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(Photo Courtesy of Awesome Tapes From Africa)

Antoinette Konan, Vanguard of Ivorian Music, Gets a Comeback

The singer and percussionist is getting a reissue via Awesome Tapes from Africa.

Prepare your ears and ready the dance floor for the return of the "Queen of the Ahoko." Awesome Tapes from Africa (ATFA) is reissuing the queen Antoinette Konan's eponymous 1986 album in the coming weeks. For music aficionados, crate diggers and those new to Konan's music alike—this is excellent news.


This album burst across the international scene in the late '80s as what the label calls "a veritable UFO of instrumental force and contemporary pop sensibility landing in a boiling pot of diverse, creative characters inhabiting Abidjan, Ivory Coast." Perhaps this is why Brian Shimkovitz of ATFA says Konan's album is "highly original and powerful music that I've been obsessed with for a long time." Shimkovitz claims that Konan approached traditional and regional folk music of the Baoule in a way that brought it into a modern, synthesized and electronic world. She has a way of taking something well-established and making it exciting.

You can hear this all over the album. For instance, one of the star players in Konan's music is the ahoko, a wooden percussion instrument that looks simple with only three pieces (see album art). When Konan pairs it with a bit of psychedelic bass and a hypnotic melody, however, the instrument grows to sizes it never knew before. The other star player in her music is her voice—so bold and crystal clear that it makes any listener lean in. And audiences have been leaning in for decades. Konan is essentially a household name in Ivory Coast, but her prowess and mark on African music has yet to reach new international generations in the way it did when Antoinette Konan was first released.

Shimkovitz hopes to change that with this reissue and digital release. As he tells OkayAfrica:

"Most people in America don't know about the music scene and crucial history of Ivorian music, it's so important and influential across Africa and beyond. I hope this reissue introduces some more people to how much different music is happening in Abidjan and Ivory Coast, it's overwhelmingly vast. This is just one example of how indigenous music mixes with more club-oriented sounds there and if you look around there are enormous numbers of singers, producers, djs and dancers doing insanely creative stuff in Ivory Coast."

The reissue of Antoinette Konan will be released on November 15. You can preorder the album here.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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