Posted in Diaspora, Togo

Album Review: “Dope”

Tabi Bonney’s album, “Dope” (2009) is meant for a different audience than his first album.  I think this one was to an audience of fans of popular African American rappers, who are interested in knowing what Tabi is about.

Immigration is not mentioned on this album, however he may be  representing his country as a place that is tough; in the song “No Sucker”  Tabi mentions being “surrounded by Lions” , in discussing being  held down, and rushed by fans. On the last cut of the album, “Kick Rocks”,  Tabi refers to the political turmoil in Africa, and mentions leaving guns behind like the British, and revolutions,  he says the gun talk is “played out”, which is possibly a reference to leaving behind the political upheaval that took place in Togo (everyculture.com, p. 8)).   A clear reference to Africa, is when he says he was getting attention like a Sudanese, when referring to the groupies that were attacking him; Sudan has been at war for nearly ¾ of its existence (Sudan: History).  Then, on the song, he refers to himself as an African machine when referencing being successful, and being allergic to being poor, and as he did on a song on his first album sang in French, “c’est transfor” (?).  From a social perspective Tabi talks a lot about working hard to achieve success.   In the song “Go Hard” Bonney mentions two African Americans, Martin Luther King and President Obama, as representations of success. On “Rock Bammas”, Tabi  says he will go hard or starve, and specifically mentions being in Togo making music with the Pops, which could be a reference to making music with his father, who was a huge music star in Togo.  It was reported in a Washington Post article that Tabi would watch his dad pack dance floors across West Africa (washingtonpost.com).

On this album one can hear heavy percussions and drum beats on most of the album. It was not surprising to discover that rhythm, and drum instruments make up most of the African instruments, but I also learned that African instruments are used to communicate by imitating speech patterns (characteristics of African music/ehow.com).   The most popular African percussive instrument is the djembe drums, which are often heard in reggae music, and are popular in West Africa.  There were instruments on some of the album tracks that I did not recognize.  There are many other percussion rhythms used in African music, clap sticks, foot stomping, hand clapping, bells and rattles.  (African musical instruments/ehow.com).

Many aspects of African music are heard on many of Bonney’s tracks: In the song “Go Hard”, one can hear the finger popping, bells, drums and voice inflections. But also, like the first album, there was a European influence; in the cut “The Blow” the traditional accordion is heard, but the more modern techno music European influence is heard on “Radio”. What was also described as a unique aspect of African music, that is heard in some of Tabi’s music, is that a variety of sounds are used by singers, some that are not always pleasant to hear (contemporary African art). On the track, “The Blow” the grunts and voice noises, and on “Duhh” the clapping and high pitched whistling. Also, on “Kick Rocks, women repeated the word “kick” over and over imitating the sound of an MC record-scratching, along with an instrument that sounds like birds chirping.  The cut “Rich Kids” has a reggae sound and singers voices range from low deep sounds to high voices.

My opinion of this album is that it was more upbeat, and definitely more mature than his first album, with more variety.  I also thought more African influences could be heard on this alblum.

http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/Togo.html

http://www.ehow.com/list_6564279_characteristics-african-music-instruments.html

http://www.ehow.com/list_6806926_african-musical-instruments.html

http://www.contemporary-african-art.com/aftrican-musical-instruments.html

http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/sudan/history/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/tabi-bonneys-hip-hop-stems-from-his-father’s-musical-influence

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