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Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy

Introduction

About

Seydou Koné, known by his stage name Alpha Blondy, is an Ivorian reggae singer and international recording artist. Born on January 1, 1953, in Dimbokro, Ivory Coast, he is renowned for his politically and socially motivated songs, which are primarily sung in his native language Dyula, French, and English, although he occasionally incorporates other languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.

Blondy's early years were shaped by his upbringing in a large family. As the first son among eight children, he was raised by his grandmother, an experience that had a profound impact on his career. In 1962, he joined his father in Odienné, where he spent a decade attending Sainte Elisabeth High School and actively participating in the Ivory Coast students movement. During high school, Blondy formed a band, but his dedication to music hindered his academic performance, ultimately leading to his expulsion for poor attendance. In an effort to improve his English, he was sent by his parents to study in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, in 1973. After thirteen months there, he relocated to the United States to further enhance his language skills.

In 1974, Seydou moved to New York City, where he pursued a degree in English at Hunter College and the Columbia University American Language Program with the intention of becoming a teacher. It was in New York that he discovered Rastafari and attended concerts by Jamaican reggae artists like Burning Spear. However, Blondy also found himself involved in altercations before returning to Ivory Coast, where he encountered further challenges until reconnecting with his childhood friend Fulgence Kassi, a prominent television producer. This marked the beginning of his music career, and he adopted the stage name "Alpha Blondy."

Blondy's solo career took off in 1982 with the release of his first album, "Jah Glory," which achieved significant success. The album's standout track, "Brigadier Sabari," documented his personal experience of being arrested and mistreated by the police in Abidjan during the 1980s. This song, symbolizing resistance, propelled him to stardom in Abidjan, earning him the nickname "the Bob Marley of Africa." In the same spirit as Marley, Blondy is known for his spiritual, political, and positive lyrics. He even recorded a cover of Marley's song "War." To reach a wider audience, he chose to sing in multiple languages, including English, French, Baoulé, and his native language, Dioula. Furthermore, he introduced new instruments like the violin and cello to his brand of reggae.

Blondy's fame soon spread to Europe. Following the success of his EP "Rasta Poué," he traveled to Paris in 1984 to record his second album, "Cocody Rock," with the label Pathe Marconi. During this period, he visited Jamaica and recorded the title track of the album with Bob Marley's backing group, The Wailers.

Returning to Ivory Coast in 1985, Blondy recorded "Apartheid Is Nazism," a song calling for the end of apartheid. In 1986, he recorded "Jerusalem" at Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica, once again collaborating with The Wailers, featuring Aston "Family Man" Barrett. With his diverse knowledge of the Bible, Quran, and Torah, Blondy promoted unity among Islam, Judaism, and Christianity through his music. In a concert in Morocco that same year, he even sang in Hebrew. Blondy continued to tour extensively during this time.

From 1987 to 1989, Blondy focused on giving concerts and recording "SOS Guerre Tribale" in Abidjan, distancing himself from Pathe Marconi. Although this album did not achieve significant success, it did not deter him. In 1991, he returned to Europe for a concert tour and recorded his famous album "Masada," collaborating with musical legends like Bocana Maiga and UK reggae producer Dennis Bovell. The album, featuring the hit single "Rendez Vous," became a huge success and earned Blondy his first Gold Disc in Paris.

However, at the beginning of 1993, Blondy experienced a period of depression that led him to seek psychiatric help. As he recovered, he recorded the album "Dieu" ("God"), which showcased a more spiritual and religious side, with tracks like "Heal Me" addressing his illness and recovery.

Blondy's psychiatric treatment continued, but by December 1994, he returned to the stage, performing at a festival in memory of President Houphouët-Boigny. In 1996, he released a hits compilation and followed it up with the album "Grand Bassam Zion," where he sang in six languages. Two years later, Blondy returned to Ivory Coast with a new album, "The Prophet," and decided to establish his own label due to his dissatisfaction with his previous label's focus on the international market.

In 2002, Alpha Blondy celebrated 20 years as a recording artist with the release of "CD MERCI," featuring collaborations with Ophelie Winter and Saian Supa Crew. This album earned him a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Reggae Album" in 2003. However, due to the political situation in Ivory Coast, he was unable to personally attend the award ceremony in New York City, but the Grammy Awards allowed him to send a representative in his place.

Blondy's commitment to peace and unity is evident throughout his career. In 2005, he was appointed United Nations Ambassador of Peace for Côte d'Ivoire, and he actively worked toward a peaceful resolution during the country's political and physical divisions caused by a 2001 coup attempt. He founded the Alpha Blondy Jah Glory Foundation, a non-governmental, non-political, charitable foundation, to combat social injustice and generational poverty by providing people with the necessary tools to improve their lives. The foundation implements grassroots programs at the village level, including the Women's Self-Sufficiency Micro Loan Program and the Tafari-Genesis Retreat Camp for Children, aiming to bring joy and hope to children affected by civil wars and chronic illnesses.

Blondy continues to advocate for peace and unity worldwide through his music. He participates in humanitarian and charity concerts, raising awareness for causes such as the eradication of malaria in Africa. His influential songs include "Sebe Allah Y'e," "Jah Glory," "Cocody Rock," "Jerusalem," and "Journalistes en danger." Throughout his career, Alpha Blondy has left an indelible mark on African reggae music, inspiring other artists such as Ismaël Isaac.

Beyond his musical achievements, Blondy's personal background reflects his respect for all religions and his belief in love for all humanity. His dedication to peace, unity, and social justice has made him a respected figure and a beacon of hope in Ivory Coast and beyond.


Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Blondy

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Place of Birth: Dimbokro

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Date of Birth: 1st January, 1953

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