have infused science, and that perhaps if I were in the position of those I criticize , I wouldn’t do better. So I leave them the latitude to be able to correct, improve, or make me understand that I didn’t understand”.
This institutional rebel has sometimes been accused of being an opportunist.
“When an opportunity presents itself to me and I have the chance to speak to a president about what I sing, I do not deprive myself of it,” he replies to his detractors.
Apostle of non-violence, this messenger of peace for the UN and ECOWAS peace ambassador in Côte d’Ivoire has chosen reggae as a sounding board.
“The backbone of reggae is God, the divine, it is not a fad. As long as there is the suffering of peoples, reggae will be. As long as there is pain, social injustice, reggae will be”, he asserts.
But his reggae is eaten with African sauce and sometimes rock.
“We are those Africans who suckled the udders of rock, who suckled the udders of African music and put it all together”, explains Alpha Blondy.
“I had a rock band when I was in high school, we did Led Zep, Pink Floyd, we did Johnny. We combine what we are,” he says.
“If it’s to photocopy Jamaican reggae, I’m not interested. I have to bring something,” adds the Muslim Rastaman.