Tiken Jah Fakoly calling for an African Revolution

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Tiken Jah Fakoly, African Revolution

African Revolution”, the new album from African’s most successful Reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly is out since November. Nearly at the same time there have been elections in his home country Ivory Coast and since then we see images of a country full of politcal tension. About this and about ways out of this “impasse” Guido Barth and Tiken Jah Fakoly are talking in here. As the new album “African Revolution” is suggesting education as an intelligent revolution it is taking its role in this interview more political wise than musical wise.

Tiken Jah, please give us an idea of how you think about the situation in Ivory Coast.

Tiken Jah Fakoly: President Gbagbo who has been elected in 2000 in an election I would call “bad” is in power for a decade now. When he will stay there we are steering into a real a dictatorship. Still all the power is given to friends and family and who wonders, nobody is willing to give that power away. At least not easily.

The country’s population is quite young, so why don’t they speak up against the deteriorated economy as a consequence of the greed of leading politicians?

The young people don’t learn to work so what do you expect. All they are doing is opening their hands and asking for money. As long as the flow of money isn’t interrupted the people stay calm, even if it is only little money they receive. The young people ask for money, they don’t want to work and those people don’t have the energy for a revolution.
Tiken Jah Fakoly lacht (c) Philippe Bordas
Tiken Jah Fakoly lacht (c) Philippe Bordas

You have ever meddled into your home country’s politics which brought you many enemies. What is your present role?

I would like to change something on the fact I just talked about, especially in the Ivory Coast. But basically this situation is similar in many African countries. I told you in a former interview two years ago that I don’t think the time is right for a revolution. I also did say that I think of naming my next album “African Revolution”. Now the album is ready and I think it is a very good time for it even if the political and social landscape is very difficult.

We choose to talk about politics and your role as a opinion leader this time but allow me just one question about the song “Voting” from your new album, please.


This song sounds much different then all the others. How does this evolve?

The song “Voting” has been inspired and created in Jamaica. It is a very mixture of many styles like Rumba, Malian and Senegalese music and it is a good deal different from all the other songs on this album. We had an Englishman producing that album and he let us take care that each song on the album has some kind of particularity. Especially this song “Voting” is causing much controversity, some people say it is not Reggae, some say it is not Rumba, some say it is not really Baobab music. This kind of mixture is very popular in western Africa and it seems to be very successful in Ivory Coast were we published it in September.

Thank you for that. Back now to the present situation in Ivory Coast. Who is responsible for what we experience now?

Again, sad to say but responsible for the deteriorated present situation and for the meager outlook are those politicians who hold the power for many years now. For them education of the people seems to be the most dangerous enemy as it is very easy to keep power when your people are “uneducated” in that they listen only to what YOU say: no criticism, no political activity, no self reliance, and before all “no questions” about the legitimacy and rightousness of the establishment in power.

Because of security reasons you live in Bamako in Mali. Have you been involved in the election in any way?

When it came to the election I haven’t spoken out for one side or the other. As an opinion leader live is very dangerous. It is not that I fear for me personally but I fear the situation will become even worse. My hope is that the Ivorians unite and not devide.
Tiken Jah Fakoly traditionell (c) Philippe Bordas
Tiken Jah Fakoly traditionell (c) Philippe Bordas

You are campaigning with “One concert, one school” in Africa and Europe and you finance the construction of schools. Your album “African Revolution” is a good deal about education. Please, how do you estimate the role a good education for the people would have on the future of your country?

I’m sure education would save not only my country but save Africa. Most of the people don’t know their rights, because they never went to school. They don’t know that much about democracy, they don’t know much about elections, about how important they are. The only thing they know is what the government told them but that is nothing of worth when you want to change the state of injustice most African countries are living in. When you want to change this “status quo” you need educated people who know their rights, people who know to think on their own and people who know to pose the right questions.

By the way there will be no one else posing those questions for us, we have to do that. Therefore we need a much better education. Education is so important, it is for to understand what is going on in this world, what is going on in Africa, what is going on in your country. Most of the population didn’t go to school, so they don’t know that they have power. People have the power but they don’t know that they have the power.

What do you suggest?

When you wish to turn the political power to the people you need to encourage them to act. Today the people vote because many of them get payed for it, lets say a Euro. But built on that a proud African future is impossible. Education could serve for better and it would be peaceful, a peaceful revolution, it would be an “African Revolution”.

You mentioned the importance of elections, but what are they worth when most promises made are false and the election itself is a fraud?

That is because I’m talking about politicians before and during the election time when politicians come everywhere in the country visiting even the remotest places. They spread all their promises. But when the election is finished the next day you never see or hear them again in your area. You just see them on TV then. It is the same thing all over Africa and elsewhere, too. I don’t really understand why they present Africa as a poor continent, Africa is the richest continent – actually. And I really don’t understand therefore why African people are poor. People need to learn about that and this is the reason why I want all the African people go to school.

We will ask this question: WHY AFRICA IS RICH AND WHY WE ARE POOR? We have to ask this question to our presidents and to the presidents of the occident too. We have to ask this question to the world and nobody will ask this question for us. Nobody will change Africa for us. If we sleep they will continue to steal our resources but if we wake up many things will change. This is the message of my new album. I would like everybody to wake up.

But the situation is that many young people want to go abroad.

Yes, all the young people from Africa want to go to France or to Germany or to America. My message to the young people of today is: Hey, you want to go over there because you think it is more beautiful because you think you get a job. May be that it is in some way so. But I tell them that those beauty and richness is not falling from the sky. If we want to change Africa we have to fight for that and we have to do it here, right here.

How do you encourage them?

I say: We can do that, we can fight here and we can start our revolution by education, we can start our revolution by waking up. At first we need to wake up and say no. But we in Africa just sit and look at our president and our presidents are not free. When our presidents will take the real independence from colonial countries they kill them. Like they did with: Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, they killed Haile Selassie. They killed all African presidents who said “NO” for us and who wanted to take the real independence. If today we want another Africa, if we want our children to live in another Africa we have to do something. If we don’t do something they will continue because they have there children and we have our children and they will continue to give the best to THEIR children.

Tiken Jah, thank you very much.

Tiken Jah Fakoly – Je dis non

Making-of African Revolution

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