Music of Ivory Coast

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Wood carving of drummers, Baoule COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Houten staf met figuur van een tromspeler en danser TMnr 3872-11.jpg
Wood carving of drummers, Baoule

The music of Ivory Coast includes music genres of many ethnic communities, often characterised by vocal polyphony especially among the Baoulé, talking drums especially among the Nzema people and by the characteristic polyrhythms found in rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ivory Coast State in West Africa

Ivory Coast or Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Ivory Coast's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its economic capital and largest city is the port city of Abidjan. It borders Guinea and Liberia to the west, Burkina Faso and Mali to the north, Ghana to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south.


In music, polyphony is one type of musical texture, where a texture is, generally speaking, the way that melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic aspects of a musical composition are combined to shape the overall sound and quality of the work. In particular, polyphony consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony, or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords, which is called homophony.

Baoulé people ethnic group in Côte dIvoire

The Baule or Baoulé are an Akan people and one of the largest groups in Côte d'Ivoire who historically migrated from Ghana. The Baoulé are traditionally farmers who live in the centre of Côte d'Ivoire, in a triangle shaped region between the rivers Bandama and N'Zi. This area broadly encompasses the regions around the cities of Bouaké and Yamoussoukro. The Baoulé have come to play a relatively important role in the recent history of Côte d'Ivoire : the State's first President, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, was a Baoulé ; additionally, since the Ivorian cocoa boom of the 1960-70s, the Baoulé have also become one of the most widespread ethnicity throughout the country, especially in the Southern forests where they are amongst the most numerous planters of cocoa, rubber, and coffee and sometimes seem to outnumber the local native ethnic groups.


Popular music genres from Ivory Coast include zouglou and Coupé-Décalé. A few Ivorian artists who have known international success are Magic System, Alpha Blondy, Dobet Gnahoré, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Meiway and Christina Goh.

Zouglou is a dance oriented style of music originated from Côte d'Ivoire during the mid-1990s. It started with students from a college of Gagnoa drawing on elements of other styles of music, especially zouk, ragga and soca music.

Coupé-Décalé is a type of popular dance music originating from Côte d'Ivoire and the Ivorian diaspora in Paris, France. Drawing heavily from Zouglou and Zouk with African influences, Coupé-Décalé is a very percussive style featuring African samples, deep bass, and repetitive minimalist arrangements.

Magic System is an Ivorian musical group from Abidjan. It was founded in 1996 and comprises Salif "Asalfo" Traoré, Narcisse "Goude" Sadoua, Étienne "Tino" Boué Bi, and Adama "Manadja" Fanny.

National music

Ivory Coast's national anthem is L'Abidjanaise . French is the official language taught and spoken by Ivorians but many Ivorians have their own ethnicie tribe's language.

LAbidjanaise national anthem

"L'Abidjanaise" is the national anthem of Ivory Coast. Adopted under law n°60–207 on 27 July 1960, its status as national anthem is enshrined in the constitution's 29th article. It takes the form of a lyric and very patriotic poem, using inspiring images expressing the greatness of the Ivorian soil and values such as hope, peace, dignity and the "true brotherhood".

There are many music genres in Ivory Coast, music from different tribes, Zouk, R&b, Hip-hop, Couper Decaler, Reggae, Zouglou, Pop, Arabic musics etc. Ivory Coast have different varieties of music based on the population race living there.

Traditional music

Ethnic groups of Ivory Coast Coted'Ivoire Ethnie.png
Ethnic groups of Ivory Coast

Ethnic groups of Ivory Coast include Akan 42.1%, Voltaic or Gur speakers 17.6%, Northern Mandes 16.5%, Krous 11%, Southern Mandes 10%, other 2.8% (includes 30,000 Lebanese and 45,000 French) (2004). The immigrant community makes up over 20% of a population of over 6 million. An estimated 65 native languages are spoken in the country. Dyula acts as a trade language and is commonly spoken by Muslims.

The Akan are a meta-ethnicity predominantly speaking Central Tano languages and residing in the southern regions of the former Gold Coast region in what is today the nation of Ghana. Akans who historically migrated from Ghana also make up a plurality of the populace in the Ivory Coast. The Akan language is a group of dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano subfamily of the Niger–Congo family.

Gur languages language family

The Gur languages, also known as Central Gur, belong to the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 70 languages belonging to this group. They are spoken in the sahelian and savanna regions of West Africa, namely: in Burkina Faso, southern Mali, northeastern Ivory Coast, the northern halves of Ghana and Togo, northwestern Benin, and southwestern Niger; with the easternmost Gur language Baatonun, spoken in the extreme northwest of Nigeria.

Mandé peoples family of ethnic groups in West Africa

Mandé is a family of ethnic groups in Western Africa who speak any of the many related Mande languages of the region. Various Mandé groups are found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Mandé languages are divided into two primary groups: East Mandé and West Mandé.

Each of the ethnic groups has its own folk music traditions, most showing strong vocal polyphony (a common characteristic of African music),. Talking drums are common among the Nzema people, who are also known for their abissa purification dance, part of the popular N'Guess Bon Sens , Savane Alla , Kolouba Nobert , Religious music of Emi Tiapo dance music of Meiway.

Ethnic group Socially defined category of people who identify with each other

An ethnic group or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Talking drum hourglass-shaped West African drum

The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drumheads connected by leather tension cords, which allow the player to modulate the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between their arm and body. A skilled player is able to play whole phrases. Most talking drums sound like a human humming depending on the way they are played. Similar hourglass-shaped drums are found in Asia, but they are not used to mimic speech, although the idakka is used to mimic vocal music.

Gbégbé , a Bété rhythm, has been a part of popular music since Ivory Coast's independence, popularized by Soeurs Comöé and later, Frères Djatys and Sery Simplice. Ernesto Djédjé, however, is considered the father of Ivorian popular music. Using one of the folk rhythms of the Bété, as well as his teacher Amédée Pierre's dopé style, Djédjé has long been an advocate of Ivorian music, railing against the "Congolization" of the Abidjan scene. Outside of Ivory Coast, Djédjé is best known for 1977's Gnoantre-Ziboté , which was a pan-African hit, and found some success in France and Canada. He plays a type of music called ziglibithy .

The Bété are a little-studied Ivory Coast group with strong cultural and artistic links to the Dan, the We (Gwere) and the Guro, among others. There are 93 distinct groups within the Bété polity.

Ernesto Djédjé Ivorian musician

Ernesto Djédjé (1948–1983) was an Ivorian musician from Daloa. His parents were Wolof and Bété. Djédjé began playing music at fifteen when he became a guitarist with Ivoiro Star, a leading dopé band, in 1962. He moved to Paris in 1968 and became a student. He continued to perform and made his first recording with Anoma Brou Felix in 1970 with the help of Manu Dibango.

Music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo varies in its different forms. Outside Africa, most music from the Democratic Republic of Congo is called Soukous, which most accurately refers instead to a dance popular in the late 1960s. The term rumba or rock-rumba is also used generically to refer to Congolese music, though neither is precise nor accurately descriptive.

Since Djédjé, few Ivorian musicians have been able to achieve the same level of fame. Luckson Padaud's laba laba style, which is similar to the Bété ziglibithy, has had some success, as has Gnaore Djimi's polihet .

Ivorian artists in World styles

The most popular styles in Ivory Coast are imported reggae from Jamaica, hip hop from the United States , Zouk from the Caribbean and Couper Decaler from Ivory Coast; the country has produced notable musicians of both genres, especially Alpha Blondy whose brand of Afro-reggae became a national hit following his appearance on the TV show First chance in 1983. Tiken Jah Fakoly is another popular Ivorian reggae musician, who has been living in exile due to his politically outspoken lyrics. Perhaps uniquely in Africa reggae is the most popular music genre and Abidjan is seen as one of the reggae capitals of the world. [1]

Hip hop has been popular in Ivory Coast since the mid-1990s, and includes a gangsta rap-influenced style called rap dogba. Notable hip hop musicians include All Mighty, Rudy Rudiction, M.C. Claver and Angelo. The new R&B group 2431(formerly known as Monah) is also taking over, as R&B became very famous since U.S. chart-topping Akon had a concert in Abidjan, late 2006. Other R&B stars include Teeyah and Tour de Garde.


Luc Sigui (born April 7, 1968 in Abidjan, ) is a smooth jazz guitarist & singer, Luc Sigui released first album "Jemima", 2008. From 2000 to 2004 he attended to famous guitarist course like, Eric Boell, Fred Sokolow, Denis Roux, to perform his jazz. In 2000 he was called by a famous African band of Pop Music called “Woody” to be the guitarist. In 1996, he formed with some others Ivorian Christians Musicians and singers a gospel team called Resurrection; and release 3 albums of Gospel Music. In 1991 he won the award of young budding musician of Côte d’Ivoire.Luc Sigui released with Universal, in 2008 a jazz album, called "Jemima" an album that ranks among the albums benchmarked for smooth jazz.

Luc Sigui Concert Luc Sigui.jpg
Luc Sigui Concert


Located in the North West, Ivory Coast is on the West coast of North Africa and was surrounded by water. Not a caribbean country but influenced by the French Caribbean, Zouk was used to share love messages, express love and beautiful poems song just like the troubadour in Europe during the Renaissance.

Coupe Decaler

Which is a famous genre used by many Western African countries such as Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Congo, Benin etc...


Zoblazo, pioneered from 1990 by Freddy Meiway, the former front man to the bands Les Genitaux, Defense d'Ivoire, and Zo Gang,integrated traditional rhythms of southern Ivory Coast with electronic instruments and party lyrics. His success across the country and West Africa in the mid to late 1990s spawned a string of hit Zoblazo records that has continued through 2007, even as other dance styles, like prudencia and coupé décalé have edged out Zoblazo. Even Meidway, through a series of guest musicians like Manu Dibango, Jacob Desvarieux, Lokua Kanza, Kojo Antwi and Koffi Olomidé has added Cuban, Mbalax and Ghanaian Hi-life musics. [2]


Zouglou, a recent Ivorian popular tradition, comes from the early 1990s when university students, upset about living conditions on campus, began rallying around Didier Bilé. Zouglou was satirical in nature, and usually accompanied by a dance to a fictional god. The most popular artists of Zouglou are Petit Yodé & l'enfant Siro, Magic System, Petit Denis and Espoir 2000. Many popular Ivorian zouglou artists are now living in exile due to their political support to the former president Laurent Gbagbo.


Coupé-Décalé was pioneered by the late Stephane Doukouré (a.k.. "Douk-Saga") during the post-2002 militaro-political crisis in Ivory Coast. It reflects the aspirations of a large section of Ivorian youth. Coupé-Décalé is a very percussive style featuring African samples, deep bass, and repetitive, minimalist arrangements. Lyrically, Coupé-Décalé is about happiness, expressing daily life in Ivorian society, and also gives an insight into the political situation of the country. The prominent artists of Coupé-Décalé are Arafat DJ (Yôrôbô) with its concepts coming out every time that his is asked for. His music is for the youth.And many other talented Ivorian artists. The most prominent singer in actuality is named DJ Mix 1er with its croubata Dance, derived from Coupé-Décalé. Other names like David Tayorault, Afrika Representer, Kédjévara, Chouchou Salvador, Anderson 1er, DJ Léo, Bébi Philip, Safarel, Serge Beynaud, Débordo Leekunfa, and Doliziana Débordo are recurrent.


Hip-Hop in Ivory Coast has really grown after the victory of Ivorian hip hop group Kiff No Beat at the biggest hip-hop competition in Ivory Coast called Faya Flow in 2009.

See also

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  1. Ivory Coast's reggae wars recede, 15 October 2007.

Ivorian Hip Hop