When Africa’s iconic roots-reggae legend Alpha Blondy returned home to Ivory Coast last winter – cancelling his February 25 concert at Metropolis – the post-election violence in that country had spread to the political capital, Yamoussoukro, as well as Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan, where security forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo were fighting the supporters of his rival, Alassane Ouattara. Blondy then cancelled the remainder of his tour to be home with his family.
Ivory Coast has since stabilized, his family is safe, and so Blondy returns to Montreal for a much-anticipated make-up concert, June 15, at Metropolis as part of this year’s edition of the FrancoFolies festival.
Blondy has headlined Metropolis many times during his 30-year love affair with Montreal, notably in 2004 when he was recovering from breaking his foot. Doctors inserted a screw, but that didn’t stop him from performing a sold-out concert at the 2,500-capacity venue. “My foot has healed nicely,” Blondy says. “Now I can move around the stage!”
Dubbed the Bob Marley of Africa (“I’m not Bob, but I am a disciple”), Blondy still mourns the senseless October 2007 murder of South African reggae icon Lucky Dube. “I was devastated. He was a great talent and had such a beautiful voice.”
Today there are few roots warriors – like Burning Spear and Jimmy Cliff – left living. “Of course there was always Bob Marley. But I discovered reggae through Jimmy Cliff when I grew up in Ivory Coast. Then it was Burning Spear. They were my real champions; they were real songwriters.”
With Bob and Lucky gone, though, I suggest that leaves Blondy as perhaps the world’s greatest living one-drop reggae performer. “That’s a great compliment, but it’s a responsibility and honour, and I must work for it.”
Alpha Blondy and The Solar System with opening act Wesli at Metropolis (59 Ste-Catherine E.), June 15, at 9 pm