On Beats of
Zion, African reggae star Rocky Dawuni continues to demonstrate he’s one of the
most exciting artists coming out of Africa. His style goes beyond traditional roots reggae
by incorporating other genres such as highlife, ear friendly Afropop, seductive
global beats and more.
Highlights include the title track featuring the traditional drums and percussion of Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi; the superb timelessly crafted reggae tracks “Champion Arise”, “Freedom Train”, and “Mr. Jones”; hip-shaking highlife song “Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu”; and the recreation of Osibisa classic “Sunshine Day” featuring Ghanaian Afropop singer Wiyaala.
Zion is an exceptionally
expressive, upbeat album
of heartfelt reggae intertwined with fascinating Pan-African music.
Rocky Dawuni, the international world music and reggae star,
global ambassador and humanitarian activist, has announced the release of his 7th
studio album Beats of Zion, out March 8th, 2019 through Six Degrees. The
thirteen-song recording follows the acclaimed Branches of the Same Tree, and
expands Rocky’s “Afro Roots” sound to include the diversity of the Ghanaian
music scene and its current global outreach.
“Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive,” says Rocky. “The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa.” He adds, “The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”
The album was recorded in various studios in Accra, Nairobi and Los Angeles. The title track and lead single “Beats of Zion” came out well from the Village Studios session in Los Angeles, but was missing something on the drum tracking. Rocky states, “We traveled to Zanzibar for a concert shortly after the recording session. At the time, I was still wanting the full African tribal effect that I had imagined. On the eve of my concert at the amazing Sauti za Busara Festival, we saw Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi mount the stage and blow the minds of everyone in the audience. I turned to my manager; Cary Sullivan who was also watching and we thought the same – ‘these are the guys for Beats of Zion’ and so the story unfolded.”
The lead single will also have an accompanying video due out
January 25th. “Wickedest Sound” is another song that speaks volumes, featuring
Ghanaian dancehall star Stonebwoy. The track combines elements of modern
Afrobeats with Reggae music. With production paying homage to the organic
recordings of classic Highlife music, it also combines a groove driven melodic
approach with the traditional call and response style of singing.
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 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.
In 2019, Rocky released Beats of Zion . “Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive,: said Rocky. “The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa…The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”
Beats of Zion was recorded throughout 2 years in various studios in Accra, Nairobi and Los Angeles. The title track and lead single “Beats of Zion” came out well from the Village Studios session, but was missing something on the drum tracking. Rocky clarifies, “We traveled to Zanzibar for a concert shortly after the recording session. At the time, I was still wanting the full African tribal effect that I had imagined. On the eve of my concert at the amazing Sauti za Busara Festival, we saw Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi mount the stage and blow the minds of everyone in the audience. I turned to my manager; Cary Sullivan who was also watching and we thought the same – ‘these are the guys for Beats of Zion’ and so the story unfolded.”
The 25th edition of the Concert of Colors festival is set to take place July 12-16, 2017 in Detroit. The free five-day festival will present world music genres such as African, reggae, and Latin along with electronica, soul and jazz artists.
The acts on Wednesday, July 12 at Third Man Records include gospel act Nikki D. Brown and the Sisters of Thunder, gospel band Pure Heart Travelers and Detroit-based musician and producer Warren Defever.
The African artists scheduled to perform include Zimbabwean band Mokoomba on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, and Ghanaian reggae star Rocky Dawuni. Mokoomba is touring North America in support of its new album, Luyando.
Latin music will be represented by East Los Angeles band Las Cafeteras, the Big 3 Palladium Orchestra and Colombian global electronica act Sidestepper. Las Cafeteras will also present a free workshop and performance at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation at 12 p.m., Friday, July 14.
The festival will also include additional free workshops, forums, film screenings and after parties. For the complete lineup and schedule go to www.concertofcolors.com.