Album Review: Rocky Dawuni - Branches of the Same Tree
Rocky Dawuni burst on the international reggae scene with the anthemic song In Ghana from the album Crusade in 1998. In Ghana makes the case for being in touch with what happens on the ground in his home country of Ghana and throughout Africa and the world. What it served to do was set the pace for an artist who has evolved into a deeply committed humanitarian and champion of peace and justice issues.
“When we recognize we are all branches of the same tree we begin to see our common roots this is the cornerstone of true Oneness”. This quote is included in the gorgeous booklet that accompanies the album along with thoughtful introductions to each song, brilliant photography from Ghana and lyrics for all 11 songs. In this digital age, It is a rarity to see this type of care put into album booklet design.
The album is released on the great world music label Cumbancha and it brings something for everyone to taste in a veritable feast of music styles from Hi-Life to Samba to Funk to Reggae to EDM. An artist whose path from West Africa to Los Angeles mirrors that of his predecessor Fela Kuti, Rocky is the next generation of Afro-beat, voicing the concerns of the voiceless with a great African, Jamaican and American orchestra of musicians forging a new sound with him in compositions that reflect both the past and a path to inform the future.
The lead single, African Thriller is taken right out of the Fela playbook, female vocal call and response with Rocky, a pared down bass and horn driven groove prepare the listener for the main event, the chorus taken from the infamous boxing match between Ali and Foreman in 1974 Zaire. It’s Rocky’s way of making Africa center stage.The video to accompany the tune is full of boxing metaphors and dance battles that remind us of the African origins of popular music genres and culture.
Children of Abraham is sung over a roots reggae groove that addresses issues between people living in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Ronnie “Stepper” McQueen original bassie of Steel Pulse shines bright and center on this tune. The Sign is a spiritual neo-soul groove with astounding rhythms fueled by Manas Itiene (Michael Franti & Spearhead) and Leon Mobley (Ben Harper, Damian Marley).
Two Bob Marley & The Wailers songs are covered, the unfinished demo “Butterfly is performed over a sweet ukulele groove. The Peter Tosh and Bob Marley written “Get Up Stand Up is reworked as an Afrobeat anthem for today with African pidgin/patois language and its American ’70’s band WAR - influenced flute chorus taken from “Slipping Into Darkness” emphasized.
These days, the dance floors from New York to New Delhi pulse with the sound of African rhythms in the EDM sphere. African pop music meets the ears of dancers, whether they are from the continent or not and shapes the trends. With this album Rocky Dawuni and his studio orchestra can make all types of African music mainstream in a way that it has not manifested ever before.
Rocky Dawuni - Branches of the Same Tree
DIGITAL RELEASE [Cumbancha]
Release date: 03/31/2015
01. Shine A Light
02. Rock Your Soul
03. Black Star
04. African Thriller
05. Children Of Abraham
06. We Never Stop
07. The Sign
10. Get Up, Stand Up
11. Island Girl