In between recording, post production and mastering, Dernier Appel was put through the hands of at least seven studios, and the result is an instantly infectious collection of nine original Tiken Jah Fakoly tracks.
The multitude of studios do not imply indecisiveness as Fakoly knows what he likes best and travelled to source the sound he was looking for: the great Alpha Blondy contributes notably to Diaspora.
You will be pleased with the result of Fakoly’s collaborations with the great and the good, for Dernier Apel will stand up to repeat listening in years to come.
There are, if you know anything about Fakoly, whose weathered appearance belies the fact that he is still in his mid-forties, two sides to him as a performing artist: composer and writer.
Though his lyrics in English are anaemic without the life blood of music, his songwriting in French (Le Prix du Paradis) retains an effortless rhythmic flow: you will love the title track and, for me a highlight, Le Prix du Paradis, a standard reggae beat which opens, quelle surprise, with the catchy chorus –
‘Tout le monde veut le paradis
Mais personne ne veut payer le prix”
which, if you had been paying attention in school, translates as ‘everyone wants heaven, but nobody wants to pay the price.’ If you are unfamiliar with Fakoly, it is useful to know that he is an Ivorian song-bird of the oppressed and the marginalised. The thinking man’s activist, and perhaps Dernier Appel is his clarion call to Africa.
‘Unity is the key, To defend our integrity, Our dignity.’
The seamless stitch between the ten songs can be viewed as either a tribute to the production or the absence of a musical edge but, if you can disassociate Fakoly from the omnipresent scent of Manu Chao, the remarkable emerges from the unremarkable.
Some less than enthusiastic reviews of Dernier Appel have lamented an absence of adventurousness by Fakoly, but I’m not so inclined. Dernier Appel is of its time, and his resident band, Les Djelys, (Fakoly comes from a family of griots), deliver a cohesiveness to fret the political and the musical.
Dakoro, which has a great bass line, is as close as you will come to a deeper appreciation of the spirit of this collection. The shortest track, Dakoro consolidates the identity of the band with the somnolent calm of reggae, and yet, beneath the surface there is a communality of interests in Fakoly’s words.
He has paid with exile for the price of being outspoken, but it hasn’t been in vain, and Dernier Appel is an honourable chapter in his ongoing story.