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 Ahoka." 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.