Music
Ariel Sheney.

10 Musicians From Côte d'Ivoire You Should Be Listening To

Get into the highly-infectious Ivorian sounds of DJ Arafat, Shado Chris, Bebi Philip, Kiff No Beat and more.

The year 1999 marked Ivory Coast's first military coup as well as the birth of the genre Coupé-Décalé. The genre was pushed forward by DJs in France and on the continent, namely Douk Saga, DJ Arafat, DJ Debordeau and DJ Mix. Coupé-Décalé's rise helped calm tensions and unite the politically-divided country. It's lyrics addressed relationships, money, and brought on the creation of distinct dance moves. It's songs were distributed throughout nation and beyond.

Coupé-Décalé still reigns supreme with it's percussion, West African samples, bass, and repetitive arrangements.

The mid-90s also saw the birth of Zouglou. The satirical music told stories about the social realities of the youth. The music delivered life advice and political messages. The most prominent musicians behind this trend were the group Magic System—their song "1er Gaou" is a notable classic. The genre used hints of french folklore, reggae, and even rock, and musicians often wrote in French and local languages. Today, it's found in music like J. Cole's "Can't Get Enough" in which he samples "Paulette" by Balla et ses Balladins, a Guinean folklore group whose sound is one of early Zouglou.


Ivory Coast's musicians are certainly urban-influenced but the two aforementioned genres can still be heard. Music still serves as distraction for political unrest, the youth still vocalize how they feel, and dance still remains critical. Modern day Ivory Coast is home to many recording studios and artists bypass record labels to freely release songs online as well as in bars and clubs.

See our list of 10 Ivorian Musicians You Should Listen To below.

DJ Arafat

Ange Didier Houon has gone by many names over the course of his 15 year career: DJ 3500 voltes, Yorobo, Influemento, Sao Tao le Dictateur, and finally DJ Arafat. Despite this, one thing remains true, he is one of Ivory Coast's most notable musicians. He has catapulted the country's Coupé-Décalé genre to great heights and even created the sub-genre, kpangor. His influence can be seen in his popularity on social media, views on youtube, number of features and his more recent mentoring of younger acts like Ariel Sheney and Kiff No Beat, to name a few.

Ariel Sheney

Ariel Sheney is a musician and producer. He is recognized as being the brains behind many a recent Arafat beat. His beats call to mind those of his predecessor and his voice has been known to seduce a crowd. Ariel's got a promising future ahead of him with songs like "Ca Coule" and "Yelelema."

DJ Kedjevara

Yao Parfait's artist name derives from Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara so it's clear he knows he's got big shoes to fill! He's been a force behind new age coupé décalé since 2012. His themes are typically humorous.

Force One

This duo, whose beats are inspired by dancehall and coupé décalé, aren't new to this, they're true to this. Their 2003 album Salamandre set the tone for the music they've been making to this day.

Shado Chris

This producer/singer has collaborated with a number of artists from the country. One of his most notable tracks is "C Nous Les Boss" with Serge Beynaud. In 2014, his song "Lahan" catapulted his solo career. Though he's reserved like his name, which is derived from "Shadow," suggests, his songs consistently top Ivorian charts. His popularity has also allowed him to gain a contract with the telephone company, Moov.

Debordo Leekunfa

This former DJ turned singer got his start in clubs, but it was his collaborations with DJ Arafat that would change the trajectory of his career. He had a hand in the creation of the dance, Kpangor, which would travel from Ivory Coast to Gabon, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon. The aforementioned would lay the foundation for his solo career.

Bebi Philip

Joining the music business was natural for Bebi Philip, who comes from a family of musicians. Because his dad was a Christian guitarist, his first production would be for a choir. He attended Lycée d'Enseignement Artistique, a music school. His work ethic and perseverance led to being called to arrange work for Kédjévara, Molare, Jimmy Sissoko, and DJ Lewis. His song "Bobaraba" is as recognizable as Magic System's "Premier Gaou." Today, he is a musical icon with so much more up his sleeves.

Serge Beynaud

Guy Serge Beynaud is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, arranger, and choreographer. He is considered one of Ivory Coast's most talented acts. In 2007, he used his own beats to launch a career as a singer. In 2012, he releases his first album, Seul Dieu, which rapidly sold out in a matter of weeks. In addition to this, the same year he filled the 5,000 seat venue Palais de la Culture in Abidjan. This sets the tone for tours in Europe, the United States, and all over the African continent. He's now got three chart-topping albums under his belt with a number of hits and fans across the world.

Molare

In 2003, this artist launched his own production company, Molare Prod. In 2008, he organized the first coupé-décalé festival in Abidjan, which would unite many of the genre's artists. The creator of the décalé chinois lives between Abidjan and Paris and has toured all over Europe, the U.S., Canada and many notable African cities: Bamako, Mopti, Kayes (Mali), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Brazzaville, Pointe Noire (Congo), Niamey (Niger) and Cotonou (Bénin) with Akon.

Kiff No Beat

We can't make a list without mentioning the most popular rap group in Ivory Coast. These rappers have established themselves as leaders in their country, but they have also created a place for themselves in France. Formed in 2009 and comprised of 5 eclectic members, the group developed Dirty Décalé, a cross between American music from the Dirty South and coupé-décalé. All of their music calls to mind this blend of styles.

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Photo: Alvin Ukpeh.

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