By: Dr. Monica E. Sainz from France
Reggae is a multi-million dollar business and the Francophone world (close to 280 million people) has always been in the forefront after Jamaica, the U.K. and Cote d’Ivoire. Global music revenues of all genres are increasing again, to $15 billion US in 2014. World renowned stars such as the legend Bob Marley himself was and still is highly popular in France and all over Africa.
French artists who landed into reggae included Serge Gainsbourg, now deceased. His claim to fame was recording the French National Anthem way back in 1979 in Jamaica with reggae stars including Rita Marley. That anthem version was later taken and redone by Big Youth in brilliant fashion. Some current French reggae artists include: Daddy Mory “Signeurs de Guerre” a message about arms sales and warlords; Tiwony “Oupatebizwentousa”; or also Baby G “On y croit”. French beaches are filled with reggae lovers for concerts or festivals. You can actually walk around the subways or streets of Paris and listen to amazing reggae artists playing for a few Euros! The messages of reggae whether in English, French or African dialects always describe one love, unity, social justice and peace among religions as Peter Tosh and Bob Marley had begun. Belgium, a tiny nation North of France has outstanding reggae and dancehall reggae DJ’s as well! One such fine DJ’s is DJ Septik out of Brussels who even works on American radio reggae stations.
An Ivoirian reggae fan, Bangali Kone, noted that his capital, Abidjan, is a megalopolis of close to 5 million people coming from all over. He stated that there are areas of the capital in and around Parker Place/Zone 4, where you can hop from one reggae bar to another. One such place is “the Temple of reggae”. You can also attend reggae festivals year round in the capital. The latest reggae festival supported by Alpha Bondy was the Abi Reggae Festival in Abidjan in April 2015. This latest festival included current French African reggae stars as well as international icons such as Morgan Heritage or Kymani Marley. Reggae has been a steady favorite, spanning across age groups, nationalities, generations and cultures.
Where the current music trend for the youths there is Azonto, reggae is here to stay. Abidjan is the place where aspiring reggae artists make their local debuts, to test the waters. If they make it big in Abidjan, they are sure to make it big in Africa then on to the European markets, including France. Examples of now world famous stars are Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. Alpha Blondy- sings in his dialect Dioula (C.I.), French, and English but also Hebrew and Arabic- his message is about religious unity.
Tiken Jah Fakoly (C.I.)- woke up the conscience of his fans, with messages of pan africanism and growth of economies, political fairness. Fakoly has been so outspoken that he is currently living in Mali, and is not wanted in Senegal. Fakoly is a practicing Muslim. Some new Ivoirian reggae artists are Jim Kanson and Ismael Issac. In Cote d’Ivoire, the go-to webpage for reggae music is abidjanshow.com, then click on Musiquebox, and then the genre: reggae!
Jamaica’s neighbor Haiti, on the island of Hispanola is rocked by Kompas music. Milele Roots band leader and bass player, Christian Lionel Craan discussed how Haiti was not overly exposed to reggae. Bob Marley was not really welcomed during the Duvallier regime. Dreads were not really well accepted even.Some of the reggae current artists in Haiti are: Rebel Layonn, Kiko Tru Rasta, Jah Nesta, cover band with some original songs Milele Roots, Back Diamant (singer and poet); and composer Belo. Haitian rapper Wycleff Jean who grew up in the US sometimes does reggae collaborations such as his latest award winning song with Matisyahu. In Guadeloupe (France), Admiral T. is a leader of dancehall reggae.
This small tour of the French speaking reggae world may even give you a desire to travel and catch a future concert of festival. The message of one love, social justice, and good beats is universal. Until then, reggae lovers can visit youtube or radio stations from different countries online and travel from within the comforts of home! One Love. Dr. Monica Sainz.