Hailed as “Ghana’s Bob Marley” by England’s leading influential newspaper New Nation, Rocky Dawuni burst on to the African reggae scene in 1996 with his debut recording, The Movement. An introspective journey into social and spiritual consciousness, the album garnered immediate rave reviews, as well as two hit singles, "Sugar" and "What Goes Around.” The CD was also released in the U.S. to critical acclaim and glowing praise. The Beat described this freshman effort as a "thoughtful, spiritual and involved debut recording." Urb Magazine named Rocky one of the "Next 100 People to Watch in the Entertainment Industry.” Atlantic Records subsidiary Mesa/Bluemoon Records licensed "What Goes Around" and its video, climbed to 3 on the Reggae Video Charts, for domestic release on Strictly Underground: Reggae's Next Generation. The album’s intense media exposure transcended boundaries setting the stage for the continent’s next international music star.
Rocky's sophomore effort, Crusade (1998), which he wrote, arranged and produced, was his quest to promote love, justice and righteousness. “It's about hope in the human spirit and allowing God to empower us to attain the unattainable," he says. Crusade’s first single and its arresting video, “In Ghana,” a celebration of 40 years of Ghanaian independence, achieved international hit status on both radio and TV. Putumayo World Music licensed the song for Reggae Around the World, which also included tracks by Lucky Dube and Burning Spear. Crusade received rave U.S. reviews as well, including a four-and-a-half-star review from Reggae Report and high praise from influential Dub Missive, which touted, “from beginning to end, it scores a direct hit.”
In mid-1999, Rocky began his first U.S. summer festival tour with a knockout performance at the Vermont Reggae Festival to a capacity crowd of 35,000. He also made critically hailed appearances at the UCLA Jazz/Reggae Festival and Sierra Nevada World Music Festivals and the following year embarked on the Africa Roots 2000 Tour alongside the Ivory Coast’s Ishmael Isaac and Senegal’s Positive Black Soul. With stops at NYC’s SOB’s, the House of Blues in Boston, WOMAD USA in Seattle and the prestigious Reggae on the River in Northern California the outing established the artist as one of the premier live reggae artists. Summer/Fall 2001 and 2002 saw him continue to trek through the U. S., including performances at the prominent Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, WA, Reggae in the Park in San Francisco, the one million fan strong Detroit World Music Festival and the first annual Fairfax World Music Festival in Northern California.
Rocky released his third album Awakening in Ghana in 2001, which continued the committed artist’s quest for political and spiritual enlightenment. Rocky sees the album as an urgent catalyst for African unity and the disc received acclaim from West Africa Magazine, Billboard, Voice of America and the BBC. "I'll Try," the first single from the album won Rocky his second Ghana Music Award’s Best Reggae Song of The Year in 2002, the first having been bestowed to “In Ghana” in 2000. And, continuing to break new ground on all artistic fronts, "I'll Try’s" stunning music video was the first filmed on 35 mm format in Ghana.
The same year, the first Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash was created in honor of Ghana's Independence Day. This highly anticipated event is held now every year in Accra (Ghana’s capitol) on March 6th and attracts thousands upon thousands of fans. Splash 2002’s live Ghana TV broadcast reached an estimated 10 million viewers and Independence Splash 2004 & 2005 were produced in conjunction with Alliance Francaise, the cultural arm of the French government, at their beautiful outdoor amphitheatre in Accra.
Immediately after Splash 2004, Rocky opened for Stevie Wonder at the International Conference Center in Accra. Mr. Wonder in turn joined his new friend later that year, jamming with him into the wee hours to a sold out crowd at Afro Funké, Rocky’s weekly soirée at L.A.’s hot spot Zanzibar, completely stunning the packed audience.
In 2005, Rocky was invited to be the musical personality for the Reebok Humanitarian Awards where he was joined in song by Peter Gabriel. Devoted as he is to his West African roots, Dawuni was given “Ghana’s Cultural Ambassador” award that year by the US Embassy and the Bokoor Popular African Music Foundation in a colorful ceremony held at the W.E. Du Bois Center in Accra alongside legends of Ghanaian music. Rocky continues to establish his U.S. presence and was nominated for "Best World Music Artist 2005" by the influential LA Weekly. The publication lauds Dawuni as a "rising young star" with "engaging stage presence" and notes Dawuni is "primed to conquer America.”
Rocky’s latest studio album Book of Changes, an inspired showcase for his Afro Roots sound, artfully blends elements of Afro Beat, Dub, Reggae, Hip Hop turntablism and traditional African rhythms. After honing his unique stylings in powerful live performances around the world, Rocky’s songwriting and passionate vocals are well displayed in the disc’s break-out tunes "Wake the Town" and "Shashamane." In fact, “Wake the Town” has received tremendous support on National Public Radio's flagship station - KCRW 89.9 FM in Southern California, the UK’s BBC World Service and France's Radio Nova.
Rocky appeared on Showtime's smash hit series "Weeds” performing "Jammin Nation" in episode 2 of the Emmy winning show's 2nd season. “Jammin Nation” was featured in another Showtime classic “Dexter.” No stranger to TV, two tracks from “Book of Changes” set the tone as NBC's "ER" traveled to Africa and the show also highlighted Rocky's rendition of "Knockin on Heaven's Door" to massive response.
Rocky premiered his Afro Roots sound at two stellar showcases at the highly esteemed SXSW Music Conference in Austin Texas in 2007. Rocky was then featured on "Instant Karma: The Amnesty Internation Campaign to Save Darfur" digital release on Warner Brother's Records doing a cover John Lennon's classic "Well Well Well." Other artists featured on the release included U2, Green Day, REM and many more. http://www.instantkarma.org
Africa Live! in association with UNICEF and the European Union presented the 8th annual “Rocky Dawuni Independence Splash 2008” on March 6, 2008 at the new 20,000-capacity Tamale Sports Stadium where thousands of fans were dazzled by Dawuni and his 10-piece band, ensuring the roots reggae musician a triumphant return to his ancestral home land of Northern Ghana. The 8th annual event (and the first ever live concert at this venue) also featured Northern Ghanaian stars Sheriff Gale, Abu Saadiq, Mama Rams and Sirina Issah who all put on outstanding performances.
As part of Rocky’s ongoing work with UNICEF on their Clean Water and Sanitation program, and to raise awareness about Guinea Worm infestation, Africa Live! decided to move the event from the capital of Accra to the Northern Region where these issues can directly be confronted. Dawuni’s extensive trips throughout the Northern Region have helped shed light on these acute problems and spur practical and sustainable solutions reflective of his ongoing quest to use music as a tool for social development. One of these trips resulted in Rocky Dawuni and Batman Samini collaborating on the song “Clean Water” for UNICEF’s World Water Day.
“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash 2007,” which also promoted a “Clean Ghana,” was held at La Pleasure Beach in Accra, Ghana. Drawing an estimated 40,000 people, global media and world leaders including World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, the event featured 2006 MOBO Award winner Batman Samini, griot sensation King Ayisoba and Hip life star Tic Tac. Africa Live! is a non-profit organization created by Dawuni whose mission is to preserve, restore, and reinvigorate the Ghanaian music scene, creating public and industry awareness for its rich history and value, and commercial opportunities for artists and the community. Through Africa Live! Dawuni plans to promote music education and appreciation in schools, provide artists with access to instruments, venues and professional production assistance, and further appreciation and demand for traditional West African music throughout the world.
Rocky is currently working on his 5th studio album tentatively titled “Lion of Zion.” He just signed a co-publishing and administration deal with Lion’s Gate Music which should insure even more exposure for his music worldwide through film, television and commercials. When not touring the world playing on some of the largest festival stages, Rocky is involved with Product (RED), The Carter Center and The Global Fund and other pro-active humanitarian, social and environmental organizations- in his belief and commitment to create positive and sustainable change.
What’s up next for Africa’s Shining Star Rocky Dawuni? Stay tuned…