Film

The Tenor From Abidjan: A Documentary

'The Tenor From Abidjan: The Documentary' chronicles the story of 24 year-old Landry Assokoly's road to becoming an international opera star.


"I heard him before I saw him: Who was listening to the Opera at 2pm on a weekday in the middle of the tropics?" asked filmmaker Taneisha Berg, before chasing down the powerful tenor voice in her distance to ask why he was singing Opera. "He laughed a little. Perhaps thrown off by my rude interruption, he answered simply, 'Because I love it.'"

That love and the unlikeliness of this Ivorian man's story are what spawned Berg's The Tenor From Abidjan, a feature-length profile in the works on self-trained virtuoso Landry Assokoly. Chronicling the 24 year-old Assokoly's journey from his hometown of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to Europe's conservatories, Berg documents the young student/aspiring tenor's road to becoming an international Opera star. Below catch a glimpse of Landry, the Abidjan tenor, and head over here for more details on Taneisha Berg's The Tenor From Abidjan, which is currently in pre-production.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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