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Ivory Coast, 2012
I had an epiphany recently in Dubai after serendipitously wandering into the wrong club. This was The Garage, an “African” club, which friends assumed was an Ethiopian venue.
Turns out it was an “Ivory Coast Night” at the club. I had previously only heard Ivory Coast pop, never club music. Yet the distinct beat was instantly recognizable. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life, musically-speaking, mainly because it’s very unlikely that I would ever hear this playlist outside of Youtube –let alone in a club where myself and company of five were the only non-Ivorians. There were Cadillacs on the dance floor and multiple LED screens playing Ivorian videos, I was in heaven! DJ Arafat (also known as Commandant Baracuda) and his track, “Kpankaka,” is a fitting example of the frenetic rhythym of the country’s dance genre, Coupé-Décalé. Coupé-Décalé, according to Wikipedia, “is a type of popular dance music originating from Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivorian diaspora in Paris, France. Drawing heavily from Zouglou, Zouk, Coupé-Décalé is a very percussive style featuring African samples, deep bass, and repetitive, minimalist arrangements.” Sounds about right. DJ Arafat is one of Ivory Coast’s famed Coupé-Décalé acts, I had heard of him prior to entering The Garage. His hair style(s) featuring peroxide blonde elements are also legendary. In the video, we see DJ Arafat & friends enveloped in HD clouds donning mainstream male urban gear: caps, bombers, denim jackets, beanies, an Iron Maiden tee, big chunky necklaces, doing what I’ll call a “breaking the ground” dance, faithfully illustrated in shattering earth visuals. The music is hypnotic in an unrelenting and aggressive manner and is, in other words, unforgettable.
Wait though, can I just say that “DJ Arafat” is a crazy name choice! Now we just have to wait for DJ Netanyahu (or DJ Peres) to appear and balance things out in Abidjan, obviously.
Lastly, will the shattering dance feasibly enter the global mainstream? Let’s pray.