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A reggae singer who has been threatened and banned from his home country Côte D'Ivoire is the first winner of the Freemuse Award, which honours a musician that has "worked for freedom of musical expression in a remarkable way."

An idol for millions of Africans who feel disenfranchised and repressed, Tiken Jah Fakoly has tackled both the crises plaguing his home and continent to the challenges of globalisation through his music. In December 2007, Fakoly was declared "persona non grata" in Senegal after criticising Senegal's president and calling for democracy.

"Quitte le Pouvoir" ("Leave the Power"), co-recorded with close friend and Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi, has practically become the "African anthem against political corruption," says Freemuse.

In his latest release, "The African", Fakoly tackles taboo subjects such as female genital mutilation and corrupt "marabouts" (Islamic leaders or teachers).
"The popularity of his music and lyrics shows how important music is as a 'people's media' in Africa and how musicians can play a transnational role as 'truth sayer' as well as a 'media of conscience'," says Freemuse.
"This award touches me a lot since it's like an international acknowledgement," says Fakoly, who has been living in exile in Mali for the past five years. "It is acts such as this that encourage me and provide credibility and strength to my fight for peace, justice and equality."

The Freemuse Award is sponsored by the Björn Afzelius International Culture Foundation, which was initiated in memory of Swedish rock singer Björn Afzelius who died in 1999. Afzelius was a strong spokesperson for marginalised groups.

Visit these links:
- Freemuse:
- Fakoly's website:
(4 March 2008)

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