Out of the turmoil of the Ivory Coast, emerges this incredible voice: comparable in range and power to Angelique Kidjo. Effortlessly skipping between languages and African musical influences, Dobet brings to mind the great Miriam Makeba. How can someone generate such comparisons after only releasing one LP? Welcome to the world of Dobet GnahorÈ.
Having excited interest with the sublime ‘Abiani’ on Putumayo’s Women of Africa, her debut Ano Neke (Let’s Create Together) on Contre-Jour lets that wonderful voice shine on a diverse range of tracks.
Dobet comes from a musical family but it was dance and not singing that was her first vocation, one she explored in public with her father’s troupe. A meeting with French guitarist, Colin Laroche de FÈline, who was exploring African music led to her travelling to France during some of the worst times in recent Ivorian history.
Perhaps while in the crucible of African music that is Paris, she acquired the skills and diversity to explore much further than her own musical heritage and transform her dance and theatrical skills into what is reputed to be a dynamic stage presence.
Belgian label Contre-Jour picked her up and released her album, which was partly recorded in Abidjan with the help of Marcellin YacÈ (who was tragically killed in rioting) and two years later the rest of the album was recorded in Belgium.
The band is a simple but powerful combination of voice, backing vocals, guitar and a range of percussion including sanza, balafon, calebasse and bongos. The production has a mercifully light touch, allowing the powerful acoustic textures to emerge.
There isn’t a duff track on the album but up there with ‘Abiani’ must be ‘Kakou’. On this song, the interplay between Dobet’s alternately powerful and gently husky voice singing in her native BÈtÈ tongue, improvised flute, a simple but compelling guitar riff and the backing vocals makes this an instant classic.
What a debut! Dobet looks like becoming one of the big names on the scene.
Tracks: Intro PygmÈ / YounÈ / Kakou (Je Meurs) [en BÈtÈ] / Weli / NsielÈ (Fatigue) [en BÈtÈ] / Warabo / Nan (Maman) [en MalinkÈ] / Sida / Atho / MindilÈ (La Vie Est Belle) / NotÈfi / Nadodo / Flute (Intro) / BÈtÈ Djili (Esprits BÈtÈs) / Abiani / Amonbolo