The first Freemuse Award is given to Tiken Jah Fakoly from Côte d’Ivoire. The award was presented to him in connection with his Ireland debut concert at the Festival of World Cultures in Dublin on Saturday 23 August 2008.
Tiken Jah Fakoly is an outspoken Ivorian reggae singer who has tirelessly denounced political corruption. He is an idol for millions of Africans who feel disenfranchised and repressed. He has been threatened, banned and exiled from his home country, but has never compromised. In December 2007, he was declared ‘persona non grata’ in Senegal after criticising Senegal’s president and calling for democracy.
Tiken Jah Fakoly has been living in exile in Mali for the last five years. He was granted political asylum there in 2003 following a political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire where a number of people close to him were brutally killed.
‘Quitte le Pouvoir’ (Leave the Power) – co-recorded with his close friend, the Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi – is one of Tiken Jah Fakoly’s most known songs. It has almost become the African Anthem against political corruption. In his latest release, ‘The African’, Tiken Jah also tackles pan-African taboo subjects such as female genital mutilation and corrupt marabouts.
The Freemuse Award was announced on the Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2008, at Oslo’s Nobel Peace Centre. Touring in Africa at that moment, Tiken Jah Fakoly declared that:
“This award touches me a lot since it’s like an international acknowledgement. It is acts such as this that encourage me and provide credibility and strength to my fight for peace, justice and equality.”
The importance of music
The Freemuse Award is sponsored by the Björn Afzelius International Culture Foundation, which was initiated in memory of Swedish rock singer Björn Afzelius who died 1999. Afzelius was a strong spokesman for suppressed people and said in 1989:
“Rock’n roll is not a question of life and death – it is much more important than that!”
“Tiken Jah Fakoly represents all those ideals that Afzelius believed in”, said Marie Korpe, Freemuse’s executive director. “We believe that he is also a brilliant representative for the fight for freedom of expression that Freemuse stands for. The popularity of his music and lyrics shows how important music is as a ‘people’s media’ in Africa and how musicians can play a transnational role as ‘truth sayer’ as well as a ‘media of conscience’.”