Thursday, June 14, 2018

Information About Côte d’Ivoire’s Zouglou Music & YouTube Examples Of Five 1990s Zouglou Classics

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about Côte d’Ivoire’s Zouglou music and showcases YouTube examples of five Zouglou classics.

Selected comments from some of these examples' discussion threads are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all Zouglou musicians and singers in the past and present. Thanks to all showcased in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

Excerpt #1
From Zouglou in Côte d’Ivoire
By Anne Schumann Douosson [reprinted from Music In Africa blog/Lamine BA, 19 Feb 2015
"Zouglou is a modern musical genre, but one that has nonetheless undergone several changes since its creation. Zouglou music was declared moribund on several occasions, and the fact that it is still Côte d’Ivoire’s most popular genre speaks to the innovativeness and the resilience of this style and its artists.


The popularity of zouglou music partly stems from its position as a supra-ethnic, national musical genre - it not associated with any particular region or ethnic group. As a new, urban musical form, zouglou distinguishes itself through its use of the street-slang spoken in Abidjan.

The Origins of Zouglou

The musical roots of zouglou lie in the local Ivorian musical styles tohourou and aloucou from western Côte d’Ivoire, which became popular in the urban centres in the 1960s and 70s. The direct musical base of zouglou music grew out of what is known as ambiance facile or woyo: chants to percussive music on improvised instruments such as metal scrapers, glass bottles and of course drums. This music grew out of the songs that accompanied sports competitions in Côte d‘Ivoire‘s schools during the 1980s. Groups of students that called themselves “supporters committees” would accompany sports teams to the games and make up songs to encourage their teams. As school teams and their supporters committees travelled to matches against other schools across the country, they picked up new melodies and rhythms along the way.

Ambiance facile and woyo music sessions also became a popular past-time in Abidjan’s working class (popular) neighborhoods. In these multi-ethnic neighborhoods, children and teenagers would teach each other songs from their home regions. This mostly unrecorded leisure music is still popular across Côte d’Ivoire. Through the sports matches and neighborhood sessions, ambiance facile drew on rhythms and melodies from many different regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou music also drew on these rhythms and melodies and thus became the first musical style that was considered to be multi-ethnic and nationally representative of Côte d’Ivoire.

In 1990, zouglou was invented first as a dance among university students residing in the Yopougon student accommodation at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, now known as Felix Houphouet-Boigny University. This dance consisted of throwing one’s arms in the air with angular movements, mimicking an imploration to God to help the university students that were suffering under the budgetary cuts in the education sector (fewer scholarships, inadequate student housing, catering and transport, etc.).

Through the creative energy of the university students, the word “zouglou” became known to the general public. But why “zouglou”, and what does that mean? “Zouglou” in fact is a made-up word, a sort of inside joke to describe this particularly eccentric manner of dancing. However, in a seminal newspaper article about this new genre, this word was interpreted as referring to the Baoulé expression “be ti lè zouglou” (they’re piled up like rubbish). This was a reference to the poor housing conditions in the student dormitories.


First Generation


The first recorded zouglou songs are ‘Glogbo Koffi’ (1991) by Didider Bilé et les Parents du Campus Ambiance[i] and ‘Zomamanzo’ (1991) by Poignon and Zougloumania[ii] as well as ‘Ziopin (Faut pas fâcher)’ (1992) by Les Potes de la Rue[iii].

Since these beginnings, Zouglou has been known for its direct, outspoken song texts. Its earliest songs described the deteriorating living conditions of university students or poked fun of ethnic stereotypes. This revolutionized Ivorian music, which until then had typically carried subtler, coded messages.

Second Generation

During the mid-1990s, zouglou was said to be undergoing a severe crisis. Bands had split up, some of the key figures had left the country, and there were disputes and allegations of plagiarism among artists. However, along came two new groups that revolutionized the genre with very sharp satirical and politically engaged song texts: Yodé & Siro (then known as Poussins Chocs) with the song ‘Asec Kotoko’ (1996)[iv] and Les Salopards with their album Génération Sacrifiée (1997)[v]. This was the establishment of second generation of zouglou musicians, which includes some of the most popular zouglou groups, such as the Garagistes with the album Tapis Rouge (2003)[vi] and Espoir 2000 with the album Gloire à Dieu (2006)[vii].

Through its emphasis on social and political criticism, zouglou developed into a form of Ivorian counter-culture. Zouglou musicians represent the perspective of marginalized youth and social underdogs and have been very critical of the devastating behavior of the wealthy and politically powerful in Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou artists see their role as speaking truth to power, because, according to a famous nouchi (Ivorian street slang) saying, gbê est mieux que drap: “the truth is better than shame”. Zouglou music gave the youth in Abidjan a platform from which to participate in the public debate.


The second generation was also the generation that was to take zouglou to international fame. In 2000 the song ‘Premier Gaou’ by the group Magic System[viii] became a hit across Africa as well as in the French charts. Magic System have since remained a presence in the French charts, mixing their zouglou with dance music.

Third Generation: Live Performances

Despite their popularity, many zouglou groups in Côte d’Ivoire were finding it difficult to survive financially from their music due to widespread copyright piracy. Zouglou music is predominantly locally produced and recorded, and pirated CDs and VCDs dominate the market. These informal modes of circulation have made the diffusion of zouglou music possible, while at the same time undermining the financial viability of the Ivorian music industry. Widespread copyright piracy has also put great financial pressure on Ivorian record labels: in late 2008, Showbiz, Côte d‘Ivoire’s largest record label that housed up to 80% of local releases, closed down as it was running at a loss. A large number of smaller labels have also closed due to bankruptcy.

Concerts and performances have remained a major source of income for zouglou musicians. Yet until recently zouglou singers performed live primarily via playback or backing tracks. Performances were also hampered by the lack of appropriate venues and the high cost of existing venues. For example, Abidjan’s showcase concert venue, the Palais de la Culture, is one of the most expensive in West Africa.

However, since the late 2000s there has been a new development: many new maquis (open air restaurants) have opened as new affordable performance spaces in which artists now perform live, rather than via playback. This trend is part of the growing professionalism of this musical genre. Les As du Zouglou, Les Pro du Zouglou, Connexion and Zouglou Makers (with their acclaimed album Djamo Djamo in 2014)[ix] are some of the groups of the third generation that regularly perform live in Abidjan. A number of zouglou artists also own and manage such live venues, which have become reference points for Abidjan’s nightlife.

Within a span of 20 years, zouglou music has gone from being the unrecorded past-time of university students to one of most popular musical genres of Côte d’Ivoire and a key part of Ivorian cultural identity. The genre’s popularity has spread beyond national borders across francophone West Africa. Despite the challenges posed by piracy, thanks to its innovative artists zouglou looks set to remain an important part of the country’s cultural landscape for many years to come."
YouTube examples of most of the artists that are mentioned in this article are found below.

Excerpt #2
"Zouglou is a dance oriented style of music originated from Côte d'Ivoire during the mid-1990s.[1] It started with students[1] from the University of Abidjan drawing on elements of other styles of music, especially zouk, ragga and soca music.

Zouglou recounts the various social realities experienced by the Ivorian youth and carries messages, sometimes humorous, sometimes political, or, more often, delivers advice on life. It has since spread elsewhere, including to Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Gabon.


Zouglou emerged in the '90s as a musical genre and innovative Ivorian made by and for young people....

Popular with the youth, the lyrics are written in local languages and French street slang,[1] and has parallels with the evolution of rap in the West. It uses humor[1] to depict anything going wrong in the society."...

Example #1: Didier Bile - Gbolo Koffi [1991]

Bi Tra, Published on Aug 31, 2008
Here are five comments from this sound file's discussion thread, with English translations from French via Google translates. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.
1. Snipeace Chris.H., 2008
"le Roi du Zouglou forever..c'est grace a lui ke le mouvement a ete lancé(zouglou,kpaklo,gnakpa) zouuuuuglou woha!!!"
"the King of Zouglou is thanks to him ke the movement was launched (zouglou, kpaklo, gnakpa) zouuuuuglou woha !!!"

2. Patrick Cheah, 2008
"i spent 2 years in Cote d'Ivoire and this song brings back a lot of memories17 years later, wow. We all hope and pray things get better!"

"didier bile yuh are the man"
"You are the man" is an American vernacular English saying which means "You are the one in charge/You are the best.

4. timite lamine, 2013
"ça me fait rappeler du bon vieux temps LE ZOUGLOU c'est une manière de se libérer en esprit compte tenu des vagues problèmes intempestifs dans la vie sociale et surtout en milieu estudiantin et scolaire" 
"it reminds me of the good old days LE ZOUGLOU is a way to free oneself in the spirit given the vague untimely problems in social life and especially in school and school"

5. Gnamien Moise, 2018
"le seul genre musical ivoirien qui est resté ivoirien. on n'a pas encore vue un pays faire le zouglou a part la cote d'Ivoire. je suis fier. la musique ivoirienne des ivoiriens pour les ivoiriens par la ivoiriens. la belle musique"
"the only Ivorian musical genre that remained Ivorian. we have not yet seen a country zouglou aside Ivory Coast. I am proud. Ivorian music of Ivorians for Ivorians by Ivorians. the beautiful music"

Example #2: Zoulgoumania - Zomamanzo [1991]

Bi Tra, Published on Apr 23, 2017

Example #3: Les Potes de la Rue--Faut pas facher(ziopin) [1992]

Ivorian Songs, Published on Nov 28, 2015

Faut pas facher faut t'amuser

Example #4: Les Poussins Chocs (Asec Kôtôkô) [1996]

ivorycoast60, Published on Jun 7, 2009

Artiste: Les Poussins Chocs
Titre: Asec-kôtôkô
Album: Asec Kôtôko
Année: 1996
Here are five comments from this video's discussion thread, with English translations from French via Google translates. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.
"200 milles cassettes vendus en 1 semaine"
"200 thousand cassettes sold in 1 week"

2. Victor Paye, 2014
"What is he saying ? Sucks I don't speak french"

3. Mohamed Diaby, 2014
"He is singing about the asec-kotoko incident"
The Asec-Kotoko incident" refers to violence, injuries, and killing that occurred in 1993 between Côte d’Ivoirians and Ghanaians as a result of a football (soccer) game.
"Compensate victims of violence after 1993 Kotoko-Asec match" Soccer News of Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Here's an excerpt from that article:
"Tuesday called on the Governments of Ghana and La C=F4te d'Ivoire to immediately compensate victims of violence that erupted after a match between Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Ivorian club Asec Mimosa in 1993.

They attributed the long delay to deep seated differences among members of the Joint Committee appointed by the two countries to determine the extent of loss of life and injuries and the security threat it posed to the relations between the two sister countries. The Experts that included serving and retired Military, Police, and Immigration Officers, were contributing to a discussion on: "Ghana's Foreign Policy in the West African Sub-region: The Challenges 1992 to 2005," organised by the African Security Dialogue and Research (ASDR) in Accra.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," they said. "The long silence on the payment of just and adequate compensation to the victims on both sides has created an underground security current with the potential of exploding at the least provocation." "

4. Mouhamed rasta, 2017
"Super souvenir c était bon,"
Great memory it was good,
Alpha Power, 2017
"Yesssss💃💃💃💃Im still dancing to this great music in 2k17✌✌ to my Ivorian people💃💃💃💃"

5. Perfect Luce, 2018
"2018 Je suis présent ouiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii ce sont les vrais qui me donne l'inspiration pour de nouveaux tubes"
"2018 I am present yesiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii these are the real ones that gives me inspiration for new tubes"

Example #5: Les Salopards / Sans Papiers [1997]

La Dépêche d'Abidjan TV, Published on Apr 22, 2009
Here are five comments from this video's discussion thread, with English translations from French via Google translates. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.
1. Sonde Adama, 2013
"Esclavage,traite négrière,colonisation,dévaluation...aujourd'hui ils nous chassent de chez eux après avoir combattu et construit pour eux,sèches tes larmes AFRIQUE,sèches tes larmes!!"
"Slavery, slave trade, colonization, devaluation ... today they drive us from their homes after fighting and building for them, dry your tears AFRICA, dry your tears!"

2. Silue Bazoumana, 2015
"Très belle chanson en rappel de la non reconnaissance des droits des noirs après tant de souffrances et d exploitation de la part de l'homme blanc"
"Very beautiful song reminding of the non recognition of the rights of the blacks after so much suffering and exploitation on the part of the white man"

3. pangni pascal, 2015
"ce groupe était visionnaire a travers ces textes"
"this group was visionary through these texts"

4. Isaac Witherspone, 2015
"Pourquoi on quitte chez vous pour occidentale ? A cause de votre stupidité, ont n'a arrive pas à gérer vos d'affaires. Chez-nous même quand quelqu'un est payé pour bien travailler ils ne le font pas. Un 'Sans papier' en Europe à plus de dignité que une citoyenne en Côte d'ivoire. En Côte d'ivoire un policier peut te frapper quand il veut et comme il veut pour rien. Chez-nous on n'a arrive pas à voyager librement dans nos propres Pays a cause de peur 'les genres de ordres'."
"Why do we leave for westerners? Because of your stupidity, have not managed to manage your business. At home even when someone is paid to work well they do not do it. A 'paperless' in Europe with more dignity than a citizen in Côte d'Ivoire. In Ivory Coast a policeman can hit you when he wants and as he wants for nothing. At home we have not been able to travel freely in our own countries because of fear 'the kinds of orders'.:

5. Guy Armel BEKE, 2018
"Vraiment touchant le son, courage à nos frères de l autre côté !!!! Merci aux artistes pour le son"
"Really touching the sound, courage to our brothers on the other side !!!! Thanks to the artists for the sound"

Click for the 2017 pancocojams post "Magic System (Cote D'Ivoire Band) - "Premier Gaou ("1er Gaou") Video & Lyrics".

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