My chat with world music icon Rocky Dawuni

One of CNN’s top 10 best African musicians: Rocky Dawuni, Ghana’s greatest reggae sensation with world wide recognition owing to his hit song ‘in Ghana’ and world acclaimed album ‘Hymns for the rebel soul’, started his elementary schooling at Services Preparatory in the Michel Camp army barracks located near Tema, one of Africa’s premier port cities in Ghana. He gained entrance into the Tamale High school located in the Northern region of Ghana. In a personal conversation with Rocky a while back, he told me that from Tamale High he continued his studies at the New Juaben Secondary Commercial school in Koforidua from where he moved on to enter the University of Ghana where he studied philosophy and psychology. In his final year at the university of Ghana, Rocky’s flamboyant career begun to fully take shape. In a bid to secure financial support to record and produce his first album, he traveled to the United States and he took that option over completing his schooling, fortunately for him, that album became a huge success and he has ridden on that success till today. Rocky Dawuni is now in his mid 30s. He tells me was born on January 22 and proudly calls himself an Aquarian, which also happens to be the name of his record label. When I tried to find out this artiste’s musical influences I realized that growing up on an army barracks, Dawuni listened to a lot of reggae and Afro beat songs which at the time was revolutionary style music. It was these kinds of music that endeared him to reggae music and made him decide to chose that genre as a form of expression of his musical talents. To Rocky, every time he heard reggae music anywhere, it totally arrested his undivided attention and a military band called ”hot barrels” greatly fueled his interest in reggae as they often times played at the barracks where he grew up in Ghana. Once Dawuni realized that music is something he wanted to pursue as a career, he focused his intentions on not just becoming a musician, but a new kind of musician that can really use the musical platform to articulate the sentiments and aspirations of the people. Since reggae music was already a tried and tested medium, it resonated well with him almost immediately. Greats that have inspired Rocky in the world of music are the late Robert Nester Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the greatest Reggae and Afro beat sensations respectively of their times whose music continues to resonate even today… The reason Rocky lived in an army barracks was because his father was an officer in the Ghana Army. Rocky told me that the army connection in his family is very minimal and eventually died after his father retired from the military to become a chief as he’s a descendant from a royal line in Bubon Nayili in the Northern Region of Ghana. The musician was only twelve years old back then. Koyatu Dawuni, father of Rocky passed away two years ago in his village in Ghana’s Northern region. Rocky’s mother is called Asibi. Between his parents are seven children of which Rocky happens to be the second in line among his siblings. In Rocky’s view, his parents, who were uneducated in the western sense (but very educated in the traditional sense) made it a priority to see that he and six other siblings climbed as high up the academic ladder as possible, which is why today almost every one of his three sisters and brothers is a practicing professional with the youngest brother recently coming out of school. As I got Rocky Dawuni to talk more about music, he tells me that in his personal opinion, the late great reggae artiste, Bob Marley of Jamaica, made music that had very wholesome and spiritual lyrics that transmitted the mood of the time and also transcended Jamaica to other parts of the world. Today, Bob Marley’s music continues to remain of relevance, making it timeless based on that ever present honesty which it always carries. Other great Jamaican artiste who have also served as a source of inspiration for Rocky are Peter Tosh, Sly and Robbie and contemporary reggae musicians like Ina Kamozi, Steel Pulse and Luciano. Rocky believes his music has come to stay not only with Africans, but the globe and this is wholly true as he has received countless accolades and awards following the success of his last album; hymns for the rebel soul. Reggae music however happens to be just one part of the influencing factors on Rocky Dawuni’s music and interestingly, Rocky also takes inspiration from local high life and hip-life music from Ghana and what he calls conscious American rap music, Jazz, and Afro beat from Africa. In Rocky’s opinion, music on its own is simply that—music! Genre is the qualification that is used to identify the respective types of music. So long as there is a high feel of honesty and spirituality in a specific genre, it is bound to get his attention. The hit music ‘In Ghana’ released in 1999 is what propelled Rocky Dawuni unto the global stage. Talking about what inspired that song, Rocky says he made that music as an ode to his homeland which is the first sub-Saharan country in Africa to gain independence from British colonial rule. Ancient Ghana was one of the cornerstone of civilization and in the modern sense, Ghana represents the beginning of Africa. Rocky makes reference to the speech made by Ghana’s first president Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, that Ghana’s independence will be meaningless unless it was linked up with the total liberation of the African continent, to justify the relevance of that song. Ghana by the way means warrior king. Rocky Dawuni believes the song ‘In Ghana’ celebrates his country for being the beacon of the continent by peacefully transitioning to a democracy and changing governments without violence more than two times. ‘Ghana presently has all the necessary institutions to support the democratic framework in an African vein and that song is a source of empowerment for the current generation’ because Ghanaians have the history and prominence on their side more now than in the past, to lead all of Africa into unity, something which has not been realized due to the failures of political leadership on the continent. The reggae artiste from Ghana is today based in Los Angeles USA because he believes that state is the entertainment capital of the world and provides an enabling environment beyond his comfort zone of Ghana to grow in the music industry. LA has afforded him a great cosmopolitan environment to play a meaningful role through his music not just among Africans on the continent and the Diaspora, but with people in the rest of the world. Currently, Rocky Dawuni has five albums to his credit and he visits Ghana as often as he can to promote his music and African unity. Shasha Marley and Black Rasta are two upcoming and inspiring reggae musicians from Ghana that Rocky feels have the potential to take their art to a higher level provided they get the needed push and recognition. ‘I’m just one of the many great artistes in Ghana’ he tells me. For Rocky, another one of such great artistes is Sarkodie, a new hip-life sensation on the Ghanaian music scene and Africa’s fastest rapper (watch out for my blog about Sarkodie) that Rocky looks forward to working with. Sarkodie recently signed a deal with Konvict Africa, the record label owned by American hip-hop musician Akon who is originally from the African country of Senegal. A musician’s importance is not all about their lyrics, concerts and other artistes they perform with, it is rather their ability to harness the power of their music to become a positive impact in society for the benefit of all, especially the unfortunate. This reason is why Rocky Dawuni organizes the annual reggae splash in Accra Ghana on a platform to confront social issues through his own Non-Governmental Organization called Africa Live. Africa Live has worked hand in hand with UNICEF and Bono of Youtube to promote issues on child education, clean water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS awareness creation and girl child education and empowerment. Africa Live has also collaborated with the Carter Foundation to embark on the eradication of the guinea worm disease in Africa. Rocky Dawuni makes his family with American wife, Cary Sullivan, who is a professional photographer and a fellow student he met at the University of Ghana. The couple have daughter named Safiya. ‘Hymns for the rebel soul’, Rocky’s current album is also available on iTunes with tracks like ‘African Reggae Fever’ which was featured on the FIFA World Cup 2010 video game which came out in May of 2010. There is more to rocky than just this one piece, so watch out for my next blog about him soon. Oral Ofori, +1202-706-9881, oralofori@gmail.com,
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