Hailing from the Cote d’Ivoire, Alpha Blondy is among the world’s most popular reggae artists. With his 12-piece band Solar System, Blondy offers a reggae beat with a distinctive African cast. Calling himself an African Rasta, Blondy creates Jah-centered anthems promoting morality, love, peace and social consciousness. With a range that moves from sensitivity to rage over injustice, much of Blondy’s music empathizes with the impoverished and those on society’s fringe. Blondy is also a staunch supporter of African unity and to this end, he sings to Moslem audiencess in Hebrew and sings in Arabic to Israelis.
Some of his best known songs include “Cocody Rock,” “Jerusalem” and “Apartheid Is Nazism.” He was born a member of the Jula tribe in Dimbokoro and named Seydou Kone after his grandfather. His grandmother Cherie Coco raised him. He was always a rebellious child and for this, Coco named him “Blondy,” her unique pronunciation of the word “bandit.” When he started performing professionally, he took on the name Alpha (the first letter in the Greek alphabet) so his name literally translates to “first bandit.”
Though he grew up listenting to African folkloric music such as yagba and gumbe, his primary musical influences were such Western bands as Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and soul artists like Otis Redding. Later Bob Marley’s music tremendously affected Blondy. Though he wanted to become a musician, his family expected him to become a respectable English teacher. He studied English at Hunter College in New York, and later in the Columbia Univeristy American Language Program. Outside of class, he would play music in Central Park and in Harlem clubs where occasionally house bands would let him sing his Bob Marley covers in French, English, and various West African languages.
Blondy got his big break from friend, Fulgence Kass, an employee of Ivory Coast Television who helped him land a spot on the Premiere Chance talent show. The young artist was a hit with the audience. Blondy then hooked up with producer G. Benson who recorded his eight-song debut album Jah Love in a single day. His popularity has continued to grow and is a well respected artist both in Africa and in the West.