Tiken Jah Fakoly ‘Dernier Appel’ (Wrasse) 4/5

tiken-jah-fakolyIvory Coast may not be the obvious place to look for the continuation of the roots reggae lineage, but in singer Tiken Jah Fakoly, there is an authentic voice that tirelessly pleads for greater unity and mobilisation among Africans and seeks to find commonality in humanity in general. Fakoly has garnered widespread attention throughout Africa and in continental Europe, yet the UK has proven elusive thus far with reggae fans reluctant to embrace non-native English speakers singers. A late July participation at the Barbican Summer Festival was his first live incursion into the British music scene and with a little luck and promotion by radio DJs it will not be his last either. For this latest album which aims at a broader audience, Tiken Jah Fakoly has sought to remedy any such reservations by exploring more his craft in the language of Shakespeare, though interestingly at least two of the songs use Jamaican patois, one of which is a reprise of Max Romeo’s ‘War in a Babylon’. In fact Fakloly sings in three languages on the album with a vernacular African language being deployed on a couple of songs and it is a pity that the inner sleeve notes do not contain translations in either English or French of these lyrics. One of the strongest numbers is the uptempo rockers beat of ‘Dakaro’ with a lovely background chorus and some African fiddle added alongside the heavy percussion accompaniment. Evidence of a possible Fela Kuti influence may be found on ‘Human thing’ with guest vocals by Nneka, a song which philosophises on the common denominator of human behaviour while ‘Too much confusion’ features a strong bassline reminiscent of Omar’s ‘There’s nothing like it’ and once again the focus is on Africans solving their own problems on the continent. This theme is continued in French on ‘Quand l’Afrique va se réveiller (When Africa will wake up)’. For an inventive reprise of the Max Romeo roots classic, Fakoly uses a brief African instrumental solo intro before taking the back seat and allowing both Nneka and Patrice to take the first two verses before he finally steps in to contribute. For some welcome change in atmosphere, there is a slice of West African folk on ‘Tate’ with talking drum, balafon, ngoni and calebasse all accompanying the singer. To conclude matters, Fakoly ends the album with a gentle acoustic guitar plus vocal of ‘Saya’. Tiken Jah Fakoly, then, with his rasping vocals and lyrics as forceful as ever is in fine form here, propelled throughout by a strong rhythm section.

Tim Stenhouse