In Drogba’s country, the Ivorian flags flutter in the wind in celebration of the Francophone country’s 63rd anniversary.
On such an eventful day, complete with barbecues, brunches, and road trips to Assinie, the beach town outside of Abidjan, one becomes aware of the political status of the country. With former President Henri Konan Bédié’s death on August 1st, the day of celebration has a sombre tint. Even more deepening as the Ivorian authorities’ decision to cancel festivities in order to pay respect. However, as they say: “Discouragement is not Ivorian!”
Some people will mourn his death. But many of them will enjoy this weekend they have been waiting almost the entire for year by eating fried plantains with grilled chicken or fish, and listening to Ivorian music. The oldest ones will listen to their favourite old songs while the younger ones will sing word by word the fresh ones.
The growth and evolution of Ivorian music have often been marked by its political history.
1960 – 1990: THE AREA OF DIVOS AND DIVAS
80s babies often pride themselves in their vast music knowledge. And they are right to; having lived and experienced various facets of culture. One of the most iconic Ivorian musicians is the late Ernesto Djédjé, a favourite of many 80s Ivorian babies.
Popular for his dance skills and self-named genre Ziglibithy, the tall black Bhété, was famous in the 80s for his shiny outfits and his dance moves. Heavily influenced by the disco scene of the era, Djédjé was an icon. Other iconic Ivorian musicians of that era included the late Amédée Pierre, Bailly Spinto, and late Francois Lougah. Lougah spent so much money that his lavish lifestyle birthed the expression: live the Lougah’s life which in modern terms equals Living your best life. Female singers like Reine Pelagie and
Aïcha Koné held the mantle for the country’s biggest divas. For a very long time, Ivorian music was not about how hard life was, it told tales about enjoying life, having fun and living fully. However, in the 90s, things changed with a new genre: zouglou.
ZOUGLOU, THE SOUND OF FREEDOM
The nineties are important in Ivorian history.
After various attempts leading to his own exile and a failed coup by another Koudou Laurent Gbagbo, took office from Félix Houphouët-Boigny. However, this turn of government coincided with economic hardship. The people used music as a medium to speak up about their difficult living conditions and students were the first ones. Legend says Didier Bilé created zouglou: a way to speak up about poverty and unemployment while dancing.
Artists like Petit Yodé et L’enfant Siro still use it as a way of expression. On October 2022, the duo celebrated their 25-year career with former president Koudou Laurent Gbagbo, who sparked the birth of the genre, in attendance. While Zouglou heavily sharpened the Ivorian music industry, Coupé-décalé is what defined it.
COUPÉ-DÉCALÉ WILL ALWAYS LIVE
The development of coupé-décalé, created by the late Stephane Doukouré AKA Douk Saga, was highly influenced by the 2002 failed coup. While people were looking for a way to escape reality, Douk Saga came, saw, and conquered the music terrain of the whole country, Francophone West Africa, and then Paris. Nightclubbers were executing many dance moves: décalé chinois, the martial arts version, and farot farot: the precious art of showing off, and also la danse de la moto (which is pretending to start a motorcycle) etc. Every summer, the late Douk Saga, his lieutenant Molaré and many others released new music, experimented with the genre and kept the fans thrilled.
Ange Didier, also known as DJ Arafat created his own version of coupé-décalé: coupé-déchaîné. A mix of heavy and rhythmic sounds with gibberish also known in Nouchi, the Ivorian patois/pidgin as roukasskass. Douk Saga and Arafat might be dead but coupé-déchaîné is still breathing lives on.
Today, the most famous music genre in Côte d’Ivoire is Rap Ivoire.
It is a mix of hip-hop sounds and Ivorian pidgin. In 2014, five young and ambitious men known as Kiff No Beat released an instant classic: Tu es dans pain! (You are in Trouble!). And have since been causing trouble in the Ivorian music industry.
Didi B, the most popular artist in the group, is currently the leader of a new generation. And just like global hip hop, subgenres are being born from Rap Ivoire including drill music with artists like Himra and the Black Machete, and funny Rap Ivoire with artists like Black K and Elow’n, both members of Kiff No Beat.
On the come-up and fueled by the virality of TikTok is the genre Mouvement des Enfants. Championed by youngsters like 3xDavs, Ste Milano, and Jr La Melo, Mouvement des Enfants blends nostalgia with catchy dance moves and infectious beats.
While Ivory Coast continues to enjoy political stability, the creative scene thrives on experimentation and collaboration. Blending traditional sounds with global and continental genres continues to be the recipe for experimentation. There’s no doubt the future of Ivorian music will be very bright.
Check out our Francophone Connection playlist of Ivorian gems curated by our friends at La Sunday Abidjan.