Since Ghanaian reggae artiste of international acclaim, Rocky Dawuni, got nominated in the 64th Grammy Awards, there have been a lot of conversations about his nomination, and what to do to get more Ghanaians nominated in the near future.
His ‘Voice of Bunbon Vol. 1’ album, which earned a nomination in the Best Global Music Album category, has stoked discussions on various platforms, with most people celebrating his feat.
The Ghanaian reggae artiste got nominated alongside albums by Wizkid, Daniel Ho & Friends, Angelique Kidjo, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti & Made Kuti.
This comes after Rocky’s sixth studio album, ‘Branches of The Same Tree’, was nominated in the Grammys for Best Reggae Album in December 2015.
In spite of all the plaudits he has received for this year’s nomination, a lot of Ghanaian music lovers do not know the album. In fact, there are some who may have heard the artiste’s name but never listened to any song of his before. It is either he did not strengthen the publicity of the album, or that his songs do not generally appeal to the ordinary Ghanaian. Maybe his songs are for a niche market.
In this piece, I take you through the 8-track album which Rocky describes as an EP.
The ‘Voice of Bunbon Vol. 1’ mirrors Rocky’s ‘Afro Roots’ style of music, which is a potpourri of reggae, Afrobeat, highlife, and soul music.
Named after his hometown Bunbon in the Yendi District of Ghana, the album was released on October 30, 2020; a time when coronavirus was ravaging the world and nations looked helpless on what to do.
From his haven up the Aburi mountains in the Eastern Region of Ghana, he birthed this album which comprises eight songs: ‘Difference,’ ‘My Baby,’ ‘Woara,’ ‘Ghost Town,’ ‘Gonna Take it Easy,’ ‘Beautiful People,’ ‘Born to Win,’ and ‘Hustlers’.
According to Rocky Dawuni, his entire musical journey has always been influenced by the culture of Bunbon, shaping his worldview about music and life in general.
Rocky Dawuni makes a ‘Difference’ with Afrobeat elements tinged with drops of dancehall kicks on track 1. In the song, Rocky Dawuni talks about how important it is to stand up and get going if one really wants to make a difference in their endeavors. “We have to take a chance if we’re gonna ride the tide,” he sings. Making a difference in whatever one is engaged in, does not happen by fluke. There should always be the desire to go an extra mile to move from ordinary to extraordinary – and that is the crux of Rocky’s message in the opening track of the album.
If there is anything that really leads Rocky Dawuni to his roots, it is his love for highlife and his unwavering quest to make it part of his repertoire.
‘My Baby’, done in Key C Major, is a piece of Ghanaian highlife music, that talks about love. It tells the story of a man deeply in love with a lady, testing her love on many conditions.
Sung in Ghanaian Pidgin English, the song makes use of an archetypal Ghanaian palm wine highlife instrumentation, with the traditional bass drum laying a bed for the string instruments to echo the true DNA of the song – highlife.
‘Woara’ is another love song, done in highlife fashion. This is a song in which the singer professes his undying love for his loved one. It has a relatable chorus and a familiar chordal progression for any highlife lover.
Rocky gets quite mellow on drumming home a message that needs more attention than just moving the body – coronavirus.
Done on acoustic guitar instrumentation, ‘Ghost Town’ accentuates the untold misery coronavirus and the global lockdown brought to humankind. He describes the world as a ghost town because the disease emptied the streets, and brought fear and despair.
He said the fact that most people in Ghana left the cities to their villages reveals the importance of our African cultural traditions being that which knits us together.
Gonna Take it Easy
After working hard during the week, Rocky believes one needs to take life easy and cool off. ‘Gonna Take it Easy’, a typical one-drop reggae tune mentions how important it is to rest and have fun after working all day, all night.
To most people who have followed Rocky Dawuni since the inception of his music career, a song like ‘Beautiful People’, another reggae delivery, is reminiscent of what his reggae brand stands for. In ‘Beautiful People’, Rocky Dawuni preaches love, calls on all, and sundry to come to have a bite of his gift of love – music.
Born to win
For those who feel betrayed by life and are thinking of giving up in pursuit of their goals, Rocky encourages them to keep on fighting. ‘Born to Win’, which leans more towards soul music, simply encourages one to take charge of their lives. It goes ahead to admonish the listener to start something now because whichever way one’s life turns, is up to them. Rocky summarises what any of our motivational speakers, pastors, and self-styled counselors will on a normal day present to people who are chasing their dreams.
‘Hustlers’, the last song on the album, dovetails into the theme of ‘Born to win’. It highlights the strife people go through as hustlers to make it in life.
Other performers on the album, apart from Rocky Dawuni are Edward Dixon, John McKnight, Akablay, Andre Morris, Ronnie McQueen, James Seibu, Joyce Morkor Maamah, Tony Chin, Rock Deadrick.
The sound engineers that contributed to the album are Anthony Brewster, Michael Blum, Wei Ye Oteng and Michael Mawutor.
‘Voice Bunbon Vol. 1’ was executively produced by Cary Sullivan.
Listen to ‘Voice of Bunbon Vol. 1’ by clicking HERE.
Editor’s Note: The author, Kwame Dadzie, is an entertainment journalist at Citi FM and Citi TV in Accra, Ghana.