Zieti is a Guere term that describes something rooted, stable and long-lasting. It is in this spirit that the band Zieti creates music like nothing else on the scene in Cote d’Ivoire. Not a single note on our debut album was generated via MIDI, the computer-based cheap and easy method behind so much of today’s pop music, and that fact alone sets this album apart from most of what’s popular in West Africa today.
However, Zieti’s organic approach runs against the grain of how most music is currently made in Abidjan, where MIDI is king, profit governs and where live music is an endangered species. To be poor in Abidjan, with songs in your head, is to be at the mercy of sharks–producers, arrangers, pirates and media gate-keepers–with no way to go out and win your own audience. It is frustration upon heart-break for the vast majority of Ivorian songwriters and musicians.
And there are indeed dozens of wildly talented songwriters and musicians in Abidjan, with songs and arrangements that can blow you away. It’s just that very few of them are making records that blow you away. In fact, most of them never record or perform in public at all. Instruments and live sound equipment are just too expensive and difficult to find for struggling artists to properly hone their craft. There is no question that if they had access to instruments and a place to rehearse and perform, these artistes en herbes (“artists in the tall grass,” or unknowns) would create amazing new genres of sound, and animate the public sphere in Abidjan as it hasn’t been animated for 30 years.
But sadly, poor musicians in Abidjan don’t have those things, so they make due playing beat-up acoustic guitars with missing strings, and drumming on plastic water jugs, with whisk brooms for a hi-hat. Horn lines are sung. Amplification, and with it bass, are a fantasy for all but the most well-heeled, etc. And still, poor musicians keep composing beautiful songs, with crazy fresh harmonies and rhythmic dynamism, drawing inspiration from, even as they modernize their cultural traditions.
Meanwhile back in America, every punk kid with a few bucks and a garage has a more developed creative opportunity than your average poor musician in Abidjan. That just isn’t right (nothing against punks!).
Creating Space for Roots Music
So Zieti is building a space in Abidjan where musicians can develop their sound and master their instruments, rehearse in groups, perform and record live music, all in one location. It’s a simple notion, but its potential impact is huge for the Ivorian scene.
Thanks to the generosity of a humbling array of friends and family, we’re well on our way to making this happen. For starters, we’ve successfully shipped all the gear necessary to equip a modest rehearsal, recording and performance space, everything from instruments, amps and mics to computer, mixers and PA systems, with more to come. [scroll down for a full list of what’s been shipped]
We’ve also acquired land in Cote d’Ivoire, 8,600 square feet (20 x 40 meters) near the beach just outside Abidjan, where we’re going to build a home and incubator for Ivorian roots music. All we need now are building materials and labor to literally set this vision in concrete.
What’s the Plan?
Based on our research with local masons we’ll need $10,000 to build a cinderblock wall around the entire property plus rooms for rehearsal and recording. So we’re going to begin an online fundraising campaign very soon to help build this basic foundation. If we push beyond our fundraising goal, we will continue construction with a performance space, dance studio, living quarters and guest rooms for visiting musicians. Either way, we expect to begin producing music and video projects by Fall 2013:
More info about our campaign will be coming soon. Meanwhile, we invite you to follow the band’s progress with this project by entering your email at right +/or like-ing Zeiti’s Facebook page.
_____________________________________________________________Thanks to the generosity of Zieti’s friends, family and fans, the following equipment has been shipped to Laurent and Narcisse as of November 2012: Drums & Accessories: Pearl 5-piece drumkit w/ Zildjan cymbals, Tama throne, 3 spare snare drums, Evans replacement heads, drumsticks & tall cajon.
June 25th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
Thank you so much for the very informative information about the Ivoirien music scene. Although a white American (and also Alex Owre’s father) I have played with bands in Malawi and sat in with several bands in Nigeria. With obvious local variants, the story seems the same everywhere. Promoters who keep the money, promises not kept, club owners who don’t always exactly tell the truth, etc. More power to you guys but I know Zieti is going to do well because your music is very good!