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African Reggae Gone Mainstream?!?

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akon.jpg tiken.jpg
cocody.jpg jeru.jpg

Akon : Mama Africa
taken from the album “Konvicted” on SRC/Universal Motown (2006)

Tiken Jah Fakoly ft. U-Roy : Justice
taken from the album “Francafrique” on Polygram (2002)

Alpha Blondy : Interplanetary Revolution
taken from the album “Cocody Rock” on Shanachie (1984)

Alpha Blondy : Jerusalem
taken from the album “Jerusalem” on Shanachie (1986)

Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Titibitis : 5 Days A Week Love
taken from the album “5 Days A Week Love” on Polydor (1977)

I know what you’re thinking: “Smack That“? “I Wanna Fuck You“? This is not the typical work we like to highlight here. “Rare, Funky and Soulful” is the general guideline, and those songs don’t exactly meet the criteria. Akon, like many artists in the mainstream, has definitely produced somewhat shameful material (even though I have a softspot for the track with Snoop). But let’s not place all the blame on him. It’s all too easy to hear solely the songs that corporate radio has decided will become “hits” while overlooking album and mixtape cuts where, arguably, more of the “real” artist actually shines through. Ok, forget “real” if you like, you can’t deny that this track (or the mini-African-history-lesson of “ATL to NYC to LA” with G-Unit) shows an entirely different side of the man.

When I first heard “Mama Africa” coming through my radio, not knowing immediately that it was Mr. Konvict, I was blown away. Beautiful, uplifting, contemporary roots-reggae is not as easy to come by as it should be. With Waah Gwan radio off the air (what the hell happened???), these past few weeks have been really tough. So here’s to Akon, for managing to slip a hearfelt one-drop anthem onto his multi-platinum seller. I mean, when was the last time you heard a top 40 artist shout out Senegal? I figure that for every hundred thousand duf-dufs that purchase his CD in order to put “Smack That” on repeat, at least a hundred will find this gem and actually prefer it. Perhaps I’m being optimistic.

These other classic African reggae songs were culled from my not-so-deep selection of similar tunes. There’s Lucky Dube, and Toure Kunda, and Daara J as well (another post may be warranted), but I don’t know of much else that fits the bill. If you’re hearing “Jerusalem” for the first time, then PLEASE force yourself to sit through one of the cheesiest intros of all time, I guarantee it will be worth the minute+ wait. Realize that you’re listening to the Wailers, post-Bob, recorded at TUFF GONG in Kingston, and that this highly unique vocalist from Cote D’Ivoire is singing in no less than 4 languages throughout the song. Blao.

ps- another interesting tidbit for those crazy raer beat heads out there. Through Soulstrut.com I found out that Akon is actually the son of the man responsible for this highly sought after and extremely rare slice of Afro Funk. Woah.