It’s something that will probably be lost to time and forgotten about entirely, but one of the most disappointing things about this World Cup is that so many African stars, given the first chance to represent their nations in their own continent on the world’s biggest stage, never got the opportunity. Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o can count himself very lucky that he made it to the tournament fully fit, because it seems like he was the only one – Michael Essein and John Obi Mikel both missed out entirely through injury, Benni McCarthy wasn’t even picked to play, Sully Muntari seemed to be out of favour with his manager, and Dider Drogba – the man Ivory Coast’s hopes rested on, broke his arm. He eventually played a part in every game of their campaign while wearing a cast, but he was off the pace and understandably shirked a few challenges; it – along with Luis Suarez’s Hand of God II: Electric Boogaloo – was the most immediate symbol of the rotten luck Africa had throughout. Many felt that Ivory Coast would qualify from their group with relative ease, so uninspiring were rivals Portugal in qualifying for the tournament, but Drogba’s arm, and the subsequent loss of momentum it brought (and North Korea’s incompetence against Portugal, in fairness), stopped them from getting the results they needed. Drogba – a hero right across Africa – should have been one of the tournament’s stars. Instead, he barely got out of first gear. Côte d’Ivoire’s loss was also the tournament’s loss, because – at least in terms of media profile – there was simply nobody who could fill his shoes.
An oddly muted World Cup appearance for Côte d’Ivoire is matched by their oddly muted domestic music scene, which has often been seen as being at the mercy of the bordering country. That fear – particularly worries about the influence of the Democratic Republic of Congo – was a driving force for the country’s most important musical figure, Ernesto Djédjé. In seeking to preserve the native music of the country, he focused on the the rhythms of his parents and teachers (all of whom came from different tribes) and blended them together into a genre he pioneered, called ziglibithy. Fans of Vampire Weekend might want to pay attention to his guitar tone.
It was from Djédjé’s platform that Ivorian popular music grew; and as with many other African nations (including Ghana), it grew largely by blending itself with other genres. There are several examples (with both zoblazo and coupé-décalé both finding success by moving it into more typical dance territory), but the most popular and most notable have been the mergers with other genres traditionally associated with the African diaspora – highlife, soul, and in the two examples below, reggae and hip-hop. Rather fittingly, the Ivorian hip-hop scene has spawned a significant gangsta subculture called Dogba (really!), but the first song below is a more world-weary track more typical of recent trends in Ivorian music like the satirical zouglou. The second track, by Tiken Jah Fakoly, follows in a similarly resigned, political vein – one need look no further than the Ivorian Civil War of 2002 to find a reason for the prevailing mood here (the track dates from 2004’s Coup de gueule).