Sunday, November 6, 2016

Tiken Jah Fakoly - Racines (2016)

Ivorian reggae legend; Tiken Jah Fakoly covers Jamaican artists

Tiken is a messianic son of Africa standing out as the spokesman for millions of young African people, joining the lineage of  Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, "the voice for those without voices.“  As the giant of African Reggae, “Racines” is the natural evolution of a man paying homage to the Reggae Greats.

Racines is a tribute to the Reggae classics that Tiken carried with him since his childhood, the ones his big brother used to play on his turntable in his village, close to Odienné in northern Côte d’Ivoire.

Jamaica and Africa are eternally linked together by their music, history, and people, and this album helps continue that link.

The album features 11 covers from Bob Marley to Burning Spear, from Peter Tosh to Buju Banton, along with many guest stars including U-Roy, Max Romeo, Jah9 and Ken Boothe.

Recorded at the Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston for the riddims with Sly & Robbie, Mikey Chun, Robbie Lyn.

Is It Because I'm Black-Ft. Ken Boothe (Ken Boothe)
Get Up Stand Up-Ft. U-Roy (The Wailers)
One Step Forward-Ft. Max Romeo (Max Romeo)
Slavery Days (Burning Spear)
Zimbabwe (The Wailers)
Fade Away-Ft. Jah9 (Junior Byles)
Brigadier Sabari (Alpha Blondy)
Hills And Valleys (Buju Banton)
Christopher Columbus (Burning Spear)
Police And Thieves (Junior Murvin)
African (Peter Tosh)


If individuals are conditioned by their environment, then Tiken Jah Fakoly is very much the son of Denguélé, a northern region of Côte d’Ivoire whose capital is Odienné. Moussa Doumbia was born there on June 23, 1968, and it was in that densely forested land that he grew up, went to school, gave his initial concerts and fell in love for the first time.

A few kilometers to the west of Odienné lies the border with Guinea. A little further to the north is Mali. And if you travel east, you quickly reach Burkina Faso and Ghana. Tiken, a child of that cultural crossroads, stands at its center today, as Dernier Appel (Last Call) makes clear.

His most pan-African album to date, it is also his most universal, given that the issues it explores inspire ideas that concern us all, and given that the genre he reigns over unchallenged, reggae, results from an inspired fusion, has a unique ability to unite us and increases awareness as it packs dance floors everywhere.

Listening to Dernier Appel, the first thing we notice is its urgency. Tiken is a messianic son of Africa and his continent is still racked by coups and wars, among them the latest conflicts in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. He uses a plane as a metaphor on the title track (the first single from the album) to focus on this situation which shows little sign of improving, and remind us of our responsibilities.

The implication is clear: there is no time to lose, it is now or never. Africa has everything it needs to succeed - population and natural resources - and it must take wing… or remain trapped in misery and chaos for the foreseeable future. That is the theme that runs through the album, the profound message that forms the leitmotif of L’Afrique (Africa) and Le Prix du Paradis (The Price of Paradise), along with Too Much Confusion and Diaspora - two songs featuring Patrice and Alpha Blondy.

Tiken underlines the urgent need to unite every force and talent to meet the challenge. He calls for an end to division. And an end to the prejudice that fuels hatred everywhere, suggested on Human Thing, featuring the voice of another great, iconic guest: Nneka.

Yet what would protest singer Tiken Jah Fakoly’s words actually be worth if, along the way, he were to forget his share of humanity? The humanity that Tata, a tribute to his departed first love, unassumingly displays.

The humanity revealed with equal emotion on Saya, which speaks of death as only Africans, who confront it more than others, can: without dramatizing, but with the humility of a naked child confronted by the inevitable. These two superb laments have an acoustic texture appropriate to their very personal nature, with the emphasis on traditional Mandingo instruments. On other tracks, especially Too Much Confusion, a new Tiken appears, in Curtis Mayfield-style orchestral soul mode, joining the Tiken we know: an artist rooted as firmly in reggae as a centennial baobab in the heart of the bush. Recorded in Bamako and Paris with production and arrangements from Jonathan Quarmby (who already worked on L’Africain and African Revolution), Dernier Appel is a mosaic of every tone and mood, embracing the colors of the rainbow to better reflect the flamboyant clamor of a continent and people yearning for a new existence.

The high point is the giddying, dance-friendly medley sung with Nneka and Patrice, where War Ina Babylon, a classic by Jamaica’s Max Romeo, flows into Give Peace A Chance, John Lennon’s legendary pacifist mantra. It is the ultimate symbol, a royal seal set on the album by the giant of Africa, who is painfully aware of the violence of a world continually submerged in blood and fire for having experienced it himself, and yet who stubbornly, tirelessly chooses friendship over war.