Album Review: Rocky Dawuni - Beats Of Zion
by Gardy Stein
"We live in a time when the elements of international morality need to be proclaimed as a guiding principle for how we engage and deal with each other, between individuals, between communities and among nations. It is a time for global mobilization for action on challenging socio-political issues like the environment and the refugee crisis. Beats of Zion is the drumbeat of war against apathy and re-energizing the forces of love and hope." (Rocky Dawuni)
With such a passionate introduction, it should be clear that Beats Of Zion is no ordinary album, and its creator no ordinary artist. David "Rocky" Dawuni is indeed not only an extraordinary singer and musician, he is also a humanitarian activist (participating in social campaigns with Product (RED), ONE, UNICEF, The Carter Center, Clean Cooking Alliance and the United Nations Foundation) and was nominated "UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa" last year.
The Ghanaian artist now returns full force to the music scene with a release that bears proof of his truly global influences and outreach. Following its Grammy-nominated predecessor Branches of the Same Tree, Beats Of Zion is his 7th studio album, sporting 13 highly varying tracks. Released on International Women's Day, it has already enthused fans all over the world - about time we take a closer look at it as well!
Born out of his desire to "use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive", the songs were recorded in Accra, Nairobi and the prestigious Village Studios in Los Angeles, where the title track Beats Of Zion, the traditional Highlife song Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu featuring Ghanaian lyricist Sarkodie and the sizzling Stonebwoy-combination Wickedest Sound laid the foundation for the entire release. "Ready or not, we a go come with di wickedest sound!"
Further features include the Cumbia-inspired Freedom Train with Argentinian Dancehall star Alika and Wiyaala, "The Young Lioness Of Africa" in Sunshine Day, a cover of the 1975 original by the Afro-Caribbean group Osibisa. All of these songs bear surprises, from melding African elements with Latin beats and contemporary Rap, to the use of Rocky's native tongue. This refreshing approach is taken further in Let’s Go, fusing 70ies Pop, Reggae and a certain Gospel groove, the contemplative acoustic piece Modern Man or the loungy Turn It Up. An impressive display of musical variety!
Lovers of more traditional Reggae sounds will be satisfied by tracks like the Nyabinghi-inspired Elevation, the modern Mr. Jones, the beautiful Champion Arise (a call to our most powerful weapon, the mind), or the Ganja anthem Burn One, highlighting the economic force Marihuana can bring to a nation.
The album closes with the heart-felt Thank You, which, as most other tracks, shines through the fine instrumental delivery of musicians such as Akwasi Dankwa (guitar), Ronnie McQueen (bass), Anthony Brewster (keyboard and backing vocals) and CC Frank (drums). "Thank you Lord, for letting me be the man I always wanted to be!"
For many of the songs included, videos are already out (e.g. Wickedest Sound and the title track) or announced (e.g. Elevation filmed in southern India), so look out for those! Beats Of Zion is a celebration of the beauty of sounds and melodies from around the world, and everybody is invited to join. Don't miss out!
Rocky Dawuni - Beats of Zion
DIGITAL RELEASE [Aquarian Records]
Release date: 03/08/2019
01. Beats of Zion
02. Wickedest Sound feat. Stonebwoy
03. Champion Arise
04. Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu feat. Sarkodie
06. Freedom Train feat. Alika
07. Let's Go
08. Burn One
09. Modern Man
10. Mr. Jones
11. Turn It Up
12. Sunshine Day feat. Wiyaala
13. Thank You Lord