Zieti’s story begins in 1997 when two American musicians living in Abidjan met up with three Ivoirian musicians living in a beach shanty near the airport. We became fast friends and spent the next two years weaving strong bonds and making music as the band Zieti.
Rehearsals were held several times a week, either in a closet-like space at Alex’s home or under a paillote on the beach where we’d shlep instruments–drum kit, battery powered bass amp, guitars–and hold impromptu public jams, with sardine sandwiches and bags of water to wash it down. Gigs were few, far between and mostly frustrating, with headaches of every conceivable sort arising from the DIY nature of live music in Abidjan.
Both Alex and I had to return to the US in 1999, but with a solid 10-song recording all but completed. We had big plans to come back early the next year and make things happen for the band. But as they say, “The best laid schemes…”
First, the unfinished recording was lost when the Abidjan studio closed abruptly and no backups were made. Then in December of 1999 the country experienced a military coup, and travelling there for a band launch suddenly got a little sketchy. In the intervening years babies were born on both sides of the pond, jobs and other musical projects grabbed at time and energy, and the members of Zieti were scattered to Maine, Maryland, Montreal, Abidjan and a campement somewhere near the Liberian border. Meanwhile, the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire deepened year to year.
But there has always been something binding our disparate group that endures despite challenging circumstance. Even though it’s been more than a decade since we all last clacked fingers, and months and even a year have sometimes gone by with nary a phone call to connect us, our belief in Zieti’s music and in this friendship has never really waned.
Skip ahead to 2012 and the durability of Zieti’s bond was finally made manifest in a genre-busting debut album entitled “Zemelewa.” Four original members reunited on this trans-continental recording, along with some of the top African and Afro-inspired musicians in the Washington, DC-area. The album garnered some excellent press and brought Zieti’s story and music to countless ears and minds:
Now that Zieti is back on track, we’re heading into 2013 with an ambitious plan to build a music compound in the Ivory Coast, a community space where aspiring musicians have access to instruments and instruction, and where bands can rehearse, record and perform live.
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