Côte d’Ivoire utilizes many of the larger genres and notable African musical characteristics, like other countries and regions in this region of the continent. Traditional vocal polyphony is a striking characteristic of much of the traditional music. Polyphony means that two or more lines are singing (or performing) at the same time, and each line is independent of each other – different from a melody line being sung above the harmony. And likewise, they’ve also extended it to rhythms as well with the use of polyrhythms, working in much of the same way. It creates a highly complex rhythmic line.
Percussion is very important in African music, and you’ll find the use of “talking” drums not only across Africa but in other areas of the world that was part of the African diaspora (South America and the Caribbean, for instance).
Several different styles of music came out of Côte d’Ivoire. In the early 1990s, musician Freddy Meiwey helped pioneer what’s called Zoblazo. He basically took traditional Ivoirian rhythms and merged it with electronic instruments and created a sort of party music by adding lyrics of the same effect. Zouglou also stemmed from around the same time by disgruntled university students. It presented a little more satire in its lyrics and usually involved a dance to some made-up god.
A popular style that emerged in the last decade, especially since the beginning of the civil war, is a style called Coupé-Décalé. It’s mostly a musical movement among the younger generations of Côte d’Ivoire. The music takes its influence from heavily percussive African styles found in deep bass, samples, or minimalist arrangements. Lyrics tend to be a range of topics from happiness to daily life in Côte d’Ivoire to the sentiments on the growing political events.
I’ve found several artists available to listen to on Spotify. The one that I like the most is Tiken Jah Fakoly. He’s a reggae artist who is widely known and listened to across the country. Because a lot of his lyrics are in support of bringing up the oppressed and are generally against the way the government handles things, he’s been living in exile in Mali. Even the country of Senegal has declared that him as persona non grata over criticisms of their president, meaning that he as a foreign person is officially not welcome to enter their country. This song is from the album African Revolution, which I'm pretty sure will be added to my collection.
I’ve also discovered Christina Goh. She was born in France, but grew up in Côte d’Ivoire, and then returned to France to study. Known as The Black Pearl of Afro-Blues, she wrote a set of poems that later became the album Christina Goh Concept. Most of the music uses the djembe (a type of goblet drum), guitar, voice and occasionally the piano. I really like this album, and it’s grown on me. I like her voice, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to get this album as well.
Other artists I included in my playlist include Alpha Blondy, Ernesto Djédjé, David Tayorault, and Magic System.
Ivoirian dance, like most other African dance traditions, is closely tied to its music. Many of the dance styles are named after the music it’s danced to. However, there is one type of dance that generated out of Côte d’Ivoire called the mapouka. It’s basically, for lack of a better word, a booty dance, where the dancer – mostly women, for obviously reasons – faces away from the audience and shakes her booty without really moving her hips. There was a push in the 1980s to make it popular, but that plan sort of failed. Only when the government banned its performance in public did it really become popular. There’s nothing like telling someone “no” to make them want to do it.
Up next: the food!