Alpha Blondy, in Montreal to play the FrancoFolies on June 15, is one of Africa’s most well-known and respected reggae artists. He sings in French, English, Hebrew, Arabic and Dioula, the language spoken in Côte d’Ivoire. Which helps, because Alpha Blondy’s goal is to shower the world in positive vibes…
Alpha Blondy was born Seydou Koné in Dimbokro, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and lived in Liberia and the United States before returning to the Côte d’Ivoire to begin his musical career. His first album, Jah Glory!, came out in 1983 and was an immediate success at home and across Europe. His fans branded him the “Bob Marley of Africa” and, like Marley, he is political and deeply spiritual. He has become a true humanitarian, having been appointed the United Nations Ambassador of Peace for Côte d’Ivoire in 2005. If his FrancoFolies show with his amazing band, le Solar System, is half as uplifting as the chat we had, it might very well be not only one of the highlights of this year’s Francos, but of the entire Montreal festival schedule.
Montreal Buzz: You’ve played to French audiences all over the world. Do you notice a difference in the crowds?
Alpha Blondy: As far I’m concerned, people are people, whether they are from Africa or Canada, whether their French is from Montreal or their French is from Africa. We are all part of the same musical cradle.
Montreal Buzz: Your songs are very political, but there’s some humour in there too…
Alpha Blondy: Well I try- sometimes my jokes only make me laugh. I try to laugh. But the topics are pretty serious when you talk about the desperate social situations of the people, military coups, there’s nothing funny about that. What is very important, most important, is the spiritual dimension. You cannot talk about people without that.
Montreal Buzz: You have sung and spoke out about everything from apartheid to police brutality. To you, what is the common thread in these issues?
Alpha Blondy: I think politicians of the worlds, they have forgotten the essential thing- that we are all human. They need to rethink political strategy, the human needs to be put at the centre. Politicians, they are given too much room. They need to be reminded that money is made for the people, money is not the important thing, the people are.
Montreal Buzz: How does that idea relate to your music? What role do you want your music to play?
Alpha Blondy: Rock, reggae, salsa music, music is music. We might be different, but music is the language we all have in common. Because people come for positive vibes, they don’t come to see my ugly face (laughs). That’s what fills them with hope, that’s what makes them feel happy. It is therapy for the people’s minds.
Alpha Blondy et le Solar System, June 15, 2011, Métropolis