Modern Afrobeat crusader Daniel Dzidzonu

“Make Africa great again”

Togolese trumpet player & band leader Daniel Dzidzonu wants to bring the authenticity back to African music. Instead of copying American pop culture, he wants his African peers to dive into the rich African heritage to create new sounds. Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita, Mory Kanté, in those days, Dzidzonu says, African music was fresh. Modern but African. That’s where he wants to go back to, having Fela and Tony Allen as his major musical inspirations and modern afrobeat as his weapon to “Make Africa great again”!

Daniel Dzidzonu wants to maintain the afrobeat legacy alive, in a way that Americans are doing with funk, soul and jazz. The young generation American musicians get inspiration from their elders, which is not happening in Africa today. Young Africans don’t know about the great African music of the years after the independence, nor about great cultural and musical traditions that have existed for centuries, before the arrival of the white man.

Dzidzonu is at the forefront of a new generation that wants to put the African sound back into the music. He released his first LP ‘Unknownland’ in 2016 and the second ‘Vikpomé’ a year later, both great examples of what he calls “modern afrobeat”: growing up in African culture, knowing jazz and contemporary music, but cherishing the African authenticity in his sound. That’s why he sometimes wears the Mobutu hat on stage, it’s a wink to his “recours à l’authenticité”.

Dzidzonu’s back-to-authenticity move starts with afrobeat, and he would like young Africans to follow him. To find power and inspiration to create in afrobeat instead of hip-hop and jazz and so. That doesn’t mean going back to the ancient days, but stand where Africa is today. Being a modern African composer, like Dzidoznu, with all the modern influences but making sure the authenticity of the sound doesn’t disappear. If the new generation jumps on his ship, Dzidzonu is sure this way they can make African art great again!

Daniel Dzidzonu was born in Lomé, the Togolese capital, in 1985. His father managed a brass band that performed at church services, weddings and funerals. That exposure led him to a fascination with brass instruments from a very young age. Raised in West-African music, he became the bandleader in his father’s band at 16, when he started composing his own music, drawing inspiration from blues, gospel and African traditional music. After coming over to Belgium in 2009, he started a general course of jazz at the Music Academy of Evere (Brussels), followed by the courses ‘jazz horns’ and ‘instrumental jazz ensemble’, winning the prestigious Prix d’Amis awarded by Dominique Clajot, deputy mayor of Evere for Education and Culture, for his brilliant end of the year performance in 2011. In the meantime, he learned the tricks of afrobeat by playing with Fela Kuti’s legendary guitar player Oghene Kologbo for ten years and occasionally with master afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. In parallel he has launched his own afrobeat project, performing at festivals all over the Benelux and expanding horizons to the rest of Europe.