Artist: Alpha Blondy.
Personnel: Alpha Blondy (vocals) backed by his 13-piece Solar System band.
History: Alpha Blondy (the name translates as first bandit ) is being touted as the premier African reggae performer and as one of the most exciting new artists in the Jamaican-dominated genre.
Born Seydou Kone in 1953, Blondy was raised in the multi-cultural environment of the Ivory Coast. He absorbed Islamic traditions from his family, learned French by reading the Bible and picked up English in school. His early influences were soulmen Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding and, surprisingly, rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd.
Blondy spent three years in New York studying to be an English teacher in the early '70s but that goal went by the boards when he discovered Bob Marley and reggae. Blondy performed occasionally in Harlem clubs but also suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. He also spent time in a psychiatric institution in the Ivory Coast.