Tag Archives: Ivory Coast

Artist Profiles: Azouhouni Adou

Azouhouni Adou

Born in the Ivory Coast (West Africa), Azouhouni Adou began his musical career early on accompanying some of most the well-known and respected Ivorian artists, such as Ernesto Djedje and Alpha Blondy. In 1984 he moved to Paris to study jazz composition and improvisation and played keyboard for Afro-pop stars such as Abetti Massekini, Pierre Akendenge, Oumou Sangare, Pascal Lokoua, Tony Allen, Meiway, and Cheb Kaleb.

Since 1992, Azhouhouni has lived in the United States. His US career began in Denver, Colorado, where he continued his band Adu, playing in venues alongside such jazz greats as Tito Puente, John Lee Hooker, Terence Blanchard, Herbie Mann, and Rickie Lee Jones, and played keys with a US-army jazz band touring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAI, and Diego Garcia.

In 1995, Azouhouni moved to New York where he immediately became widely recognized as a leading innovator in the City’s African music culture and beyond. He has performed with The African Blue Note Band, Katende, Worldly Vibe, Atlas Soul, The Soukous Stars, and Source in venues such as the Lincoln Center, Summer Stage, Celebrate Brooklyn?s Prospect Park, SOB’s, the Zinc Bar, Satalla, Joe’s Pub, and Sugar Bar. As Musical Director, Azouhouni spent two years (1998-2000) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida with the Harambe Band, and with the Pepe Kale/Rigo Star Tour in Oakland, California.

An accomplished studio producer and arranger by age twenty, Azouhouni has produced CDs for Ivorian artists such as Adeliz, Dan Log, Bennie Bezy, and Jonny Zoug, and Malian singer Djoss Diabate. He produced and released two albums of his own; Lago (JBZ Studios, 1989) and Worrro (JBZ Studios, 1991) with American singer Heather Maxwell. Afroyorkers was a project with his own ensemble. Afroyorkers presented Azhouhouni’s fresh and sophisticated urban style of original compositions and Afrobeat classics.

Discography:

Lago (JBZ Studios, 1989)
Worrro (JBZ Studios, 1991)
I Gotta Go (Zohoré Records, 2005)
Haklima, with Djoss Diabate (Goin’ Native Records, 2005)

Share

Artist Profiles: Dobet Gnahoré

Dobet Gnahoré

Dobet Gnahoré is a singer, dancer and percussion’s from Africa’s Ivory Coast. She not only possesses a incredible voice but she also has a commanding presence on stage. Gnahoré inherited all the power of the bete traditions from her father Boni Gnahoré, a master percussionist who plays with the Abidjan-based Ki-Yi Mbock Company, directed by Werewere Liking.

It was within this Ivory Coast-based company that Dobet met French guitarist Colin Laroche de Feline, who went there to immerse himself in African melodies and rhythms, after being introduced to them by Toroma Sika in France.

Having spent some time in the well-known TchéTché dance company, Dobet decided with Colin (in 1999) to form a duo, Ano Neko, which means “Let’s create together” in Bete language. The duo toured widely in France (1999-2000) where they settled temporarily following the instability that unfortunately struck the Ivory Coast. They also worked together on different projects (the creation with Ba Cissoko of Le Cabaret Nomade and L’Entre Deux Monde).

When they returned to Abidjan in 2001, they took part in MASA Off (festival) where they were the center of attention and, while they were there, they recorded eight songs under the supervision of the late Marcellin Yac?, who was killed during the first day of rioting in the autumn of 2002. They then decided to return to France, at least until peace and stability reigned in their beautiful country once again.

In 2003, their artistic project refocused on Dobet Gnahoré and expanded when a backup vocalist and a percussionist joined them.

This was when Belgian management agency Contre Jour, which had taken Dobet’s destiny in hand, produced her first album entitled Ano Neko, making the link with Dobet and Colin’s story. This CD comprises songs recorded in Abidjan and others recorded in Belgium during the summer of 2003. The album includes Manding melodies, Congolese rumba, Ivory Coast Ziglibiti, Cameroon Bikutsi, Ghanaian High-Life and Zulu choirs. Gnahore’s album is a mix of African folk traditions with modern sounds reminiscent of the work of Zap Mama and Sally Nyolo and features songs in French, Bete, Fon, Baule, Lingala and Malinke. The sanza, the balafon, the calabash and bongos were brought in to support the guitar, the vocal backup and Dobet’s warm and powerful voice.

Discography:

Ano Neko (Contre-Jour, 2004)
Na Afriki (Contre-Jour/Cumbancha, 2007)
Djekpa La You (Contre-Jour, 2010)
Na Drê (Contre-Jour, 2014)
Miziki (Café de la Danse, 2018)

Share

Artist Profiles: Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy has become one of the world’s biggest reggae stars. Inspired musically by Jamaica, and specially Bob Marley, Blondy also sings about struggle, revolution, peace, love and corruption.

Alpha Blondy was born Sedou Kone in Dimbroko, Ivory Coast. He was raised by his grandmother, who imparted knowledge from the Koran as well as traditional Jula morality. It was she who gave him the nickname “Blondy”, a version of the Jula word [also spelled Dyula, Dyoula, Diula, Dioula, Djula] for “bandit”, after he was thrown out of school for forming his own band. He added the name “Alpha”, which means “beginning” or “first”, hence his name means “first bandit.” As a young man he spent two years studying English at Columbia University in New York, often performing reggae in the streets and at Harlem clubs. Leading Jamaican producer Clive Hunt heard him singing Bob Marley songs and recorded six tracks with him that were not released. An altercation with the Ivorian ambassador in New York led to his arrest when he returned home to the Ivory Coast. There, a fight with a policeman led to jail. He finally was released and launched his career in earnest.

His debut recording, released internationally as Jah Glory, featured “Brigadier Sabari”, an account of a street raid by Abidjan police in which Blondy was nearly beaten to death. It became a sensation as others marveled that he had the courage to voice anti-police sentiments. He formed the Solar System Band and signed to EMI, recording his anthemic “Cocody Rock” in 1984. He was now drawing big crowds in Paris as well as Abidjan. Alpha then made a pilgrimage to Jamaica to Tuff Gong studios where he recorded the monumental Jerusalem album with the Wailers. The title track features lyrics in English, Hebrew and Arabic, reflecting his pan-cultural perspective. Widespread international touring, including his first American tour in 1987, established Blondy as a truly global star; his 1992 album Masada was released in 50 countries.

Three years before, he was voted the number one artist by a Radio France international poll. Having celebrated his 20th Anniversary as a recording artist with the release of the sublime Merci, Alpha Blondy resumed touring the United States after a period of cancelled tours. The shows were powerful, high-energy affairs often lasting over two hours, which showed that Alpha still is one of the world’s greatest live reggae performers.

Alpha Blondy

The issues that plague The Ivory Coast and other African nations are prominent on Alpha Blondy’s 2005 CD, Elohim, a wide-ranging set of classic Marley-esque reggae that showcases Alpha to be as vital as ever. Some artists raise political and social issues in their songs but Alpha Blondy the most popular international reggae star since Bob Marley, confronts them in real life as well as his music. With his beloved homeland, The Ivory Coast shattered by civil war and facing potential disintegration at the time, Alpha attempted to act as an honest broker between various factions in the country. It was dangerous work but Alpha is driven to see peace and justice prevail. Despite the fact that he has been jailed before, he still chooses to uses his music as a vehicle for positive change. “Machine guns sing louder than me,” he has noted “but if we don’t find a quick solution now…we’ll be talking about a war that will last maybe twenty years or more.”

Discography:

Jah Glory! (Syllart Production, 1982
Cocody Rock!!! (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1984)
Apartheid Is Nazism (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1985)
Jérusalem (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1986)
Revolution (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1987)
The Prophets (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1989)
S.O.S Guerre Tribale (Jimmy’s International Production, 1991)
Masada (EMI France, 1992)
Live Au Zenith (EMI France, 1993)
Dieu (EMI France, 1994)
Paris Bercy (EMI France, 1995)
Grand Bassam Zion Rock (EMI, 1996)
Yitzhak Rabin (Une Musique, 1998)
Elohim (Deelie, 2000)
Merci (Shanachie, 2002)
Jah Victory (Mediacom, 2007)
Vision (Wagram Music, 2011)
Mystic Power (VP Records, 2013)
Positive Energy (Wagram Music, 2015)
Human Race (Wagram Music, 2018)

Share

Zauli Music and Dance Inscribed in 2017 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Zauli dancer with mask from the Maminigui village – Photo by Ala Konin, 2015 – Office Ivoirien du patrimoine culturel (OIPC)

In a December 16, 2017 press release UNESCO announced that Zauli (Zaouli in French) music and dance is inscribed in 2017 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Zauli is a traditional music and dance practiced by the Guro communities of the Buafle and Zuenula departments of Ivory Coast. A tribute to feminine splendor, Zauli is inspired by two masks: the Blou and the Djela. In a single event, the participants bring together sculpture (the mask), weaving (the costume), music (the band and song) and dance.

Zauli musicians of Zabrisséhifla – Photo by Ala Konin, 2015 – Office Ivoirien du patrimoine culturel (OIPC)
Share

Artist Profiles: Sekouba Diakite

Sekouba Diakite originates from Odienne (the Republic of Ivory Coast). Like his elder brother Isaac Ismael, Sekouba also sings in Malinke, Bambara, Diula, English, and French.

Sekouba comes from the neighborhood of Treichville in Abidjan, (known as ‘Treichtown’ to reggae fans). In 1986, Sékouba moved to The Gambia, where he lived until 1993 when he moved back to Abidjan.

After being enriched into the roots of the Bolomba style in The Gambia, the young Sekouba came alive with the West African sounds of the Mandinka.

Sekouba’s desire to sing came naturally but it was never a reality without the musical influence of his brother, Ismael Isaac. Sekouba’s other musical influences include, Lucky Dube, Alpha Blondy, and Bob Marley.

In 1999 he made his debut as an artist, tenaciously composing lyrics as a self-taught author, composer, and performer. His music reflects an eclectic mix of West African melodies, fused with traditional Reggae rhythms.

His debut album “I Love My People” featuring the title track “I’m So Glad,” was self produced in New York and arranged by Oscar Ankou. His second album “Sejou” was releases in June 2010 and features tracks like; “No Doubt,”mixing the styling of soulful Caribbean beats and a cool reggae vibe. “No Doubt” manages to deliver meaningful lyrics in a light-hearted way, echoing the sounds of Bob Marley. “Mandela,” a tribute to the great freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, with up-tempo exotic beats and rhythms. “Mandela” showcases Sekouba’s rare powerful sound. And “Sejou,” the funky Reggae tune showcasing Sekouba’s African roots.

Sekouba currently resides in New York City, where he often performs at local festivals and clubs. Sekouba’s music seamlessly blends reggae rhythms with African beats and melodies.

Discography:

I Love My People

Share