[lang_fr] Alpha Blondy : Biographie [/lang_fr] [lang_en] Alpha Blondy : Biography [/lang_en]

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Alpha Blondy de son vrai nom Seydou Koné, né à Dimbokro le 1er janvier 1953, est un chanteur de reggae ivoirien.
Avec Youssou N’Dour, il est sans doute la star internationale la plus populaire de la musique afro/reggae depuis la mort de Bob Marley auquel on le compare souvent, notamment pour son charisme et son engagement. Il chante aussi bien en français, en dioula (langue véhiculaire de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), qu’en anglais. C’est un artiste de scène qui se produit dans le monde entier.

Biographie:

Premier fils d’une famille de neuf enfants, Seydou Koné naît à Dimbokro en 1953. Élevé par sa grand-mère, le garçon connaît des années heureuses : portant le même prénom que le grand-père décédé, il est le « petit mari » de l’aïeule qui le cajole. Élevé parmi des femmes âgées, il en apprend notamment de nombreuses expressions dioula recherchées. Une règle importe et marquera l’enfant pour toute sa vie : il faut « parler droit », ne pas mentir, quelles que puissent en être les conséquences.

En 1962, il retrouve sa mère à Korhogo ; celle-ci l’emmène à Odienné où son mari travaille pour la Compagnie française de Côte d’Ivoire, la CFCI. Seydou Koné passe dix ans à Odjenné, où en 1972, il préside la section locale du Mouvement des élèves et étudiants de Côte d’Ivoire (MEECI). On l’appelle Elvis Blondy. La même année, il part suivre sa seconde au lycée normal de Korhogo. Élève inscrit à l’internat, l’adolescent forme un groupe avec ses copains Price (guitare), Pop Touré (batterie) et Diallo Salia (basse) : les Atomic Vibrations jouent en matinée les week-ends, pour les beaux yeux des jeunes filles du Couvent Sainte-Elisabeth voisin… Désireux d’apprendre l’anglais, il convainc sa mère de le laisser partir, en auto-stop, pour le Liberia voisin.

En 1973, Seydou Koné est à Monrovia. Il y reste treize mois, prenant des cours pour maîtriser la langue des Beatles et donnant des leçons de français. Mais le jeune homme veut aller plus loin. Il rentre en Côte d’Ivoire avec l’idée de partir aux États-Unis perfectionner son anglais, aller à l’université, faire de la musique et créer un groupe. À l’époque, il a en effet déjà écrit maintes chansons. « Come back Jesus », par exemple, a été écrite au Liberia (le titre sera publié en 1985 sur l’album « Apartheid is nazism »).

C’est en 1976 que le rêve devient réalité : Blondy (c’est ainsi qu’il signe les lettres envoyées aux amis restés au pays, surnom qui existe depuis le collège à Odienné) débarque à New York. Il s’inscrit dans une première école, la Geneva School of business, où il suit pendant trois mois des leçons d’anglais commercial. Puis il use les bancs du Hunter College pour prendre des cours de langue accélérés et passer avec succès le test qui lui permet enfin de s’inscrire à l’American Language Program de Columbia University.

Pendant deux ans, le jeune ivoirien suit ce programme destiné aux étudiants étrangers. En même temps, souvent de nuit, forcément, il enchaîne les jobs alimentaires – il est notamment coursier, à 5 dollars le pli porté. À ce rythme, il tombe bientôt malade. Alors qu’un médecin lui conseille de se reposer, un ami ivoirien, Oullaï Joachim, lui suggère de venir le rejoindre à Waco, au Texas. Seydou arrête les cours et quitte New York, son climat qui peut être si froid et son rythme infernal.

À Waco, le compatriote l’aide à trouver du travail : c’est l’usine de dindons Plantation Food, puis celle de poulets. Mais les abattoirs, cela ne correspond pas si bien que ça au jeune homme qui, à New York, comme la plupart des africains, évoluait dans les milieux carribéens et notamment jamaïcains : toute la période new-yorkaise a en effet été celle d’une approche de la philosophie rasta, illustrée par le concert donné par Burning Spear en 1976 à Central Park, dont Alpha parle encore aujourd’hui comme d’une date majeure, et en quelque sorte, emblématique. Après les volailles, donc, le jeune Blondy trouve un job chez le plus grand distributeur de musiques chrétiennes du monde. Pour sa part, il continue d’écrire ses titres.

Une rencontre lui donne beaucoup d’espoir : celle du Jamaïcain Clive Hunt, qui lui présente The Sylvesters, un groupe formé par une famille de dominicains qui joue régulièrement dans les petites salles de l’État de New-York. Espérant enfin réussir, Blondy quitte le Texas et commence à se produire en première partie des Sylvesters. Il chante ses propres compositions, dont «Burn down the apartheid», « Bory Samory » ( publié en 1984 sur « Cocody Rock ») ou « War », de Bob Marley, en français (publié en 1994 sur «Dieu»
)…
Mais le plus grand espoir du jeune homme repose sur les 8 chansons enregistrées, sous la houlette de Clive Hunt, au studio Eagle Sound à Brooklyn. À l’époque, Clive Hunt a déjà réalisé le 1er album des Abyssinians, travaillé avec Max Romeo et écrit une chanson (Milk and Honey) pour Dennis Brown. Le disque ne voit malheureusement jamais le jour : le réalisateur ayant des problèmes d’argent, il a, dit-on à Blondy, quitté New York pour Londres.

Déjà quatre ans passés aux États-Unis, sans résultat vraiment palpable : en 1980, Blondy décide de rentrer en Côte d’Ivoire. Peu glorieux, le retour est douloureux. Le rêve américain a tourné au cauchemar.

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De retour à Abidjan, Blondy habite chez des amis. Il se met à répéter avec des musiciens ghanéens au ghetto d’Adjamé, au Bracody Bar. Désormais, il se fait appeler Alpha, qu’il a ajouté à Blondy en signe d’espoir d’une nouvelle vie, d’un commencement.

En 1981, Roger Fulgence Kassy lui propose de passer dans l’émission qu’il présente à la télévision ivoirienne (la RTI), «Première chance». Les deux hommes se connaissent de longue date. Adolescents, ils se retrouvaient en effet à Abidjan pendant les grandes vacances, au quartier Ebrié, chacun chez son oncle (les deux oncles travaillaient à la Présidence) ; ils ont passé le BEPC la même année.

Avant le départ au Liberia, en 1973, c’est d’ailleurs ensemble qu’ils se présentent au concours d’entrée à la RTI. Fulgence réussit, et entre au studio-école de la télévision ivoirienne. Quand Blondy revient des États-Unis, Fulgence fait partie de l’équipe du studio 302, dirigée par George Benson. En 1981 donc, Ful, comme l’appelle Alpha, lui propose « Première chance ». Pour le chanteur qui a bientôt trente ans, c’est plutôt la dernière chance…

Il interprète quatre chansons : « Chrmenteur kirjk istopher Colombus » de Burning Spear, et trois de ses compositions, « Bintou were were », « Dounougnan » et « The end ». « Tu verras, demain, ta vie va changer », avait prévenu Fulgence.

Effectivement: Devant l’engouement suscité par le passage à la télévision, Georges Benson propose au chanteur de produire son premier album. Ce sera « Jah Glory », qui sort fin 1982, début 1983. C’est, au grand regret de Seydou Koné, malheureusement trop tard pour faire partager sa joie à sa grand-mère chérie.

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Sur l’album, un titre que Benson hésite à mettre : « Brigadier sabari ». La chanson (dont l’intitulé peut se traduire par la supplication « Brigadier, pitié! ») dénonce les violences dont la police est coutumière. Le titre fait un tabac en Côte d’Ivoire et dans toute la région. Il accompagne jusqu’à aujourd’hui la riche carrière d’Alpha Blondy, qui compte plus de quinze albums et un nombre incalculable de concerts.

Avec son groupe le Solar System, l’artiste se produit en effet aux quatre coins de la planète, portant haut les couleurs de l’Afrique et de son pays, la Côte d’Ivoire.

Ambassadeur:

Il est ambassadeur de l’ONU pour la paix en Côte d’Ivoire.

Discographie :

1982 – Jah Glory ( avec le titre Brigadier Sabari et resorti sous le titre Rasta poue )
1984 – Cocody rock
1985 – Apartheid is nazism
1986 – Jerusalem
1987 – Révolution
1989 – The prophets
1992 – Masada
1993 – SOS guerre tribale
1993 – Live au Zénith
1994 – Veto de Dieu dans la compilation « Reggae Africa »
1994 – Dieu
1996 – Grand bassam zion rock
1997 – The best of Alpha Blondy
1998 – Yitzhak Rabin
1999 – Elohim
2001 – Blondy Paris Bercy
2002 – Merci
2005 – Akwaba The Very Best Of

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Alpha Blondy (born Seydou Koné on January 1, 1953 in Dimbokoro, Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa), is an Ivoirian Reggae singer and a major International Recording Artist. Alpha Blondy sings mainly in Dioulahis native language, French and English, but also sometimes in Arabic or Hebrew. His lyrics denote strong political attitude and humor. In particular he coined the (French) term « democrature » (which translates as « democratorship ») to qualify some African governments.

Early years:

First son of a family of nine children, Seydou Kone was born in Dimbokro in 1953. Raised by his grandmother, growing up in what he described as « among elders », which – later – was to have a big impact on his career. In 1962, Alpha Blondy went to join his father in Odienne, where he spent ten years, attending the Sainte Elisabeth high school, and getting involved in the Ivory Coast students movement. Here he formed a band.

However, this hobby affected his schooling and Alpha Blondy was expelled from school due to poor attendance. His parents then sent him to study English in Monrovia a major city in the neighbouring country of Liberia in 1973. He spent thirteen months there and then moved to the United States of America to improve his English further.

In 1973 Seydou moved to New York (and briefly Texas), where he attended College and majored in English, because he wanted to become a English teacher. He had to work very hard part-time, and sometimes at night, to survive and became ill. In New York he met Rastafarians for the first time, and was also able to see concerts by Jamaican artists such as Burning Spear.

At this time he was recording Christian music but never stopped writing his own songs. Eventually he got into various scrapes in New York and returned to the Ivory Coast, where he got into even more trouble until he met up with one of his childhood friends, Fulgence Kassi, who had become a famous television producer. This was the beginning of his real career as a singer, using the name ‘Alpha Blondy’.

Musical career:

After various TV shows for Kassi, Blondy recorded his first solo album in 1982, entitled ‘Jah Glory’. This album was to have enormous success and would become later a symbol of resistance because of the song ‘Brigadier Sabari’, where Alpha criticised the harassment of the police. Some of this was based on personal experience as Alpha had seen police violence himself.

Alpha Blondy became a big star in Abidjan with his own African twist of Reggae music, becoming in the eyes of his fans ‘the Bob Marley of Africa’. Alpha Blondy is spiritual, political and positive just like Marley himself. And he doesn’t stop progressing; in order to reach more people with his message, he chose to sing in many languages: English, French, Baoule, and his own native language – Dioula. Later he also brought new instrumentation to his brand of reggae such as the violin and cello.

Soon the fame of Alpha Blondy spread to Europe. Following the success of an EP entitled “Rasta Pou” he went to Paris in 1984 to make his second album, ‘Cocody Rock’ with the label Pathe Marconi. The ‘Bob Marley of Africa‘ traveled to the Island of Jamaica and recorded the title track of this album with Marley’s backing group: The Wailers.

Back home in 1985, Alpha went into the studio to record ‘Apartheid is Nazism’. This album was more politically committed than ever. It is a call for the end of Apartheid and the freedom for all. In 1986 Blondy recorded “Jerusalem” at the legendary Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica, again with The Wailers featuring Bob Marley’s legendary Bass Aston « Family Man » Barrett. Blondy tried to promote unity between the religion of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

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He drew his arguments and inspiration from his own diverse knowledge of the Bible, the Quran and the Torah. That same year, Blondy sang in Hebrew during a concert in Morocco. At this point he was touring continuously. His new album ‘Revolution’ had a lighter, gentler sound; this was the album with cellos in the instrumentation, and the line-up included veteran Ivory Coast singer Aicha Kone. The album also included « Jah Houphouët parle », a long speech by the Ivory Coast president with only the most minimal beat behind it.

Blondy spent the years 1987–1989 giving concerts and recording ‘SOS Guerre Tribale’ in Abidjan. This was promoted by Blondy himself as he was distancing himself from Pathe Marconi at this stage. This was not to be a real success but this wasn’t going to stop Blondy and in 1991 he returned to Europe for a concert tour and to record his famous album: ‘Massada’ with the help of musical legends such as Bocana Maiga and UK reggae producer Denis Bovell. The album, with its hit single ‘Rendez Vous’ was a huge success, and later, Blondy was to receive his first Gold Disc in Paris.

At the beginning of 1993, worn out from a world tour, Blondy succumbed to depression and was taken into an institution for psychiatric help. But as his health recovered he recorded the album ‘Dieu’ (‘God’), where he appears more spiritual and religious, on tracks such as ‘Heal Me’, about his illness and recovery.

Blondy’s psychiatric treatment continued but, on 10 December 1994, Blondy was back with the festival in memory of the late President Houphouet, and later he made his European comeback at a storming concert at Le Zenith in Paris. In 1996, Blondy released a hits compilation and went back into the studio to record the album ‘Grand Bassam Zion’, singing in six languages; Malinke, Arabic, French, English, Ashanti and Wolof.

After two more years in Paris, Blondy returned to his homeland in 1998, with a new album ‘The Prophet’. Convinced his label was too much focused on the international market, he decided to create his own label. Since then Alpha has recorded albums and singles, such as: ‘Yitzhak Rabin‘ in memory of the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated in 1995 (this was accompanied by yet another grueling tour of Europe), the single ‘Journaliste en Danger’ the album ‘Elohim’ in 2000.

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ALPHA BLONDY celebrated 20 years as a recording artist, with the release of his CD  » MERCI », in 2002 featuring Ophelie Winter and Saian Supa Crew, which earned him a 2003 Grammy Awards Nomination for « BEST REGGAE ALBUM ». However due to the political situation in his home country of Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), he was unable to personally attend the prestigious award ceremony in New York City. In an unprecedented move, the Grammy Awards permitted him to send his representative in his place of honor.

In 2005 ‘Akwaba’ was released. His latest CD is entitled « Victory » due to be released July 2007. It features Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare as well as Tyrone Downie formerly of Bob Marley and the Wailers. « Victory » is in honor of the peace agreement that was reached and implemented in his country in March of 2007.

His Faith:

Grammy nominated Alpha Blondy was born to a Muslim mother and a Christian father and was brought up by a grandmother who taught him to love everyone. Alpha Blondy’s respect for all religions and the spirituality he derives from them can be heard on tracks like “Jerusalem” where he sang for unity between all religions in 1986.

Alpha Blondy as activist:

Alpha Blondy has always been a critic of authority. He calls himself a defender of free speech and since his breakthrough with “Brigadier Sabari” has fought against injustice as well as racism, harassment and corruption.

In the year 2000 Alpha denounced the mismanagement of government funds for private gain in the album “les voleurs de la république” (thieves of the republic). Despite the risk, he had the courage to denounce also the mysterious murder of the burkinabè journalist Norbert Zongo. But it was in 1998 that Alpha recorded his most controversial and criticised album: “Yitzhak Rabin”. He also wrote a song calling for the departure of the French military arguing that the Ivory Coast and other former French colonies did not need their services anymore, and the track “guerre civile“ predicted civil war if the politicians did not stop their corruption.

His Humanitarian Works:

ALPHA Blondy(Seydou Kone) was named United Nations Ambassador of Peace for Côte D’Ivoire in 2005. He made great efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to his country’s political and physical division which was a result of an attempted Coup in 2001.

As of March 2007 a peace agreement was signed and implemented, due to the hard work of many people including Alpha Blondy. Alpha now reaches out further with the newly created Not-for-Profit, Non Government, Non Political, Charitable Foundation, Alpha Blondy Jah Glory Foundation, which purposely and deliberately work towards ending social injustice and generational poverty by giving people the tools that they need to help themselves. He strongly believes in helping the poor (Jah Glory), and also that it should not hurt to a child. The Foundation strives to create and implement grassroots programs at the village level such as the Women’s Self-Sufficiency Micro Loan Program, to teach women who are caring for multiple Orphans how to start and manage their own business, to better provide for their families, as well as other sustainable projects, such as the Tafari-Genesis Retreat Camp for Children (Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso). It especially hope to bring joy and hope to children who have been affected by civil wars, Former Child Soldiers, and those who suffers from chronic life threatening illnesses, such as, Sickle Cell Anemia, Malaria, Asthma Etc..

Talking about Alpha Blondy, people think usually of music and indeed since 1980 he has written at least 17 albums and 194 titles. This itself indicates the great value he represents for his fans. Alpha is no longer an Ivorian star but a International Mega Star because of his fight for peace and unity all around the world. One example was his single “Who Are You” with Ophelie Winter against antipersonnel mines. He has also participated at many humanitarian and charity concerts, such as the concert in Senegal in March 2006 for the eradication of Malaria in Africa (where he appeared along with many other celebrities). He has done much, much more of this type of work in the Ivory Coast itself, especially at his annual free concert at Bassam beach called “festa”.

Best known songs:

His first success was Brigadier Sabare. Some representative songs are:

Jah Glory – which he sings against poverty
Apartheid is Nazism
Brigadier Sabare – satirical lyrics about police brutality.
Cocody Rock – has become like a Alpha Blondy anthem, which everyone knows and sings
Guerre Civile – about civil war
Jerusalem- a call for peace in Israel. The lyrics begins with a Hebrew prayer in Hebrew
Journalistes en danger – about the assassination of Norbert Zongo
Politiqui – about civilian / military government alternance
Yitzhak Rabin
Blondy features on a track on the 2005 Magic System album Petit Pompier.

Discography:

1982: Jah Glory
1984: Cocody Rock!!!
1985: Apartheid Is Nazism
1986: Jerusalem (featuring The Wailers)
1987: Revolution
1989: The Prophets
1992: Masada
1993: SOS Guerres Tribales
1993: Live Au Zénith (Paris)
1994: Dieu
1996: Grand Bassam Zion Rock
1997: Best Of
1998: Yitzhak Rabin
1999: Elohim
2001: Blondy Live Paris Bercy
2002: Merci
2005: « Akwaba »

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