Things move slowly in Abidjan, but they don’t fall apart (knock wood). There turned out to be two boxes that were somehow left at the customs office at the port. Cherif has put Narcisse in contact with the agent in charge, and Narcisse is scheduled to pick them up today. We’ll be calling later this afternoon to confirm that everything has finally made it to Narcisse.
Meanwhile, Narcisse is looking for a modest room to rent where he can set-up the instruments as a rehearsal space for local bands. This has always been the goal, to make instruments available for local bands to work out their sound without requiring the huge investment of a producer. We will keep rental costs very low, just enough to pay rent on the space and keep Zieti and their families from going hungry.
The final bit of news from our phone call yesterday is that Laurent has sent word he is coming to Abidjan to re-join Narcisse as we embark on this new era for Zieti. This is amazing news, and adds fuel to our fires as we redouble efforts to grow this live music project in Abidjan. More on that development coming soon (we hope).
Today is a great day for Zieti! Our good friend Cherif has expertly navigated the shipment through customs, and Narcisse is literally unpacking boxes as I write this. We are all very psyched to say the least.
There was some drama of course. In a chaotic scene at the port, one of the boxes didn’t make it to Narcisse. Crushingly, it happened to be the box containing the two snare drums, cymbals, clarinet and worst of all, the CDs.
Grigri matters though, and a phone call from Cherif to his customs contact actually located the box! Cherif has kindly offered to get it to Narcisse. It was a sad moment to think of that stuff gone missing, but now…joy.
More to come once Narcisse has the whole enchilada en main, including his first impressions of listening to the full album.
The container with our first shipment of instruments to Narcisse in Abidjan has arrived and is being negotiated through customs as I write. With any luck, Narcisse will have everything in hand by the end of this week, and he assures us he’ll take photos to document this important first step in bringing live music back to Abidjan. More to come very soon on that and the imminent release of “Zemelewa.”
What a thrill to see Zieti on the front page of the Afropop Worldwide home page! The review offers a detailed description of the project and the music, and reviewer Eli Rumpf has plenty of good things to say about what he’s hearing. Words like intriguing, unique and unusual, are littered throughout with the ultimate assessment that this is something different.
Amen brother! Zieti is all those things. Many thanks to Rumpf for listening and taking the time to write so thoroughly about this project:
“Despite the many musicians and instruments involved, the album has a mellow, controlled feel. …the excellent compositional structure of the tunes creates momentum and holds the listener’s attention.”
Click here to see the full review at Afropop.org!
Here’s hoping we can generate more buzz when we officially release this album in the coming months! Stay tuned…
Laurent (at left) is one of the two main songwriters and central figures in the Zieti story. All of Zieti’s songs are co-written by him and Narcisse, the lead singer. While it has been relatively easy to reach Narcisse on his cellphone in Abidjan, Laurent has been living for years in a campement in the Western part of Cote d’Ivoire.
Sadly, this region was one of the hardest hit by recent violence during Cote d’Ivoire’s recent struggles. Mass graves were discovered near Djuekoue, which is the closest town to Laurent’s campement. There are no landlines or cell phones where he lives, so it has been impossible even to get word of Laurent’s condition for months and months. We hoped for the best, but feared the worst.
However! Narcisse recently commissioned a mutual friend to travel to the region and find out what he can about Laurent. The good news, great news in fact, and a huge sigh of relief from everyone who knows him, is that Laurent is alive and tending to his family’s farms outside of Djuekoue.
The bad news is that several family members, including Laurent, were severely burned in a slash-and-burn field management gone bad this summer. Laurent reportedly lost hair and was burned on his shoulders and head, but survived and is on the mend. He received word that Zieti is back on track, and was elated with the news.
Our hope is that once we’ve established Zieti and our live music initiatives on the local scene, Laurent will be able to return to a life through music with his brother-in-arms Narcisse.
We are most delighted to report that a first load of musical gear has been packed for shipment to Narcisse in Abidjan. This opportunity came from a good friend, Cherif, and his partner Yaya, who live in the area and make it their business to periodically ship cars and other equipment back home to Abidjan. They offered us the chance to stow-away on this container for free! We cannot thank them enough for this gift.
Many, many thanks also to Robert Fox, Jason Walker and Victor Crisen for their massive help in compiling our initial haul. The drumkit alone will make a huge difference, along with two guitars, effects pedal, powered mixer and monitors, a nice cajon, mic/stand/cable, plenty of extra cables, strings, picks, drum heads, extra snare/cymbals and even a clarinet. That’s a great start, and will make a huge difference in the life of Narcisse and his collaborators in Port Bouet.
Our plan is to seal the deal next year with keyboard, amps, more mics and a decent PA system, along with anything else people would like to slip into the musical bloodstream of Abidjan (theramin anyone?). Gear donations are most welcome, and in the coming weeks we will be establishing a fund to donate to this effort as well. The overall goal is to equip rehearsal space(s) in Abidjan, to be managed by Narcisse, with sound systems available for live performances. Once that’s established, we’ll turn our focus to recording gear.
Truly, the sky’s the limit in terms of how we can directly facilitate all manner of artistic expression in the creative community surrounding Zieti.
This footage comes from a night (ca. 1999) at Chez Rose, a maquis on the road to Bassam where Zieti set up our little amps and a couple microphones to perform original songs to the unsuspecting patrons and passersby.
Much of the early camerawork is done by Aime, who can also be seen driving back to Port Bouet towards the end of the clip. Aime is a master mechanic and long-haul driver (who never blinks!), and would take care of things for Zieti whenever an experienced hand was necessary to navigate Abidjan’s many ins-and-outs.
The lovely young woman featured throughout is Laurent’s girlfriend, who demonstrates an expert mapouka onstage after the show. The song is entitled “SIDA,” and the nightclub setting works well with its theme of avoiding HIV/AIDS by wearing a condom and not acting like dogs mating in the streets (hence the dog image).
As on the album, Laurent ends the song by presenting a common conspiracy theory of why AIDs doesn’t really exist (multinational corporate greed), but then saying even if you truly hold that point of view, why not protect yourself anyway? Indeed.
This video is set to the title track of Zieti’s debut album, “Zemelewa.” The footage was all shot in 1999, starting with a typical night on the beach at Vridi Plage during which Laurent provides a tongue-in-cheek intro to a little a capella harmonizing (not shown). That intro was sampled and now introduces the first track on the album.
From there the scene shifts to walking from Narcisse and Laurent’s house by the tracks, through their gloglo (shantytown) to a lunch spot by the beach for some of the area’s best sauce arachide (peanut sauce).
After lunch the band travels to Alex’s house and small rehearsal space in Deux Plateaux for some music and a little fun harvesting his grapefruits. All in all a typical day in the life of Zieti.
Spoke with Narcisse on the phone today. He was in the middle of rehearsal with his reggae band for a show on Saturday at the Festival des Arts de la rue de Grand Bassam.
Life in Abidjan seems to be slowly getting back to some sort of normal, and Narcisse’s spirits were better than they’ve been lately. The fact that there is a festival this weekend is a very good sign.
We agreed that our top priority right now is to make contact with Laurent, who is living off the grid out West near Liberia. This will involve calling a friend in Djuekoue, who will send a runner to Laurent if the situation is calm enough. Abidjan is slowly stabilizing, but around Djuekoue there are still scores being settled. Mobility is sketchy at times. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect in the next few weeks without anyone getting hurt.
This video was taken one night in 1999 at the little bar/maquis right next door to Narcisse and Laurent’s old home, on the railroad tracks in Port-Bouet. Some friends had lent me their camcorder, and I was messing around with Laurent and his girl. Egged on by the cameraman, Laurent offers her compliments and boasts, but is playfully rebuffed.
As on the album, audio from this footage segues into the song “Tche,” which continues the theme of love and relationships.