Freedom in Many Languages | Sojourners

Freedom in Many Languages

Reggae is music of the oppressed. Its performers rarely have formal musical training and usually compose lyrics depicting the life realities -- especially poverty and social injustice -- of the suffering.

Reggae is also rooted in the musical styles of the oppressed, of the slave descendants in both the United States (rhythm and blues) and Jamaica (ska and rock steady). Although most often associated with Jamaica, reggae is being taken back to its African roots. Alpha Blondy is one African who has gained international recognition for his unique reggae music.

Born in the Ivory Coast, Alpha Blondy (his nom-de-plum means "First Bandit") was strongly influenced by the music of Jamaica, especially that of Bob Marley. And the influence of Marley is evident in Blondy's music. Like Marley, Blondy's simple style is reminiscent of the lifestyles of the Jamaican and African cultures. Also like Marley, and typical to most reggae musicians, Blondy makes frequent reference to the tenets of Rastafarianism, the religion of choice for most reggae artists.

Despite the similarities to Marley, Blondy's style is unique. For example, unlike most reggae artists, he directly incorporates his own indigenous musical traditions to create a distinctly African sound. Also, he sings in several different languages, including English, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Dioula, and Jamaican Patois. By using so many languages, Blondy depicts the unity of all peoples, as well as the conviction of shared responsibility in the social ills of our day.

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