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Interview: Alpha Blondy Gives Thanks and Praise to the Lord

Interview: Alpha Blondy Gives Thanks and Praise to the Lord

Interview: Alpha Blondy Gives Thanks and Praise to the Lord

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"There are so many things that reggae can bring and give to the youth besides the smoking of ganja"

Sampler

Alpha Blondy (Seydou Koné) is a genuine ‘living legend’. Born in the Ivory Coast, this multilingual artist imparts conscious spiritual, political and overall positive messages through his music. He is the first son of a family of 9 children. Raised initially by his grandmother (who ‘taught him to love everyone’), his early musical exploits caused him to be expelled from school due to poor attendance. Living in New York in the early 1970s he perfected his English and recorded his first (enormously successful) solo album in 1982 ('Jah Glory'). This album was interpreted as a symbol of resistance, earning him the title of the ‘Bob Marley of Africa’. Over a decade later the artist succumbed to depression, necessitating confinement to an institution specialising in psychiatric aid. Notable in the current climate of international turmoil and uncertainty, he has devoted much energy to the promotion of unity between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In 2005 Blondy was named the United Nations Ambassador of Peace for the Ivory Coast.

Before his 2012 headline appearance at the ROTOTOM reggae festival he kindly took time out to talk with United Reggae.

Alpha Blondy

This interview is for the online magazine United Reggae.

United Reggae, I love the concept. It’s very good.

Do I call you Alpha or Seydou or Sir?

Call me Alpha.

I recall your Amsterdam concert on April 20th, 2010, when your tour manager (Jamal) sang ‘happy birthday’. Others put your birth date as Jan. 1st. Which is it?

The 20th of April, 1953.

Where did the name ‘Alpha Blondy’ come from?

Alpha – as the Bible says – I’m the beginning. Blondy in French is not ‘bandit’. I’ve heard the translation ‘bandit’, but it’s not right.

What has been your greatest achievement in music?

Oh! It’s my career. Getting to perform all over the world, and conquering America and playing in Asia, China, Japan and all over. For me, this is a great achievement.

Greatest musical influence is Bob Marley - the first to come from the ghetto to superstardom

Do you find touring tough?

No. I’m lucky to be touring. It’s always a pleasure to meet people that know you, but that you don’t know. I can learn from them. They are the ones who make me what I am career wise, buy the records and make me famous. I thank them. In fact you know I often can’t even tell what my own tour schedule is, as I let my manager look after it.

Who has had the greatest musical influence on you?

Bob Marley. He is the first superstar from the ghetto, the first black superstar - the first to come from the ghetto to superstardom. You don’t usually see ghetto people on t.v.! And Burning Spear – with his big strong thick African accent – and of course my grandmother. She introduced me to African music when she was rearing me.

Outside your own work, what are your musical interests?

Well I listen to Richard Clayderman and to Brazilian, Peruvian, Spanish and American reggae. I mean that I listen to reggae that is different from my reggae. And I listen to African reggae too. And I’m into some rock and roll music, like such groups as Guns n Roses, Metallica and Pink Floyd, and that’s about it.

Do you have a favourite song\track from your repertoire?

Well I really like ‘Jerusalem’, but no, not really. They all have their own flavour. It’s like loving orange and apple. Can I compare them? No. And so it’s the same with every song, it has its own flavour.

In life, who has had the greatest influence on you?

Alpha BlondyGod. The Lord. For me, God made the universe for the human being. He made us in his own likeness. So if you pray to God, you should respect the human being first. This is my vision. And in reggae the name of God appears a lot. For me, I talk about Jesus, Allah, Jah etc. You can call him what you like. But ‘God’ is my religion. There is only one God for me.

How would you describe yourself ‘politically’?

I am a democrat. Sometimes the politicians in my own country (the Ivory Coast) don’t like what I say – but God is my religion and God is my political party. When I was sick in a psychiatric hospital my faith in God guided me. Stay positive and follow God.

Who is your favourite politician?

I don’t have the right to have a choice. But the one I’m very proud of today, as an African, is Barack Obama. And I think Africa is the hope of the human race.

Who is your least favourite politician?

None really, but I’m tired of politicians trying to use me.

Tell us what ‘negro Nazism’ is?

It’s some negroes or some Africans and black people who think they are superior to some other Africans. That’s why I call them ‘negro Nazi’. It’s dangerous.

Since the passing of Marley\Tosh, has reggae lost much of its political message?

Yes. Because I think that some people or some styles have gone too deep into the business scene really. They were very focused on conquering the American market. So they went for styles like ‘dancehall’ and ‘ragga’. Now some of that music is very good. But what I dislike is when people try to cover up their reggae message with the smoking of ganga. I hate that. I think that there are so many things that reggae can bring and give to the youth besides the smoking of ganga. So, for example, with poor people they keep them in the ghetto with drugs like marijuana. But remember that reggae music is more than a music of protest. It is also a music of hope, love and spirituality.

Greatest achievement is to give happiness to the people

So you think there’s too much emphasis on marijuana\cannabis.

Yes, of course.

What has been your greatest achievement in life?

It’s to give happiness to the people when I have a concert. To see people smile. To see people happy, you know? And for me it’s like – I don’t know – it’s a great achievement for me. A good show - when the public give us the strong and positive energy - it makes for a good show. Like in my home, in the Ivory Coast, I like to help and heal the people with music, like to make a musical therapy. I’m not a politician, but I do try to get them (i.e. the politicians) to listen. I try to make them aware of the real human being values. I’m lucky that I can talk to the people. My way of fighting against war for peace is through music. I don’t have the absolute truth, but I try to give hope in my songs.

Also I know that the public might get tired of hearing the same old Alpha Blondy songs, so with new albums (now over 17) I love to innovate and give new songs to the public. I thank the public for all their encouragement and respect. Reggae is really an African music, because Jamaicans are African. So for me to bring the message of reggae to Africa was good. Reggae is big all over the world. Every music that brings joy and hope to the people is good. All of this is a great achievement for me.

Poor people - don't wait for help from anybody

What has been your greatest disappointment in life?

No. Everything that God has given me is o.k. So I say to the poor people, don’t feel desperate, get up and do something with God. Don’t wait for help from anybody.

Are you happy?

Yes I am.

Alpha Blondy new album Mystic Power is released in March 2013.

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Read comments (2)


Posted by Francisco Silva on 03.12.2013
Sou brasileiro e gosto muito do som de Alpha, faia

Posted by Julio Rasta Roots on 03.14.2013
Alpha Blondy lenda viva! blessed

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