Tiken Jah Fakoly ADD


Album Review: Tiken Jah Fakoly - Braquage De Pouvoir


by Gardy Stein

Album Review: Tiken Jah Fakoly - Braquage De Pouvoir

"The issue of the people's struggle is still relevant today, and this is what I wanted to convey in this album." (Tiken Jah Fakoly)

One of the musically and politically most active Reggae artists speaks up once more: with Braquage De Pouvoir ('robbery of power'), Tiken Jah Fakoly has just released his eleventh studio album under the joint roof of Chapter Two Records and Wagram Music. "The African Baobab", as he is called by his fans in reference (and reverence) to his strength, his charisma and his unapologetic vindication of his African roots has once more created a masterpiece of powerful music and highly relevant lyrics. Recorded between Abidjan, Bamako and Paris, the current oeuvre was co-produced by Guillaume Stepper, Mael Danion and the late Tyrone Downie, making the album an homage to this great musician, as it's possibly the last work he ever laid hands on. Most songs were produced by Djoman Joseph "Scotty" Akré, with additional input by Thomas Broussard, Mathieu Bost and Antoine Villoutreix.

Already the first track is an expression of the serious approach Tiken Jah Fakoly takes in his music. Enfant De La Rue ('child of the street'), a bittersweet piece, brings to our attention the often unheard cry of the abandoned children who roam the streets of many metropoles around the world. "You promised me that I'll always have a family, but where are you now, Papa?" The haunting voice of Grand Corps Malade, a French singer, poetry slammer and film director, adds to the intensity of the lyrics by simply stating that the "enfants sans enfance" ('children without childhood') are hungry, afraid and suffer out there.

Another current topic is addressed in Où Est-ce Que Tu Vas? ('where are you going?'). Singing about the "dangerous passage" and "mothers who will never see their sons again" indicate that migration is the subject here, especially the illegal passage of young Africans to European countries. As in Pourqoui Nous Fuyons, a track from his previous album Le Monde Est Chaud, Fakoly is one of the few artists who discuss in vivid detail the dangers and the rather bleak conditions (racism, cold winters, loneliness etc.) migrants face once they reach their destination, asking if that's really worth the risk. A much better reality check than the exaggerated wealth, delusive success and false promises displayed in other African artists' videos, the images of which continue to lure youngsters astray!

Continuing this line of thought, Tiken shows an alternative to emigration in Beau Continent. Together with Dub Inc, he sings about the riches the African continent harbors, and that the future lies there: "Don't tell us that our Africa is poor! When you see this beautiful continent, you know it has everything to be successful." Another feature confirms this vision in Don't Worry, where the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam join Fakoly in chanting about the conviction that "Africa will one day be unified" – may all African leaders listen to this! The underlying instrumental transports this fervent hope with a bright, upful Reggae beat, starting with a delicate Kora solo.

Actually, this is another of the album's strength: throughout the release, traditional African instruments are incorporated into its soundscape. Thus, we hear a balafon in the almost-acoustic, Jazz-influenced Ça Va Aller, and more Kora plus what might be a Ngoni, another lute-like Mandé instrument, is played in the thought-provoking Religion. The song rightly condemns those fanatics who think they act in the name of their God when they commit suicide attacks: "If you decide to kill yourself, do it alone, if you wanna go to your paradise, go alone. Don't bring innocent children!"

Talking drums speak to us at the end of Gouvernement 20 Ans, a song that comes with an impressive video in which Tiken stands (or dances, rather) on top of a mountain, preaching to his people (please watch!). Lyrically, it talks about the real danger in some African countries that, if you lift your fist or talk against the system, you can get 20 years (of prison), while when you follow the president you will "eat" (i.e. live in peace) for the next 20 years. Tiken Jah Fakoly is famous for bringing these highly political messages to the people (which is the reason while he lives in exile in Mali and was denied entry into the "Democratic" Republic of Congo in 2015), and he makes no exception on this release, adding Le Peuple A Le Pouvoir ('the people have the power') and the title track Braquage De Pouvoir to the above. What exactly is the subject of Farana I can't tell, as it's sung in either Bambara or Dioula, but what I can say is that it's probably the first ever Ska track that the artist released. Get moving!

Diving deep into Roots Reggae, albeit with that unique African touch, the intense Massa and the equally melodious I Can Hear enrich the musical diversity further. For the latter, the singer invited his Jamaican colleague Winston McAnuff to the mic, and together the affirm that they can "hear the sound of the people fighting". Again, a special magic is created by the interplay of drum and bass, African Kora and brass. Awesome!

This leaves us with the last track Colonisé, another fine example of Scotty's composition and arrangement skills. It is livicated to those African and Afro-American heroes who have fought all their lives for the betterment of their people, and some of the proud names mentioned include Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara, Sékou Touré, Patrice Lumumba and Sumanguru Kanté - check the history!

13 tracks rich in message and sound (sung in French, English, Dioula and Bambara) make Braquage De Pouvoir another powerful tool in the fight for unification, self-determination and the acknowledgement of Africa's value in history, economy and the arts. Here is a singer who uses his reach and his weapon of choice – words – to bring important subjects like injustice, corruption, fanatism, poverty and neglect to the attention of his listeners, all wrapped into touching melodies and beautiful music. A great feat that should serve as an example to all (and especially Pop) artists who keep their lyrics ego-centered and shallow.

Release details

Tiken Jah Fakoly - Braquage De Pouvoir

Tiken Jah Fakoly - Braquage De Pouvoir

DIGITAL RELEASE [Chapter Two, Wagram]

Release date: 11/04/2022


01. Enfant De La Rue feat. Grand Corps Malade
02. Où Est-ce Que Tu Vas?
03. Religion
04. Beau Continent feat. Dub Inc
05. I Can Hear feat. Winston McAnuff
06. Braquage De Pouvoir
07. Ça Va Aller
08. Don't Worry feat. Amadou & Mariam
09. Farana
10. Gouvernement 20 Ans
11. Massa
12. Le Peuple A Le Pouvoir
13. Colonisé

Featured artists

Dub Inc / Winston McAnuff