Interview with Rocky Dawuni


Walking a path that branches out into several different directions, may be the key to greater human understanding... and quite possibly a song in the heartbeat of Rocky Dawuni- Singer/Songwriter/Philanthropist/Humanitarian/Entrepreneur/Visionary. 

26/04/2015-Song River
(L3 Magazine May Issue)

Song River: Reading back over your life, you have had quite an adventure. I am looking to ask you to help paint a picture in your own words of your life growing up, and your arrival to where you are now.
Photo Credit: Robert Kozek
Rocky: It's been an interesting journey from my birth at Michel Camp, a military base in Ghana and growing up in a sheltered but intense environment . This was during the time when the Ghanaian military was active in various military coups and political uprisings. Music was my first love from an early age and my attraction to various  melodies , mostly from radio and records, evolved to a point where I felt I could craft my own songs.  I also had the fortitude of growing up in a religiously diverse environment as is the case on bases. The various social groups were fully represented  - meaning various Ghanaian ethnicity and tribes, religious faiths from Christianity to Islam to Buddhism to traditional African religion. All these experiences and the discovery of Reggae music helped shape me as an artist and define my world view. By the time I formed my first band in college, I had a clear vision of using my music as a force for good. This is what I am today. 

Song River: Would you say your upbringing was diverse and unusual or was it just like any other childhood?

Rocky: Everyone's path has its uniqueness in terms of what experiences they go through. My upbringing was always instilled with a sense of adventure and diversity, but generally it was like any other childhood.

Song: If you are open to it, I didn't read anything about your mother, and other family members (one mention of your brother). Would you care to share a bit about who they are, and how your relationships entwine?

Rocky: My mom is one of my foremost inspirations. I am the second child of eight children - five boys and three girls. She currently lives in Southern Ghana. My older brother Chief Wumbe Dawuni, is the Chief of the people of Bumbon in Northern Ghana. I have a sister who lives in England, but most of my siblings live in the town where my mom lives. We are very close and tight knit family. My travels make it difficult to constantly be in Ghana, but we all stay in touch regularly.

Song: Your father, it would seem, has been a grand influence. Talk a little bit about it.

Rocky: My father was born a twin and the last born child of the Chief of Bunbon Nayili. He grew up in a traditional royal setting and was one of the most adventurous of his siblings. He left his
Photo Credit: Robert Kozek
traditional home and joined the Ghanaian army where he became a cook. He quickly rose through the ranks and became the preferred Chef for the upper echelons of the military base. During his tenure he traveled as part of the UN Peacekeeping forces during the Arab Israeli Wars of 1973 and 1978 where he was stationed in Egypt. After his time in the military he returned to his ancestral home where he became the Chief of his people. He was the main influence in my international view and to some extent inspired my personal collaborations with UN organizations and peace building initiatives. 

Song: Kids today grow up differently in the States, than they did even twenty, thirty, fifty years ago. Has life progressed and changed much over the same course of time from where you come?

Rocky: Yes, Ghana has changed a lot. Everyday new buildings go up and the road networks get more extensive. The global impact of technology is also evident, as everybody uses cellphones these days, both from the very rural communities to the cities. The electrification projects also changed the social dynamics . We are not immune to the global march towards progress. My major concern is to promote a sustainable model for our progress, not development for development sake. I am also very wary of the slippery slope of technological progress when ethics are sacrificed for moneymaking.

Song: Did the levels of diversity, contain any notable moments of adversity within them, that you yourself witnessed? If there were, how did it affect you? 

Photo Credit: Robert Kozek
Rocky: Yes, there is always the issue of cultural and social confrontations and an underlying  challenge to  existing paradigms when you embrace diversity. I've definitely experienced this on so many occasions . My belief is that it is a necessary part of the growth process . It helps build a strong sense of character based on compassion, understanding and patience. 

Song: Has it affected your outlook upon humanity? Has it moved you to make personal changes, driven you to challenge yourself? 

Rocky: In terms of my outlook on humanity, it definitely has fostered a deeper awareness of the oneness of all of us. It has made me accept my own shortcomings and recognize the power of forgiveness, both for myself and others. It has also inspired in me a sense that any generation has the potential to rise above its challenges to become true architects of hope. I believe this generation can do that if we are guided by a true sense of international morality. 

Song:Think about those moments you've been through, as you pause, what have been some of the most significant?
Rocky: My first  experience of Jerusalem will be that moment. I visited The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock.
Song: As you've lived, and breathed this journey, the marked influences that you would see and each shift you've experienced has added another layer to your insight, how has it all related to who you've become, and how does it affect your songwriting? 

Rocky: My experiences have given me unique insights that have gone a long way to enrich my world view. This is definitely apparent in my songwriting style and my music - distilled in snippets of inspiration, rhythm and melody from various cultures and places.

Song: You have worked musically alongside some of the greatest humanitarians, and philanthropist known. Talk a little about some of them you've been involved with, and the objectives you were exploring.

Rocky: I had the honor of performing with Stevie Wonder at the Hollywood Bowl and collaborating with Bono on a Playing For Change project which builds music schools around the world. I am also an Ambassador for the United Nations Foundation Global Alliance For Cleancookstoves alongside Julia Roberts and Chef Jose Andres to bring attention to the importance of clean cook-stoves and its health impact. I've been involved in various causes that in the long run helps to strengthen communities and aid development. 

Song: If you were to use a “title” to encapsulate who you are, you could choose from so many. Is your music driven to be political, cultural, societal, to tell a point of view, to help, or assist... is there any element that isn't touched by what has touched you?

Photo Credit Jody Zung
Rocky: I think the term "Global Citizen" will be fitting for me as I am so interested in exploring various cultures. My music is just an expression of my personal truths. My hope is that in exploring those dimensions I also serve as a positive catalyst for others to shine their light.

Song: Education empowers. Whether there is a piece of paper that has been 'stamped' with an accomplishment, or a person is driven to be a life long learner by their own need. In your expectational experiences into the realms of education- how important do you see it to all of humankind, and how can we help give the individuals this power? 

Rocky: Education transfers power into the hands of the person who wields it. Education gives the individual the ability to access knowledge for growth. On a much more universal level education facilitates communication which is the key to understanding. It is a developmental tool and a human right. In can be also used as a tool for mental slavery and negative indoctrination, but then the individual will still hold the keys to unlock those chains. 

Song: Lets move from education to, Today- describe your political viewpoints, and can they be or how would you implement them to help this world maybe be a little more at peace with itself, and others?

Rocky: Well I don't claim to be any sort of politician. My viewpoints are humanitarian . My intention is to be an instrument of hope and an apostle of peace. I believe in using my voice as a means to inspire people to speak truth to power and advocate for others what they desire for themselves. There are so may challenges today and mere legislation and treaties cannot guarantee peace if there is no fundamental shift in the hearts of people to all uphold true justice. That is the space where I operate with my music.

Song: Moving from the heavier elements... lets talk a little bit more about your music. As I understand there are six albums, correct? Talk a bit about them musically.

Rocky: My  albums are " The Movement ," " Crusade," "Awakening," " Book of Changes," "Hymns For the Rebel Soul," and the new "Branches of the Same Tree." All the albums have correlated with my growth as an artist . They started out leaning a lot on reggae rhythms to an embrace of a more global  and eclectic sound while perfecting my own personal "Afro Roots" sound. One thing that ties them all together are the positive themes.

Song: Is the recording label, Cumbancha, your venture? Talk about the label, and its influences? Others on it?

Rocky: Cumbancha is the label releasing my new album. The CEO, Jacob Edgar,  is on a mission to present the best of global music. The label has artistes like Idan Raichel, Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate, Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Daby Toure, among many wonderful global artistes.

Song: The release of, Branches of the Same Tree, speaks from the heart. What to Rocky is the tree and how deeply do the roots of that tree represent all of who you are?

Rocky: On a personal level the tree represents life. The branches are the everyday affirmation of love, gratitude, goodwill and pursuit of happiness . The roots are the wellsprings of purpose and faith that nourishes my soul. 

Song: If you would talk a little about each track on the new album. As well, why did you choose  African Thriller to be the first to be released, and a video. Are you pleased with its interpretation? How much influence did you have over the making of the video?

Rocky: African Thriller was the first single because it is a song of celebration. The song also represented a unique fusion of styles, namely funk, dance, afrobeat and reggae. It is a true representation of my "Afro Roots" sound so I felt it was the best way to set the album tone. In terms of the video I will give lots of the credit to my friend and visionary director Glen Wilson, who came up with amazing concepts to complement my musical vision. The fantastic talents of our choreographer Kara Mack, producers Cary Sullivan and Kelley Lee as well as the incredible dancers, family and friends who all came together to realize the video.

Song: You don't strike me to be a person who sits and waits for 'things' to come to you. What projects are now in the works with your new album, more music, touring... and most importantly in your charity projects and involvement in various organizations? If you would, please share too how we might become more involved with some of the projects you are working on, so we too can assist others.

Photo Credit: Robert Kozek
Rocky: For now the new album is out so the main objective is to continue to promote and increase awareness about it. We will be touring and working as hard as we can to bring the message of the music everywhere.  I am also currently involved in bringing attention to women's issues and promoting girl child education. My focus is also to help shed light on environmental awareness and our shared responsibility to preserve and protect what sustains human life. I've collaborated with Whole Planet Foundation, ONE, UN Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, Global Alliance For Clean cook-stoves, AEGIS Trust, Product (RED), UNFCC and other organizations.

I am also developing a natural product line called "Leaf of Life" to launch a series of natural products and promote a culture of wellness.

Song: This may seem to be an obvious question, what is it you really want to tell people? What is it at your core, that you want others to see, and know?

Rocky: It's simple and we've all heard it before. We are truly the ones we've been waiting for. Our future is now but we have to own it - together as one! 

Rocky Dawuni's "Branches Of The Same Tree" is out now! Pick up your copy at the official store and receive a free bracelet from Ghana with your order while supplies last:

“Rocky’s music is a creative inspiration that has no boundaries.” - Ziggy Marley

Song River is the owner of CowGirlZen Photography. She is also a freelance photojournalist. Currently working with L3 Magazine, Vents Mag, Silverplatter. You can follow her interviews, reviews of great musicians, writers, artists on her blog,  She is also quite active in social media working as a copywriter for several companies, and individuals. Never wrong, always right... and filled with a twisted satirical outlooks on life sometimes... you have to be thinking out of the box most of the time to catch her.  A mess of delight and quandary at times, but known for her love and compassion to help others succeed. A die hard Nikon proficient! 

Contact Info: cowgirlzenphoto {at} gmail dot com
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Charity Involvements (past and present) : Playing for Change, Be the Change, Human Society Fundraiser, Tsunami Relief Fund, Red Cross, Grieving Parents Photography, Missionary San Felipe, Mexico- A Hammer and A Heart.