Inspiration. It's the genesis of creation. Writing, painting, song, life. It's how people create a world that changes yours; expands yours. Musical inspiration and creation are the cornerstone of our lives. It makes us human. Our experiences, perspectives, stories, all communicated through song. This is what music is there for, our mirror. We continue to search for that one perfect album, song, record that defines our moment in time.
This is why we were excited to sit down with Grammy nominated Afro Roots artist Rocky Dawuni. Dawuni had a great year, with his Grammy moment garnering much deserved recognition. The Ghanaian musician's sixth studio album, Branches of the Same Tree, was nominated for a Grammy in the category of "Best Reggae Album." The record is the culmination of Dawuni's work and his most complete record to date. His brand of Afro Roots, which combines African roots, Caribbean tempos and US rock and roll, has reached the world over; and his brand of political awareness has seen that his sound and message resonate.
We caught up with Dawuni, to explore these themes and discuss his recent nomination.
KNG2LA: As a songwriter, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Rocky Dawuni: My inspiration comes from everyday interactions and observing various life situations that imprints on my conscience. It is driven by my personal spiritual experiences as well as an aspiration to interpret and communicate a universal message as distilled through my personal experiences.
KNG2LA: How did you create your sound?
RD: My sound was forged from my early influences which were basically traditional African music, Highlife music of West Africa, Afrobeat and Reggae music. These are the various styles that I was exposed to growing up in Ghana. I call this my signature "Afro Roots” sound. The influences and parameters have also grown from my travels and exposure to various styles of the diaspora from Hip Hop, Gospel, Samba, Cumbia and beyond. It is living music.
KNG2LA: With the Grammy nod, does that change your ceiling? Your aspirations?
RD: I think what the GRAMMY nomination did was to actually invigorate my efforts to keep increasing the profile and global reach of my music. My music is driven by a mission to project and promote a message of universal goodwill and be a catalyst to awaken a sense of humanity and consciousness among my listeners. Every platform of acknowledgement refreshes the mission and my resolve to work harder to be worthy of it.
KNG2LA: Who are your biggest influences?
RD: My biggest influences are a combination of music and thought leaders. The musical influences are Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley, James Brown, Fela Kuti, Tupac Shakur (amongst others). The message and social political insights of Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi also helped shape my worldview and perspective.
KNG2LA: We have noticed that style is a very important part of your tapestry. Who would you say are your biggest style influences?
RD: Stylistically I gravitate towards artists who challenged the boundaries and connected various styles into a coherent whole. Fela fused Jazz, Highlife and Funk. Marley fused Reggae with Rock and Blues. Prince brought a diverse element of Funk, Rock, Hip Hop, and the Blues, etc. These are artistes that influence the stylistic vision and aspiration and are constantly challenging all of us to reach higher.
KNG2LA: We also noticed that you were asked to join the Leadership Council of The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. What has that meant for you?
RD: It is a great honor to be able to join the leadership Council for RFK Center for Human Rights and join the esteemed group that includes president Bill Clinton, Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, Ethel Kennedy - to name a few. Robert F. Kennedy's work on human rights is something I really admire and his stance on Apartheid era in South Africa was commendable. It also strengthens my resolve as an advocate for peace building initiatives, advocating for justice, compassion and empowerment of those in need.
KNG2LA: What are some human rights issues that you see as an important issue currently?
RD: My main focus is to keep championing the rights of women in Africa and around the world in social-political roles. I particularly work to promote girl-child education.
KNG2LA: What are you working on currently and what can we look forward to in the near future?
RD: I am currently working on launching the Rocky Dawuni Foundation to bring all my advocacy initiatives under one umbrella. I believe that building partnerships with organizations that are already involved in social change and helping to amplify and catalyze their mission is the best way to realize our common objectives. I am also continuing to tour promoting my Branches of the Same Tree album and letting this beautiful life inspire me towards new music!
The passing of Muhammed Ali makes us all reflect. How do we measure greatness? When you answer that question, you realize that it is more than what a person creates. It is the message behind their creation, what that message means to others; who that message reaches and inspires. Dawuni's music and Grammy nod speak to his creation, and the universal reach of his message. His accomplishment with this record is more than good music. It's a call to action through celebration and inspiration.
Watch the video for African Thriller here:
Featured photo: Robert Kosek