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Kyekyeku and Rocky Dawuni marry reggae and highlife

The two Ghanaians celebrate the beauty and strength of Africa in this song that preaches unity, blending the flow of reggaeman Rocky Dawuni and the highlife groove of guitarist-singer Kyekyeku. The video for “Africa till I die” is now released – a PAM premiere.

On my right, Rocky Dawuni – Ghanaian star known for his “afro-roots” style and several times nominated at the Grammy Awards. On my left, Kyeyeku, guitarist and singer, one of the figures of the revival of the music that made Ghana shine: palmwine and highlife. The former lived for a long time in Los Angeles, the latter lives in Bayonne in the southwest of France. Both of them think about the country when they are away from it, so that’s where they had to meet. The song “Africa Till I die” is first and foremost an anthem to this land that was a pioneer in reconnecting with its children scattered around the world. A land of welcome for all diasporas, and beyond.

It is worth remembering that during the colonial era, the Caribbean contingents of the Commonwealth imported their brass instruments and a music, calypso, which had a clear influence on what was to become highlife, the soundtrack of independence and the years that followed. Equally decisive was the influence of jazz, which African-American soldiers stationed in Ghana during World War II carried in their packs. And then, of course, there was Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who passed through London and the United States, and who was one of the great leaders and theorists of pan-Africanism, and who opened his arms to Africans all over the world, no matter where the winds of history had scattered them. We could continue this long list with the fabulous Soul to Soul concert, organized in 1971 in Accra, which brought together African-American (among them was the late great Tina Turner) and Ghanaian musicians. A long tradition of welcome, therefore, which continues to this day.

So it’s no coincidence that these two voices that have experienced the lack of their native land sing of their continent as a land of welcome, especially in these troubled times when no continent escapes armed, political and social conflicts, some African countries have appeared to everyone as havens. Moreover, during the Covid pandemic, how many – Africans or not – came to take refuge on a continent that was certainly the least affected, and for which “social distancing” was seen as heresy. For Rocky Dawuni and Kyekyeku, “Africa Till I die” is an opportunity to recall the beauty of the continent, the price brought to human relations, its resistance to chaos and difficulties transformed into a sweetness of life once peace is established. An image that goes against the flow of catastrophic images generally conveyed outside.

« Even when they paint you a picture  of starving and hunger
Nobody go fit put asunder
We keep on growing stronger. »

While Rocky, by the ocean or on the roof of a building, sings of the beauty of what he sees – that of the people, the places, all born of Mother Africa, some of whom have become “giants” (“Now my people dey stand like giant”) – a way of opening up to all the successes of Africa’s children on and off the continent.

Last but not least, “Africa Till I die” is a musical success. It blends the native sound of Ghana, itself the product of a melting pot, with reggae born in Jamaica and claiming its African roots. The highlife rhythm has been slowed down and, by letting the bass flourish, the organ and the horns place their punctuations, offers a perfect backdrop for the reggae vocals, without even a skank guitar. This is the finest demonstration of a successful encounter, and it could only take place in Africa.

Kyekyeku + Ah! Kwantou’s concert at The Afropéennes festival, Lomé , Togo (23-25 juin)

Rocky Dawuni’s concert at the SOB’s, New York, USA