• alpha blondy Human Race (LP, £18.50)

    He’s the best-known French-speaking reggae singer, but that doesn’t stop him also expressing himself in the language of his roots, Dioula, as well as the language of Bob Marley, English. A range of spices that colour an art, and especially a message, which is good, as its purpose is to speak to as many people as possible. The first title of this new album by Alpha Blondy confirms the perceptible engagement in his repertoire: "Political Brouhaha" denounces politics and electoral promises. "They prevent you and me from thinking. They fill us with promises that they will never keep, as if they just want to make a career for themselves. I think politicians are in the wrong role. The people expect miracles from them, but these promises bind only those who believe in them. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a solution!" Another song called "Nos hôpitaux" (Our hospitals) describes a catastrophic situation, that of the medical equipment of a whole continent. "It's a nightmare, and at the same time, a wake-up call. African politicians who care for the welfare and happiness of their people need to consider their health. Our hospitals are just as much a place to die as slaughterhouses. There’s a lot of work to be done, and this is certainly one of the essential points that will help get Africa on track. There’s money available; if they wanted to, they could fix it." It’s not the first time that Alpha Blondy has spoken out. In the early 1980s, the country was still governed by a single party, that of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, President from 1960 to 1993. There was no multiparty system, and his music was like a rallying point for the opposition. His song "Brigadier Sabari", which denounces police violence, has even become a hymn. And although he moderated his epithets because of the trouble they caused, it was very evident that his music had turned anti-establishment. "Expressing yourself always serves a purpose. I’m not a politician, but I have the right to speak." But beyond all this noise and all these promises, there’s a universal language, that of faith, addressed here in a song called "Les Païens" (The Pagans). "My mother was Muslim, my father Christian, but there is only one God. It’s written in the Qur'an: Let no one divide you. It’s aimed at Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. And today, what do we see? Division. I wanted to come back to this one God. We must conform to the precepts of this God who unites us. He is a God of love, not a God of division. The only real truth today is God’s love." Those who are already familiar with the artist's discography won’t be surprised by this confirmation of his faith: Jah Glory (Glory to God) claimed the title of his first record, while Jerusalem the holy city was the name of his fourth. Spirituality has always been very much present in him. The two occasions that liven up the song list won’t surprise those who follow him, such an exercise having almost become instinctive. This time, we have "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin and "I came to tell you I'm leaving" by Serge Gainsbourg. "Led Zep is indeed a group we listen to on the tour bus, so we thought: why not? Even though we grew up with Otis Redding and Johnny Hallyday, we love English rock. Serge Gainsbourg, because I’ve always loved and really appreciated him. I was lucky enough to meet him at Printemps de Bourges in 1987, and I remember our heated debates about reggae..." As commander of African groove, as he’s often portrayed, Alpha Blondy is only about love and peace. At 65 years old and wearing it well, he’s not ready to retire yet. "I would have liked to sing romantic songs, but my ghetto origins wouldn’t let me. Instead, giving and receiving love is what drives me, in my music as well as in my life. And as long as God gives me strength, I'll be there." Let’s hope it never ends. TRACKLISTING: 1. Political Brouhaha 2. Kanou Feat. Fally Ipupa 3. Life 4. Alphaman Redemption Feat. Angelique Kidjo 5. Human Race 6. Nos Hopitaux Sont Malades 7. Les Paiens 8. Cigarettes 9. Whole Lotta Love 10. Oté-Fê Feat. Youssou N Dour 11. Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'En Vais 12. Black Hole

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