Côte Ivoire used to be known as a magnet for recording artists from all over West Africa. Many came to use the modern studios in the capital Abidjan, but ironically, the country has never produced much in the way of distinctively local vibes, apart from reggae stars Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. These days it's the vicious and ongoing north/south conflict that garners most headlines. The present situation arose as a result of a coup in 1999 the same year that 23-year-old singer and songwriter Dobet Gnahoré left her homeland and settled in Marseille. She has been based there ever since.
The thriving multi-cultural music scene of that vibrant French port city provided her with opportunities that were no longer on offer back home, but she has not forgotten her roots. She may not have felt safe enough to go back to Côte Ivoire itself yet, but she has performed in many of the African countries she draws inspiration from in her music, visiting Congo, Gabon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea on a recent tour.
She¹s also keen to stress the importance of her training back home with the Pan African Ki-Yi Mbock company, based in an 'artist village' near Abidjan. There she was taught to take a multi-faceted approach to music, which incorporated song, dance, percussion and theatre. To this day, she sings in seven African languages as well as French, defining her approach as 'defiantly diverse, musically and linguistically'.
Her band includes French and Tunisian members as well as her master percussionist father Boni Ngahoré, so the title of her 2004 debut Ano Neko ('let's create together') seems to fit. Apart from the sounds of Côte Ivoire's Bété and Baoulé cultures, you can also hear echoes of Cameroonian bikutsi, Congolese and East African rumba and Manding music plus, of course, reggae in her original songs. Her socially conscious lyrics deal with subjects such as the AIDS pandemic, the importance of family, village life and remembering your roots.
Onstage, Dobet is a vivacious bundle of energy, blessed with a powerful voice and infectious charisma. She wears sumptuous Afro-chic outfits, and her hair extensions toss as she swaps a flute for a thumb piano, a shaker or just a pair of dancing shoes.
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My husband and I saw her in Berkeley, fall 2006, playing in the "Acoustic Africa" show that toured the U.S. She instantly captivated us. Her voice is unbelievably resonant and soulful, striking a deep universal chord. We loved her on-stage dance and percussion. I can't wait to see her again.
Marc Toureille, Williamstown, MA. USA
Je l'ai vue pour la premiere fois a Troy, N.Y le 19 Novembre, 2006 lors du dernier concert de la tournee Acoustic Africa. Elle possede une formidable presence sur scene. Des le debut j'ai ete fascine par sa voix qui roule sans effort avec assurance et majeste. Mais quand elle s'est mise a danser, ce fut autre chose d,encore plus beau et energique. Elle a un grand futur devant elle et j'espere pouvoir la revoir bientot.
Just saw her live in Santa Cruz, and she is an incredibly dynamic performer, with tons of charisma! Beautiful singer, and exciting dancer, she is amazing to see! Wish her well in her career!
Bruce - Seattle
I just met her at an in-studio recording session at KEXP, and saw her performance the next night with Habib Koite at Jazz Alley (15 Oct 06), where they launched the North American leg of the Putumayo Acoustic Africa tour. She is an extraordinary, multi-faceted talent. Watch for her (and her guitarist/collaborator/husband Colin) along with Habib and Vusi, if they come to a city near you. If you aren't so fortunate, then seek out a copy of Ano Neko. Wonderful.
Karen - Kirkland WA, USA
My partner and I saw her Oct. 14, 2006 with Habib Koite and the Putumayo Acoustic Africa tour, and we were blown away. She is incredible. Do not miss any opportunity to see her live. Her recorded music does not convey her amazing stage persona.
Christian - Thonon-les-Bains - France
I just saw Dobet 3 hours yesterday (October 2006, 7th) at the Geneva Accoustic Africa concert. She is a brilliant performer, singer, dancer, with a magnetic presence. She starts a cappella the and, Lord, she really takes you by the guts. Her husband Colin plays a beautiful african style(s) accoustic guitar and I really appreciates his music too. Trust me, if you get a chance to see and hear them, you will be happier after.
Des and gina ireland
saw Dobet at Andernos Jazz festival and she was spectacular and wonderful! Will buy her CDs when we can find them!
i saw her here in osnabrueck, germany, last summer - for free! africa festival outside! - and she was definitely my favourite. now i'm happy to see her on the world music nominee's list as a newcomer. dobet gnahoré's music and performance is bursting with life, and it's a real pleasure to see her live.
Aki Baihaki, Singapore
I heard one of her songs in Putumayo's Women of Africa compilation (Abiani) and the minute I heard her voice, I was astounded. I then decided to bought her album "Ano Neko" and I was even more astounded. She has an incredibly strong vocal which is projected in each song in the album. I hope I can see her live in person before I die. Please come to Asia, to our Womad this year in Singapore!
Love her. Sings with passion and peace in her voice. Have only heard "Kakuo" from Music From the Chocolate Lands though. Wish I knew what she was singing about!
Rob - North Wales
Saw her at Africa Oye in Liverpool. She is brilliant. Listened to her album continuously for 6 weeks until WOMAD and frequently revisit.
I saw her in The Netherlands and she is just great! That is all I can say.