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Tiken Jah Fakoly's reggae talks about current events in Africa

Ivorian reggae singer, songwriter and musician Tiken Jah Fakoly poses during a photo session in Paris on February 9, 2023   -  
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JOEL SAGET/AFP or licensors


His songs are covered by demonstrators in Madagascar, Togo or Lyon: this is logical for the Ivorian Tiken Jah Fakoly, ambassador of a reggae that sings about "current events, reality".

Under the dreadlocks of this robust fifty-year-old, there are more than thirty years of career and eleven solo albums in the studio.

The latest, "Braquage de pouvoir", released at the end of 2022, extends a work that preaches pan-Africanism and scratches the political dysfunctions of the African continent.

His first solo album is called "Mangercratie" (1999), about a democracy swallowed by certain predators in power. A similar neologism emerges from the title track "Braquage de pouvoir" with "Le peuple dit non à la famillecratie" (The people say no to the familycracy), a missile launched at nepotism.

But his reggae is universal and resonates far beyond the borders of Côte d'Ivoire, his native country and one of his bases along with Mali and France.

"My song +Quitte le pouvoir+ (2004), people said I had written it against Laurent Gbagbo (then in power in Côte d'Ivoire), but it was also taken up by demonstrators in Togo," says Tiken Jah Fakoly, met by AFP in Paris. His suitcase ready not far, destination Zanzibar for a concert.

The Mediterranean became a cemetery

Same pattern with "Y'en a marre" (2000) heard in a demonstration in Madagascar and "Le monde est chaud" (2019) more recently in the street in Lyon.

"Since Bob Marley, the role of reggae is to sing the news, reality; my pleasure is to pass messages to youth, or to be the voice of those who can not express themselves, on their living conditions, in particular, "says the singer.

On his new album, the song "Où est-ce que tu vas?" (Where are you going?) is there to shed light on "the difficulties of crossing" on makeshift boats to the European Eldorado. "There are photos taken of Paris from the Champs-Elysées and the Grands Boulevards that make you dream and the reality, the Mediterranean that has become one of the biggest cemeteries for African youth.

Another track, "Beau continent", bounces on the subject: no need to leave, a future can be built in Africa. This track, recorded with Dub Inc, a duo from Saint-Etienne with roots in Benin and Algeria, celebrates the vitality of Africa. "Africa is not poor, it has been impoverished, for me it is the continent of the future," insists Tiken Jah Fakoly.

"Embassy of reggae"

"It's just 60 years since the independence of some countries, it's young, when there is stability, when we are united, Africa will be listened to like China, the USA or Europe today," he predicts.

And to paraphrase a famous maxim about China, "when Africa awakens, the world will tremble. In the meantime, the musician is acting on his own scale with what he calls "the reggae embassy" in Yopougon, a commune in the north of Abidjan. A building intended for young artists with a recording studio, rooms and two rehearsal rooms of "European standard". So as not to relive the pioneer days, when his percussionists "rehearsed by banging on pots and pans".

Without forgetting, his pride, "the only complete library on reggae and Rastafarianism" in Africa. And a "radio fm to broadcast reggae and urban music to help the new generation".

For those who are still wondering, reggae has its place in Africa. On the cover of Bob Marley's 1979 album "Survival", African flags can be seen, as if to call for African unity, an idea reflected in the song "Africa Unite".

"We are here to continue Bob's fight: nobody will change things for the people, we are here to galvanize them. One of Tiken Jah Fakoly's latest tracks is "The People Have the Power".