Alpha Blondy, world ambassador for unity is back in Montreal after more than ten long years. He will be performing tomorrow night (September 17th) at the Metropolis at 8pm. We caught up with him today at his press conference at club Balattou, this is what he Alpha Blondy had to say.
What is it like to be Alpha Blondy? What are some of the highlights and difficulties you experience in your life of fame?
Being what I am comes from the people that you are. My fans who appreciate the work I do have made me Alpha Blondy. I am spoiled by the love that my fans shower on me and I work to raise myself to the level of this love.
You have been making music for over 20 years, how much more do you think you will offer us?
Twenty years seems like nothing, I think I have a whole lot more to give. The road is still long. My homework to my fans is to give it my best as if I am just beginning. We are all at the merci of time and time will decide.
What would you say is at the root of all the political problems unfolding in Africa?
Violence in Africa is really due to our lack of a true democracy. African politics is not even ready for this and until this change we will always be late in uprising.
A few years ago you sang “French army go away”. What has made you change your tune in the last year? Do you now support the interventions of the French army in Cote D’Ivoire?
Let me sing that song now…”French army come back quick” I still ask France and Canada to help the politicians of the Ivory Coast to rise above this cycle of fighting that we are stuck in. the vengeance of the politicians must stop. We have two basic choices in Cote D’Ivoire. We can either live together like intelligent beings or we can die together like idiots. Which would you want?
Where do you see the future of world beat music going? Are there any aspiring young African musicians you are taking under your wings? Any hopes, aspirations?
There is one simple problem in the rise of an African musician, namely money. It is beyond the means of most Africans to back a promotion that may launch a career. Promoters are like some form of a mafia, they take advantage of some very good artists. I have a small studio in Abidjan in which I have tried to help out some local talents. Making an album however, it is really not enough. one needs top quality videos, and to be on TV in order to get any recognition. It is really not easy to break into the international music scene. The artist needs to be connected with the mafia of promoters if they have any hopes to succeed in the industry.
Independent wealth can help too, wouldn’t you say?
We poor artists cannot afford the costs of producing a quality product. A decent package runs more than I can afford to sponsor, I am not a big record company. I and many artists have tried to promote young talents, Youssou N’Dour has tried often. We are in front of a brick wall in this situation. We have such great talent in Africa; the problem is that we lack structure within our music industry. We don’t have the infrastructure that artists need to take off.
Many African musicians end up leaving Africa in order to hit the international scene, is this easier?
Some are lucky, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Alpha Blondy, Manu Dibango, for example. Many others are not so lucky.
In your opinion, what young talents should we be looking out for?
A name like Ramissas Kimon, he’s a great reggae artist. I’ve got Ismat Isaac, also a great talent. I don’t like Tikanjah; he is not good to me as a reggae listener. Africa has so many talents; we just don’t have the means to support them. Our countries are also so occupied with war that our culture seems to be on the back burner.
Do you support any particular political party?
God is my politics. I am not into any of the political parties. I am into the Ivory Coast, the place that made me.
Alpha, I would like to know; what truly makes you happy in life? From your song Wari, I ask you « Qui a dit que l’argent ne fait pas la bonheur? Qui a dit ça ? »
Whoever said that money doesn’t buy happiness should give me theirs. In truth, happiness has nothing to do with money. Happy or sad, there is no price tag. The song says that money does end but the love between us remains. Money can destroy us and our relationships. The expression that money doesn’t buy happiness is there to get us to think, I see you are doing such. What truly makes me happy is love.