Since his first success in the eighties with the panafrican hit « Opération Coup De Poing (Brigadier Sabari) », Alpha Blondy is used to provide quality reggae music to his fans. And it is the case once again with Positive Energy, a true masterpiece. « Really, it’s the album of the featurings! » says Alpha to describe this collection of twelve new songs.
And indeed, some brilliant guests are aboard on this journey: two Jamaicans (Ijahman on « Rainbow In The Sky » and Tarrus Riley on « Freedom »), the zouk master Jacob Desvarieux on « N’Teritche » and a promising young congolese singer, Pierrette Adams, on « Séchez Vos Larmes » (« Dry Your Tears »). Plus an amazing trio on « Allah Tano »: Nawfel from Tunisia, Issam from Marocco and Ismaël Isaac from the Ivory Coast. A strong song dedicated to Alpha’s grandmother, and a very spiritual one too: « It shows that Islam isn’t the private property of a few violent persons. Just to say that you can speak about God and about love without necessarily shedding blood », says Alpha.
If spirituality is as usual Alpha’s weapon of choice, the anger is here as well. Whether it’s on « Séchez Vos Larmes » (« You don’t beat hunger with missiles ») where the singer fights political men who prefer to advocate war rather than to feed the masses, or on the very strong tune « Maclacla Macloclo ». « It’s the “coup d’état” that never stops. Presidents always do the same stupid things and the international community is their accomplice because it validates that. Dictatorships and tyrannies that we have to endure are a bit because of its attitude. Democratic genocide, democratic torture: we bombed Lybia saying its leader wasn’t a democrat, and all hell broke loose. Same thing in Irak: we bombed the pro Saddam and the anti Saddam alike. Lumumba and Sankara were murdered “democratically”, and there are many more examples. In the name of Democracy, all the atrocities are allowed. In Africa, when we hear the word “Democracy”, we hide under the bed because we know there will be blood! »
« Freedom » is the oldest of the compositions in the album as it was written in 1978, when Alpha was in exile in the USA, looking for his American dream. « Freedom doesn’t have a price tag, and I won’t be bought because it’s not for sale. Freedom is a must », say Alpha and Tarrus Riley, both hooked on their love of freedom and roots reggae.
Speaking about roots (rock) reggae, « No Brain No Headache » opens with a screaming guitar. « It’s very rocky. It speaks about when I was in the hospital. I told the nurse someone had put angel dust in my joint, and she answered “You’re lucky: no brain, no headache”. I got the lesson. It means you don’t have to worry about little things in life. Life must be lived the right way, even when it hurts ».
Impossible not to mention « Madiba M’a Dit » (« Madiba Told Me »), an evocation of Nelson « Madiba » Mandela, symbol of the fight against apartheid who ended up running his country, South Africa. This poetic text has a funny story to it. It has been written by Valérie Fayolle, a reporter from the TV network France 24. « We had a programme that we hosted together, Paris Of The Arts, and she read me the poem she had written, which I found very pretty. A blue-eyed blonde speaking about Mandela, it had a certain je ne sais quoi. I told her I wanted to make a song with her text. Thank God, she liked the tune. If Mandela was alive, he would have thought like that. We are all the same. If we all seeked revenge, the world would be an empty place ».
To defend his ideas, Alpha has chosen the best warriors: his band Solar System, who started the recordings in Abidjan then went on in Paris, at the Studio de la Grande Armée. Old school musician, Alpha structured his compositions with real brass (and a real drum kit for the rythms), with a little help from Jules, his guitar player, for the riff of « No Brain, No Headache ». « Indeed I am old school », confirms the reggae veteran. On the cover of Positive Energy, he is accompanied by his grandmother in the background of the photo, like a guardian angel. « She taught me to love my fellow men. And my main fellow is God, no need to look any further. She taught me that, and I wanted to pay my respect to her ».
« This album isn’t like any other I’ve done », says Alpha as a conclusion. He is wrong at least on one point: it is as passionate, melodic and sincere as his predecessors. With a supplement of positive energy that is the trademark of great records.