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.”
Rocky @ Reggae on the River 2000
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 continues 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 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 soon to be classic “Dexter" and is going to be showcased on the series first CD to be distributed by Ryko Disc. 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 was recently invited to be the musical guest for an event honoring Jeffrey Sachs, renowned poverty expert and head of the UN Millennium Project. The event was hosted by Quincy Jones and Roger Waters.
Africa Live! in association with UNICEF presented the 7th annual “Rocky Dawuni Independence Splash 2007” at La Pleasure Beach on March 6, 2007 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of Ghana to unprecedented success. Rocky was supported by 2006 MOBO Award winner Batman Samini, griot sensation King Ayisoba and Hip life star Tic Tac attracting an estimated audience of over 50,000 people from all around the world as well as global media and personalities including former World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz. It was a day of historic performances and the musical highlight of Ghana’s milestone celebrations.
In preparation for the concert and its theme of promoting a “Clean Ghana,” Rocky Dawuni led a group of musicians, press and developmental partners who embarked on a UNICEF sponsored three day campaign to Northern Ghana promoting clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The trip shed light on these acute problems and discussed practical and sustainable solutions in line with Dawuni’s initiative of using music as a tool for social development. The trip also resulted in Rocky Dawuni and Batman Samini collaborating on the song “Clean Water” for UNICEF’s World Water Day commemoration on March 22, 2007.
Immediately upon returning from Independence Splash, Rocky premiered his Afro Roots sound at two stellar showcases at the highly esteemed SXSW Music Conference in Austin Texas.
Rocky is featured on new "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 featurned on the release include U2, Green Day, REM and many more. www.instantkarma.org .