Recently, while posting an item on the 2011 Festival Musiques Métisses d’Angoulême, I was fascinated by background information on an artist whose music I had not heard before, Prince Koloni. With his group, Fondering, he specializes in reggae, kaséko, bigi pokoe, and aléké–music from the Amazonian Caribbean, on the border between French Guiana and Suriname. Here is a short biography by Africultures (with my rough translation from the French article) with a link to the original below:
Prince Koloni, whose real name is Orniel Siwo, was born 28 years ago in Sikisani, a small village at the Maroni River [maroni means maroon] in the Amazonian forest, on the river banks at the border between French Guiana and Suriname. “Prince” because his father is one of the kings of aléké [a style of drum-based music from the Guyanan/Surinamese border] in Surinam and the Bushinengués [translated as “bush men” or “men of the forest”]— descendants of escaped slaves of the “green hell”—say that talent is transmitted by blood.
He belongs to a dynasty of musicians, the Fania. Prince Koloni had a difficult childhood and, tired of the gold mining sites where he learned Brazilian, he decided to create, at age 16, in 1993, a drumming group with his brothers and cousins: “Fondering.” For five years, they journeyed along “the River” playing the music of youth parties: the aléké. They recorded eleven CDs and cassettes that were distributed in the markets of Surinam and Guyana.
Prince Koloni is promoted as the aléké superstar: his name is almost mythic on the banks of the River. Yet he left Guyana in 1998 to try his luck in the Netherlands. He stayed seven years in Amsterdam, where he recorded several albums of which he always sent copies to Surinam, for Fondering. He was attracted by Rasta ideals—which are not unlike the philosophy of the Bushinengué—after his tribulations in the underground circles of Amsterdam; that is why he composed and sang reggae, which, having a less rapid pace than the aléké, seemed to be more accessible to the [musically] untrained audience.
In 2004, after 6 years of administrative battles and a few days before the Festival les Transamazoniennes [Trans-Amazonian Festival] Prince Koloni created an event at the famous Guyanese festival with his long-awaited and yet unexpected return. While Ragga called it “The return of the prodigious Koloni,” Le Monde described the madness took overtook the female audience. Prince Koloni thus formalized his comeback by offering two consecutive concerts: the first in the traditional style, the aléké, with his group Fondering, and the second with a reggae repertoire, accompanied by the musicians of Energy Crew. The Bushinengué virtuoso was signed on the festival’s label, Transportation. He then produced his first official album, Introducing Koloni, in the image of this long-awaited return: a compilation of titles in all the styles that have made his career: aléké, kaséko, bigi pokoe, reggae . . .
Listen to Prince Koloni’s explanation of the musical origins of the aléke here:
Listen to “Koni Man” here:
Biography (based on information by Hélène Lee and sources from the Transportation label), from http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=personne&no=6699
For more information (and photo), see http://bosquesonoro.blogspot.com/2010/04/koloni-introducing-prince-koloni-guyana.html and http://www.musiques-metisses.com/artiste/Prince-Koloni-Fondering