Tiken Jah: "All Reggae Is a Cry for Equality, Whether From Jamaica, America, or Africa"
A non-Rastafarian reggae musician who grew up a practicing Muslim, Tiken Jah Fakoly is a native of Africa's Ivory Coast who draws most of his material and inspiration from his home continent.
His concern for the well being of his people has gotten him in trouble and even exiled for a time from the Ivory Coast. But this weekend, Tiken Jah will surely be welcomed in South Florida, visiting for a first-ever local performance as part of Rockers Movement's Miami Reggae Festival 2013.
We here at Crossfade called Fakoly on their international line during his break from a recording session in France. And while he was concerned that his accent was too strong and his knowledge of English too weak, there was no need to worry. His vocabulary and motivations were very easy to understand.
Crossfade: Can you explain how growing up in the Ivory Coast has affected your music?
Tiken Jah Fakoly: I talk about not just the Ivory Coast in my music, I talk about Africa.
Africa is not the place they show on TV all the time. People don't know about Africa, when they talk about it, they talk about war. I think it's better to talk about how it is growing, how it is building a democratic process. But people have another image, so I talk about the real situation.
What was the message you were trying to convey with your album African Revolution?
I always talk to African people. Most of my songs, I say no one will save Africa for us. This album, I'm talking about education, which will change Africa. Many things happen there today because most of the people didn't go to school. I'm sure one day when most of the African people are educated, they will stand up and fight against our politicians.
Your songs have offended politicians. Can you go into those experiences?
I was in exile for five years in Mali because of the political situation in Ivory Coast. Political men did not like my message, so I left the country for my security. I came back in 2007 when the war finished and I did some shows as my contribution. I can come back to Ivory Coast now, but I still live in Mali.
But as we're speaking, you're in France. Do you mind if I ask why you're there?
I'm in France working on my new album. We're in the studio tomorrow working on that before leaving for Miami.
See also: Miami Reggae Festival 2013's Set Times
Can you give us any details about the new album?
I'll have four songs in English. Before I was just speaking in French and my African language which is Mandingo. We talk about Africa and (how) industry is victimizing Africa. You know we are one of the richest continents in the world, but most of our population are poor. The name of the album is Dernier Appel, it means last call in French.
What do you hope audiences in Miami, who will be seeing you for the first time at The Miami Reggae Festival, will get from a Tiken Jah Fakoly concert?
I hope many people will come to the show and like and appreciate African reggae music and I hope I will have some fun in Miami. Me and my band are ready to play Miami because you know it is the first time for us.
When you speak of African reggae music, how is that different from other reggae music?
Reggae music is one. But when I talk about African reggae music, we use some other instruments on the stage like the kora [a 21-string, guitar-like bridge harp], which gives our music another color, another sound. African reggae music is just another style. All reggae is a cry for equality, whether it's from Jamaica, America, or Africa.
-- David Rolland
Miami Reggae Festival. With Cultura Profética, Stephen "Ragga" Marley, Tiken Jah Fakoly, and others. Saturday, November 23. Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $45 to 75, but admission is free before 3 p.m. with two nonperishable food items. Visit rockersmovement.com.
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