Over the last several years it has been difficult to escape music from the Cote D’Ivoire. Throughout all of West Africa, and much of the rest of the continent, it seems like every nightclub and radio station has been going heavy on the Coupe Decaler and it’s many offshoots (the grippe aviare, the decaler chinois, the decaler Drogba and- most recently-the fatiguer fatiguer). Although I find many of the tracks released by the Cote D’Ivoire’s prolific DJs irresistible, over the last year my interest in the genre has started to flag. My impression is that a lot of the spark and novelty of the music has been extinguished by these innumerable DJs- working with their home computers and drum machines- who have jumped on the Couper Decaler bandwagon. A recent trip to Abidjan,however, resurrected my interest in Ivoirian music. As I had hoped, I discovered a lot of terrific music that never gets heard outside of the Cote D’Ivoire… in fact much of it doesn’t get much attention outside of specific regions of the Cote D’Ivoire. I thought I’d share three of the more interesting groups I heard.
From the N’zi Comoe region of Eastern Cote D’Ivoire (more precisely from the town of Mbatto in the state of Bongwano) comes the group the Peteple Ahossi D’Ahounan. They are one of the region’s more popular Agni ‘tradi-moderne’ groups… that is they perform modern arrangements of the traditional rhythms and melodies of the Agni people. The Agni are a branch of the Akan people from neighboring Ghana who moved west into what became the Cote D’Ivoire in the middle of the 18th century. The group Peteple Ahossi D’Ahounan was formed back in 1962 by the guitar player Kwami Nguessan (who is still with the group). They specialize in the Ahossi rhythm and are much in demand for Agni weddings, funerals and harvest festivals. Here are a couple of cuts off their third and latest cassette. If you enjoy classic Ghanaian highlife you should enjoy these tracks.
Next up, also from Eastern Cote D’Ivoire is the group Ahiwo International. Their guitar-driven music (that has deep roots in the traditional rhythms of the Attie people) has recently been giving the much-loved Zouglou rhythm some serious competition in the Cote D’Ivoire’s nightclubs. The group is from the town of Adzope and has been together for 11 years, and they have released one cassette a year. If you live in France, keep your eyes open, their manager told me they’ll be spending the month of April 2008 in Paris.
Their latest hit is ‘Minkofinloe’, in which they sing ‘think before you act, that way you’ll never have regrets’.
And finally a few golden oldies from a group that is no more… from the center of the Cote D’Ivoire this is the Yeple Jazz. Led by Abel Yeple, and inspired by the rhythms of the Gouro people, the Yeple Jazz had several big hits in the 1970s.
These two tracks are good examples of their ‘Gahou’ beat.