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Zouglou: from Ivorian folklore to politically committed variety

Zouglou is THE Ivorian music par excellence! This popular variety was born in the 80s, and today mixes Nouchi, French, and brings up to the present day some wild traditional rhythms. Although mainly Zouglou known for combining tradition and modernity, the history is very closely linked to that of Ivory Coast, we tell you everything in this post!

1960- 1980 : "The artist who does not speak is the one who eats."


As all around the world, and as in most national narratives, music plays a major role in telling the story of a country. In the case of Ivory Coast, music has a special place as it reflects the social climate and the various conflicts that have shaken the country.

From 1960, under the presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the country, newly independentfrom France, experienced a period of flourishing economic growth as the country was open to foreign investors and French funding.

In this way, "popular" Ivorian music is limited to singing the benefits of the political regime in place and becomes an essential vehicle for assimilation to the regime. Also, since the music industry is owned by the government, artists are forced to ignore the political situation of the moment in order to have a musical career supported by ORTI, the Ivorian Radio and Television Orchestra, which has become both a sponsor and a true music production machine.


During this period, the first Ivorian "hits" are made under the impulse of collaborations abroad. For example, the featuring between François Lougah, Ernesto Djédjé and the famous Cameroonian singer Manu Dibango in the 70s offer modern interpretations of traditional Bété rhythms.

However, it is the political and economic history of the Ivory Coast that will give birth to Zouglou....

 The 80’s : A political, social, and economic turnaround

This shift took place against the backdrop of the Ivorian economic system running out of steam: the land crisis, the increase in unemployment among young graduates brought out the old ethnic rivalries, and the newness of a multi-party political system created tensions in the country.

It is in this electric climate that the reggaeman Alpha Bondy becomes the voice of the student community, and incites to negotiate this political turn through his texts.
From those texts was born Zouglou, a popular genre sung in the Nouchi language, a "street" language that creolizes Ivorian French to convey messages. As a result, Ivorian music becomes in essence an instrument of unity and popular social uprising and no longer of collective alienation.

Zouglou is therefore by definition a modern and committed musical genre, which will become the driving force of the Ivorian musical landscape: with the rise of FM radios and opinion presses, authorized by the return of multiparty politics, Ivorian music breaks its dependence on ORTI, the artists are emboldened and propose more and more committed texts.

For Ivorian food lovers : https://www.afsf.com/blog/bcook/the-secrets-of-ivoirian-gastronomy/ 

Source : http://www.fasopo.org/sites/default/files/jr/memoire_m2_kamate.pdf  

Picture and lyrics : akumradio.fm 


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