Rocky Dawuni: From Ghana with so much Reggae

By Obed Boafo Facebook
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Ghana's 56th Independence Day anniversary celebrations

It is the evening of Wednesday March 6, 2013. Thousands of concertgoers have taken position on the green lushes of the Accra Sports Stadium, Ghana’s major sports facility. See gallery

Rocky Dawuni: From Ghana with so much Reggae

It is the evening of Wednesday March 6, 2013. Thousands of concertgoers have taken their positions on the luch green grass of the Accra Sports Stadium, Ghana’s major sports facility.

It is the country’s 56th Independence Day anniversary celebrations, and the Musicians Union of Ghana is hosting the Ghana Unity Concert, as part of a bigger Ghana Music Week initiative, instituted only this year.

Almost every Ghanaian musician who is a party to the union is performing. Rocky Dawuni, undoubtedly Ghana’s biggest Reggae music star is among the tall list of performers.

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An International Superstar

He comes on stage, and puts up a performance characteristic of his stature as an international superstar. The crowd, quiet youthful - some of whom are only seeing him live on stage for the very first time - cheer him on. He is splendid all night.

It wasn’t surprising to see the Atlanta-based musician get so much love at the Unity Concert; every year, he finds time out of his rather tight schedule to play at least one major concert in Ghana, where he was born and raised some 44 years ago.

Dawuni, a successful mainstream musician of his generation, is one of few musicians who have revived a steady appreciation of Reggae music in and out of the West African country. Across the African continent, he inspires many, while giving many up and coming Reggae musicians reason enough not to despair.

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In Ghana

In what started as gradual steps to take his art to the world, Dawuni has over the past decade sold a brand that is both pleasant and tremendous to a point where his name readily pops up in list of successful Reggae acts after the likes of Lucky Dube and Alpha Blonde. His rise to the top is an admirable tale. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and dedication to a trade mostly shunned and left to its fate in Africa.

From the Michel Camp Military Barracks in Ghana’s capital, Accra, Dawuni learnt the ropes of fine Reggae music. Occasionally, and with a lot of calculated effort he would join the rehearsal sessions of a band [Hot Barrels], which used to sample popular Reggae songs. At the University of Ghana, where he studied Philosophy and Psychology, Dawuni formed a local band; Local Crisis, an extension of his pursuant for excellence, and an example of how to pursue a dream.

His appreciation of Reggae music grew from there and years after, he became the musician he had dreamt of. It was a dream that managed to secure him, in the early stages, a huge, first single that went on to become a global hit. In Ghana, themed around Ghana’s stable political environment and the gains made over the past decades, paved the way for Dawuni to take off.

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A Master of his Art

He’s since released five successful albums including The Movement (1996), Crusade (1998), Awakening (2001), Book of Changes (2005) and Hymns for the Rebel Soul (2010), which received nominations for Outstanding World Music Album and Best Album at the 2011 International Reggae and World Music Awards, held in Trinidad. He won Best African Artist that year.

Dawuni, who was this month awarded “International Musician Award” by the Musicians Union of Ghana, for his efforts at projecting Ghanaian music, has shared stage with almost every other big name including Sharon Jones, U2’s Bono, Shaggy, Diana King, Janelle Monae, Stevie Wonder, K’Naan, Monty Alexander, Vusi Mahlasela and Jason Mraz among others.

His amazing stagecraft, which mostly forms the fulcrum of his numerous performances worldwide, has been widely hailed. To put it simply; Dawuni is a master of his art.

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The “Bob Marley of Ghana”,

A popular global figure, Dawuni has had some of his songs licensed for use as soundtracks for video games by U.S video game blue chip Electronic Arts, (EA), who used his “Download the Revolution” song for their 2010 soft-sell FIFA Soccer game. Three other songs including “African Reggae Fever”, subsequently remixed as “African Soccer Fever”, were also used for other selected themes.

Often referred to as the “Bob Marley of Ghana”, Dawuni’s clout goes beyond the walls of the music world, as he’s been able to command the kind of respect that gets him closer to some of the most powerful people around.

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In 2012, he was made a United Nations Global Alliance Foundation ambassador, acting as an advocate for clean cocking stoves around the world.

An activist and supporter of improved living standards, Dawuni has also worked with agencies like The Carter Center, UNIICEF, and Product (RED), in the areas of education and health.

Generations after he’s done Dawuni would be remembered for so many things; an African ambassador, who served his people well, a successful musician and an activist.

Rocky Dawuni operates the Afro Funke weekly bar in Los Angles. Together with his Photographer and Talent booker Carry Sullivan, and also with the support of resident DJ Jeremie Sole, they dedicate weekly programmes to projecting African music, arts and culture.

In its 9th year, the club features international guest appearances from musicians, dancers, disc jockeys, dancers, record producers, film producers, and fashion designers among a cross section of stakeholders.