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Alpha Blondy, the superstar reggae man from Ivory Coast, should need no introduction. He has been active on the scene since the eighties, a real grower of hits turned classics, from "Brigadier Sabary" to "Jerusalem", not forgetting "Afriki" and "Apartheid Is Nazism".

And yet, in spite of his status of Commander of the African Groove, Alpha reinvents himself album after album. He has always steered clear of the pitfalls of formatting and tried to bring in something new to the mix.

As was to be expected, his sixteenth studio album, Mystic Power, is no exception to the rule. "We've done a great job, my band Solar System and I. I wanted to innovate, amplify the whole rock aspect of our sound. You always hear "Roots Rock Reggae", but in fact it's more like "roots reggae". I wanted to break free from the whole ethnic, tribal thing. I want to expand the reggae territory, reach out to all the fans. On this album, some of the songs are quite atmospheric, others are more guitar-based" Alpha explains, sipping on a cup of strong espresso. Indeed, on tracks such as "Seydou" and "J'ai Tue Le Commissaire", the six-string takes the lion's share, bellowing out riffs that feel very at home with the roots-infused mix courtesy of the great Dennis Bovell (Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fela, I-Roy, Madness).

It won't come as a surprise that Beenie Man features as the guest of honour on album opener "Hope". "Beenie Man and I have shared the stage in Suriname and French Guyana. I loved his show, plus he has a great sense of humour. I asked him to feature on my next album and he said No Problem. He phoned me up when he was in Germany, saying he really wanted to come over. We paid for his ticket and then recorded "Hope" together in Marcadet. There was a great atmosphere. I love Beenie because the music on which he toasts sounds a lot like reggae. Barking can become a bit tiring after a while".

Alpha the melodist, activist and philosopher.

Quite simply the most important African reggae artist today.

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