Posts Tagged ‘Côte d’Ivoire music’

It Takes a Village

Dobet Gnahoré

Dobet Gnahoré

by Maureen Brennan

At the age of 12, Dobet Gnahoré informed her family that she was through with school. She wanted to devote her life to music, dance, theater, and the performing arts. She told her father, “I want to stay in the village like you.” The village she referred to is Ki-Yi M’Bock, an artist enclave in Abidjan, the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire.

Ki-Yi M’Bock (“ultimate universal knowledge” in the Bassa language) is an artists’ cooperative founded in 1985 by Cameroonian novelist, playwright, sculptor, and artist Werewere Liking. Liking formed the village as a way to “materialize” her dream — a pan-African dream in which the pupils of Ki-Yi M’Bock would learn the history and culture of their continent, along with traditional performing arts, all taught in African languages. In Abidjan and other cities of Côte d’Ivoire, instruction is given in French, and the students learn mostly European history, with “a little bit of recent African history — maybe the last 50-60 years,” said Gnahoré. Boni Gnahoré, Dobet’s father and a master drummer, singer, and actor was an original member of Ki-Yi M’Bock. No wonder Dobet wanted to leave the city schools and rejoin him in the village where she grew up! Even at the age of 12, Dobet Gnahoré must have possessed the same inner strength and powerful presence she exhibits today onstage, as she convinced her parents to allow her to “devote her life to the arts.”

Liking referred to the children of Ki-Yi M’Bock as “stars,” and she saw herself as a “Ntorol Tchorot,” or “the one who awakens the stars.” Her dream for the artists included “convincing them that they had a duty to become genuine cultural entrepreneurs who would start in Africa and fan out across the world.” Dobet Gnahoré embodies this dream. Her performances incorporate song, dance, and various forms of percussion. At the same time she entertains her audience, she also invites them into her dream, creating a bond with audiences worldwide, whether they be in Oakland, California; London, Ontario; Geneva, Switzerland; or Dakar, Senegal.

This is an excerpt from the print edition of Dirty Linen #139 (December 2008/January/February 2009). The full article is in the magazine, available on newsstands, by subscription, and at the Dirty Linen webstore.


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: