Artist Profiles: Rocky Dawuni

Rocky Dawuni

Rocky Dawuni was born January 22, 1969 in Ghana. He burst onto the African reggae scene in the early 1990s as the lead singer of the Ghanaian reggae group Local Crisis at the Pan African Music Festival held in Accra. In their debut performance, Dawuni’s mesmerizing stage presence and powerful songs secured the group hero status.

Although Dawuni soon developed a following in his beloved native Ghana, he decided to leave for the United States and pursue his musical horizons. Over the next few years, Rocky spent time writing and recording, while being exposed to the many diverse forms of music abroad as well as under-studying the music business itself.

In 1996, Rocky Dawuni released his debut recording The Movement, one of the most anticipated reggae albums in West Africa. The artists’ introspective journey into social and spiritual consciousness garnered rave reviews in the Ghanaian press and spawned two hit singles, with both “Sugar” and “What Goes Around” obtaining massive Ghanaian airplay.

In the U.S., The Movement received critical acclaim and glowing praise. Mesa/Bluemoon Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, licensed “What Goes Around” and its video for release throughout the U.S. on Strictly Underground: Reggae’s Next Generation, propelling the video to climb to #3 on the Reggae Video Charts in January 1997 and introducing Rocky’s music to U.S. reggae radio.

In spring 1998, Aquarian Records / Who Dun It Records released Rocky’s second recording, Crusade, written, arranged and produced by Rocky Dawuni. The album is a sprawling philosophical journey into rhythm and soul with songs of pain, spirituality, love, revolution and redemption. From the nyabinghi tinged tropical jam, “Sweet Bright Day,” which Dawuni describes as “an invocation of the perfect day when all elements fall into place in our lives,” to a hauntingly powerful piece entitled, “Conqueror,” which highlights a traditional African kora player, Crusade is Dawuni’s musical and spiritual war promoting love, justice and righteousness. “It’s about hope in the human spirit and allowing God to empower us to attain the unattainable.”

Crusade’s first single, “In Ghana,” achieved international hit status on both radio and TV with the tune’s arresting video. Inspired by Ghana’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Dawuni describes the song “as a celebration of 40 years of independence…as the first black African country to attain independence, it’s a personal ode to the individual’s continuing search for freedom.” Putumayo World Music subsequently licensed “In Ghana” for their Reggae Around the World compilation CD that also includes tracks from Lucky Dube, Burning Spear and Majek Fashek. “In Ghana” was recently voted “Reggae Song of the Year” at the Ghana Music Awards 2000.

The July 1998 release of Crusade was, and continues to be, enormously successful, with tremendous media coverage throughout the African continent. In the spring of 1999, Rocky began a summer festival tour of the U.S., which culminated with a knockout live performance at the Vermont Reggae Festival to a capacity crowd of 35,000. Rocky also put in extraordinary performances at the UCLA Jazz/Reggae Festival and Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, establishing himself as one of the premier live reggae artists. Crusade firmly established Rocky Dawuni as a crucial addition to the Roots Reggae revitalization.

Rocky Dawuni, appeared live in concert at the La Pleasure Beach in Accra on Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6th, 2001. Under the auspices of Aquarian Productions and Ghana Tourist Development Co Ltd., the first annual “Rockys Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was a smash hit by all standards with an estimated crowd of over 20,000. Rocky opened the show with the ever popular “Inside Your Head” with the crowd singing along to every word. The stage was a virtual war-zone with fans fighting with security personnel to get to Rocky during his two-hour plus set.

“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” ended with a stunning rendition of Rocky’s “In Ghana,” which has become the unofficial national anthem of the country. As the sun set, Ghanaians and foreigners alike sang in unison to celebrate Ghana’s 44th year of independence from colonial rule.

“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was planned to become an annual event to celebrate the anniversary of Africa’s first independent nation and serve as a festival to showcase music from Africa and the Diaspora.

In November of 2004 Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance onstage at Rocky Dawuni’s concert performance at Zanzibar in Santa Monica, California. Wonder wailed on harmonica and dug into the crowd-inspired call & response vocal gymnastics on Dawuni’s Afro groove track, “Wake the Town,” from his album Book of Changes.

Rocky Dawuni

Rocky was featured on the highly successful Instant Karma: Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur Deluxe Edition release (Warner Bros Records) which features covers of John Lennon songs by global stars including Black Eyed Peas, U2, Christina Aguilera, Green Day, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. In addition, Dawuni’s afrobeat “Wake the Town”was featured on video giant EA’s FIFA 2008 video game which has been released world-wide to millions of consoles.

In June 2007 Rocky and supermodel Elle MacPherson completed a June 13 -15 humanitarian tour of Ghana as spokespersons for (RED) and the Global Fund to announce the grant of 6.4 million dollars to provide HIV / AIDS treatment. (RED) was founded by U2 front man Bono and Bobby Shriver to harness the power of some of the world’s most iconic brands in the fight against HIV / AIDS.

Discography:

The Movement (1996)
Crusade (Aquarian Records, 1998)
Awakening (Aquarian Records, 2001)
Book of Changes (Aquarian Records, 2005)
Hymns for the Rebel Soul (Aquarian Records, 2010)
Branches of The Same Tree (Cumbancha, 2015)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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