What makes for a true musical champion? It’s not enough to have a spectacular voice, or a way with a hook, or a knack for melody and rhyme. All of those things are necessary, but they aren’t sufficient. A real musical champion needs to be fearless. He has to be able to move the crowd, no matter where he goes. What’s more, a champion needs to be rooted and must stand up for his scene, his city, his country.
The ferociously talented Rocky Dawuni has all of that covered. His singing is a quicksilver flash, and his songs are instantly memorable – and once heard, they’re impossible to forget. His distinctive combination of Reggae, Dancehall, Soul, Afropop, Highlife, and traditional West African music marks him as an artist who blurs all boundaries. His GRAMMY Award nomination for Branches of The Same Tree, his visionary sixth album, testifies to his international appeal. Most of all, he’s a proud carrier of the long and fruitful tradition of Ghanian pop – and when he flies that red, yellow, and green flag, he does it like a champ.
Yet, remarkably, “Champion Arise,” Rocky’s latest single, isn’t a boast. Instead, the star is shining his light on his audience, and encouraging his listeners to find the champion inside them. He sings of a spiritual fight – and it’s one that he’s confident that he and his fans will win. The optimism of “Champion Arise” is characteristic of the entire Beats of Zion album, a set that presents Rocky Dawuni as a deeply passionate musician with remarkable melodies to back up his powerful message.
On record, Rocky Dawuni is a gently commanding presence. He’s just as impressive in his videos. He dominates every frame of the “Champion Arise” clip, carrying himself with complete confidence and natural grace. Directors Jon Riera and Casey Bridges catch the star in environments that are absolutely natural for him: a legendary recording facility in Ghana, West Africa and a stunning beach in Malibu, CA. Discussing the shooting locations, Dawuni states, “The idea was to capture visuals that were real, intimate, uplifting, joyful yet mystical at the same time and present them as metaphors to communicate a concept of renewal, rebirth and victory after destruction and defeat. In Ghana, we settled on a location in the compound housing the ruins of the iconic Tuff Ghana Studio Africa, built by Rita Marley in honor of Bob Marley that got tragically destroyed in a fire in 2010 after its completion. I had recently taken possession of this place with a new vision to bring it back to life. The story of this studio and my current efforts to revitalize and rebuild it back from the ashes into a new center of music and youth culture captures the unspoken moral of video.”
Rocky Dawuni’s clips always make Ghana look radiant; here, he walks streets suffused with sunlight, underneath canopies of foliage, past majestic buildings adorned with designs in Ghanian colors. This is a place where all champions are welcome – and you’re invited, too, if you’ve got what it takes to join in the spiritual battle. The Malibu footage was shot at Woodshed Studios, parts of which were destroyed in the Malibu fire of 2018. Dawuni explains that “Champion Arise” brings “a timely message of hope, revival and empowerment at a moment when the whole world is undergoing a crisis of disruption and uncertainty in joyfully celebrating the resilient power of the human spirit to overcome the most adverse challenge.”