More Music from the Heart of DC

This is just getting more interesting and fun and exciting and crazy day-by-day. More gear donations from Washington DC’s musical community have been coming in as we piece together a live sound system and backline for the Zieti family in Abidjan.

Sam “Seguito” Turner (Rumba Club, and a litany of jazz and latin legends) offered 3 high quality microphones in a carrying case w/ cables and stand, plus a Gretsch shell-pack with snare that is going to be the most unique drumkit in the city once the ferriers and modern-day blacksmiths of Abidjan’s metal markets work their magic on it.

Mark Gilbert (Chopteeth) unearthed from his wild and woolly basement a killer Yahama stereo-receiver and Sony 5 CD player, along with a second desk stereo unit. Victor Crisen (Chopteeth) added another desktop stereo with speakers, in addition to donating gear for the last shipment and a little cash as well. Feeling the love from the Chopteeth family for sure!

This got me thinking that the Zieti guys are going to need some CDs to play on these stereos, so I’ve begun burning discs of all kinds of different music, none of which is readily available on the Ivoirian market (old African re-issues & funky sounds from all over the globe). If nothing else, our Abidjan joint will have the most unique jukebox in town!

And then, just when it didn’t sound like things could get cooler, Craig Considine (Chopteeth/Rumba Club/All Mighty Senators/Boister/etc.) brought a beautiful trombone to the Zieti party! The case alone is excellent, and I can say with some certainty that the horn it contains will be one of the nicest trombones in the city. That makes the Zieti horn section clarinet and trombone so far. Perfect.

Many thanks to everyone who has donated gear. With the few bits and pieces that have been offered but not yet picked-up, plus a little pawn-shopping to round things out, we are all set and ready to make excellent things happen for roots musicians in Abidjan. Roots to roots…always the best route!

DC Musicians Got Mad Heart!

Another round of musical gear is scheduled to ship out from Washington DC to Narcisse and the Zieti family in Abidjan later this month. Infinite thanks once again to Zieti’s great friend Cherif for the container space! We decided to focus our efforts this time on outfitting the band with all the necessary pieces to equip a modest live music joint, probably in Zieti’s old stomping ground of Port Bouet near Abidjan’s airport.

So a few days ago we sent out an appeal to DC area musicians to see if they had any old gear they no longer needed and would be willing to donate to the cause. The response has been amazing!

In just the last two days we’ve received two 1200W power amps, a splitter and an equalizer, a 16-channel snake, 2 12″ PA speakers and a wedge monitor, beaucoup cables for speakers/mics/instruments, a 5-string bass, two massive old bass amps, a beautiful guitar cabinet and a smaller combo amp, an extra snare drum, two acoustic guitars and an electric, and even the one thing that Narcisse had on his wishlist, a wireless vocal mic. Many sincere and heartfelt thanks to Frank Marchand at Airshow Studios, Justine Miller of Chopteeth & Ronnie Newmyer of Bandhouse Gigs/The Soul Crackers for their crazy generous spirit.

We’ve also had offers of a 16-channel Mackie mixer, mic stands, a trombone, two stereos and an accordion, while other folks have offered to rummage in their garages and basements and attics for whatever else they can spare.

We are truly appreciative and overjoyed at this wonderful outpouring of support, and look forward very much to sharing the sights and sounds that everyone’s generosity will help create in Abidjan.

Merci mille-fois a tous!

Front Yard Zouglou

Zouglou is one of the most popular Ivoirian music styles to emerge in the 90s. While it has been supplanted in Abidjan’s clubs and airwaves more recently by DJ-centered coupe decale music, zouglou will always be a part of the Ivoirian musical landscape.

It was a style created by students at Abidjan’s universities, singing to a djembe/percussion accompaniment to animate parties and rallies for social change. The message is usually either humorous or political, often both. To reach the largest audience in Abidjan, however, the djembe and percussion origins of zouglou became the sythesizer and drum machine, and the parties and rallies became cassettes and playback shows (lip-synced performances). This is the same basic trajectory of almost all Ivoirian music as it goes from the artist’s head to market.

The video above is the best example we could find on the web of where zouglou is coming from (many thanks to papsonmagic for the post). It’s focussed on the dancers (who are pretty excellent), but the musicians are what caught my ear. This is 9 minutes of just getting down inna old-school, roots zouglou stylee. Enjoy.

Support Live Music in Abidjan!

Zieti’s debut CD “Zemelewa” isn’t scheduled for official release until March 2012, but you can help support the band and directly foster live music in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, by clicking on the “Donate” button on the right side of this page and making a secure donation to the Zieti Instrument Fund. 100% of your donation will go toward acquiring and shipping instruments and live sound equipment to Zieti band members in Abidjan.

Musical instruments are extremely expensive and hard to come by in Abidjan. If you’re poor, they are simply out-of-reach. To put on a live show in Abidjan means also renting a PA system that is decrepit, massively expensive or both. This is one of the main reasons that live music has been overshadowed by MIDI production and lip-synching in Abidjan over the last 20-30 years. A sad state of affairs that Zieti is doing our best to counter through these shipments.

Our first batch of instruments arrived in Abidjan last month, and now Narcisse is equipped with a decent drumkit, several guitars, a small, dual-powered mixer, wedge monitors and assorted mics, stands, cables, strings, a lovely cajon and even a clarinet! Narcisse has installed everything in a small rehearsal space for Zieti, which he will also rent out to local bands for a nominal fee.

Our next shipment will include a heftier PA system, along with bass and guitar amps, to enable Zieti to be fully self-sufficient in rehearsing and performing live music on a modest scale. I can’t impress enough how radical of an opportunity this provides for the roots musicians of Abidjan. Fresh sounding, excellent music will pour forth! With your support, we hope to get our next shipment to Narcisse in Spring of 2012.

So please consider a donation to the Zieti Instrument Fund, and enjoy the music!

Thank You for Visiting!

Those of you who received my email blast, many thanks for your indulgence! I won’t make a habit of it.

Many thanks also for peeping this blog, where you can learn way more than you need to know about making music in Abidjan and particularly about this unlikely band of brothers called Zieti.

Check out the Music & Lyrics page for song samples.

You rock.


A Taxi Full of Rhythm

Eh dja!


Our first shipment of gear making its way from the port to Narcisse’s home in Abidjan last month.


Time to upgrade the camera situation over there…




A room of one’s own

Narcisse has rented a space a few minute’s walk from his home in the new quartier of Moussakro, on the road to Abidjan’s airport. He’s sending photos, but described it as roughly 4 meters by 3.5 meters  (~13′ x 11′), with cinder-block walls and a stout metal door and window in the front, like a petit magazin. It’s one of three units, and the only one to be rented so far. This will be the new Zieti headquarters in Abidjan.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

CDs in Production!


Check out the album cover for “Zemelewa” (at left). Roots vibe! We think this cover captures the creative spirit of Zieti perfectly. Nothing but a stool, a guitar, a notebook and a pen. No meat dress required.

The photo is of Laurent composing songs at home in his yard a few years back. Here’s hoping we hear from Laurent very soon, and that he can rejoin Narcisse in Abidjan when the time is right.

Always a joy to work with David Font-Navarette on design. Look out for a revamped website designed by David coming to an inbox near you very soon.

Meanwhile, we’re printing our first run of CDs and working with world music promoter FlipswitchPR on a national media campaign, culminating in a late-February official release. Stay tuned for more on that, and a chance to get your pre-release copy of the CD.

House Hunters International – Moussakro

Tomorrow, Narcisse will head to his local Western Union kiosk in Abidjan to pick up enough cash to pay 3 months’ advance and 2 months’ security deposit on a rented room in his neighborhood. This will become Zieti’s new rehearsal spot, as well as a way to put some food on their tables by renting the space to other bands. It’ll undoubtedly also become an instant hub for the musical community in Narcisse’s area, the Zieti extended family. Reports of Narcisse’s progress on this (and photos) coming soon…

Meanwhile, Narcisse was finally able to listen to the full CD, and safe to say that he is psyched.  He seemed most happy with the way the music stays true to its original spirit, but also takes on these other colors and textures so seamlessly. He said that he and Laurent always intended their music to travel and reach a wider audience, and he was extremely gratified to hear it finally making that journey. The trans-atlantic collaboration seems to have worked for Narcisse, and he suggested that it’s a winning formula for future albums: “Laurent and I provide the vocals and melodies, and you dress them up.” That sounds good to us, but it’d be better if we were all in the same room when we did it…

[Sadly, Narcisse doesn’t have a CD player, so he has to take the album to a friend’s house to listen. We’ll have to rectify that in our next shipment!]

Things Fall into Place

Just got off the phone to Narcisse. He hasn’t had a chance to listen to the album yet, but at long last every remaining piece of equipment or otherwise that we shipped in August is now in his possession! Many thanks again to Cherif for navigating all aspects of this shipment!


Mon frere Cherif, tu es un vrais ami et guerrier!

Once Narcisse has had a chance to sift through and settle in with all this newness, we’ll check back with his reaction to the music and a report on progress toward setting up that rehearsal space.

On fait comme ca…