In Abidjan, Femua takes music back to the center of the village –

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RFI Discoveries Prize 2020, Young Ace Wayé on the Femua Stage, September 2021 © RFI / Pierre René-Worms

The musical kickoff for the 13th edition of Femua, a major festival in Africa supported by Magic System, was given this Thursday, September 9 in Abidjan by the Congolese rapper Young Ace Wayé, winner of the RFI Discoveries Prize 2020. To the rhythms of city music on the continent, the concerts were linked for a long part of the night in front of an audience that was anxious to find an atmosphere that it has been deprived of since the beginning of the health crisis caused by Covid-19.

Around the lawn of the stadium where the main stage is set up, the teams are busy putting the finishing touches on the bar numbers and other temporary installations that will transform the site of the National Institute of Youth and Sports for three nights in a row. Bounded on its northern flank by the lagoon that cuts through the Abidjan metropolis, the site hosts the Urban Music Festival in Anoumabo, one of the administrative “villages” of the municipality of Marcory, itself part of the Ivorian economic capital.

The arrangement of the 2021 edition of the event reflects the determination of the one we give with a certain reverence from “Mr. Commissioner General”. A’Salfo, the leader of the Magic System, is obviously not a man to give up. On two occasions, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he had to refrain from rejecting this demonstration that is so dear to him.

As soon as he saw the opportunity to organize it, he rushed forward. Put everything in place in a few weeks? Bride! The experience from this area since 2008 is certainly not related to this, and most artists who were planned last year quickly made it known that they were always ready to fulfill their commitment.

Premiere of Young Ace Wayé

Among other things, a new name was added to this list: Young Ace Wayé. Characterized by the RFI Discovery Prize in December 2020, the Congolese almost thirty something has left its mark on the Ivory Coast. Two days after starting his African tour at the French Institute in Abidjan, he is responsible for opening Femua, while the rain suddenly appears. But the gods of music know how to blow on the clouds to chase them away, without getting the spectators in droves.

Ever since he discovered playing with instrumentalists when he performed at home at the Ici c’est l’Afrik festival and immediately “fell in love with live music”, he swears the Congolese rapper to abandon when he has the opportunity, the formula for the live DJ yet in the DNA of hip hop.

Together with a guitarist, a beatboxer-chorister and a third assistant to the machines, he offers a rearranged preview of his new title Soulard, a version of a classic by his compatriot Zao. “I wanted to pay tribute to the Congolese winner of the Découvertes Prize (1982, editor’s note), and also give a facelift to this song to create a bridge, that it simultaneously speaks to our elders and to the young generation,” he explains. Young Ace, who therefore added some drink names to the lyrics that were not there at the time of the original.

“It was the need to express myself that made me make music. Before that, I did a little drawing, a little theater, ”he explains. His older brothers were already raping in Burkina Faso, where the family had left to live between 1997 and 2003 to follow the father affected by the UN. Between the zouk that his mother is crazy about and the American r’n’b he hears during this period, as well as French hip-hop artists like Kool Shen (NTM), Booba or Rohff, the young boy forged in this period is a musical culture that serves as a basis.

From Joël Sebunjo to Ariel Sheney

After a set of 45 minutes in front of the Ivorian youth, Young Ace leaves the baton to Joël Sebunjo. Uganda, who had previously been invited to Femua, came without the chorus he has distinguished himself with over the past decade and which he had learned during long stays in West Africa after listening to Malian Toumani Diabaté. On the other hand, he brought with him an endongo, a traditional cardophone from the part of the continent where he comes from and which seems to be related to the Koran. His voice weaknesses do not prevent him from benefiting from public support thanks to the energy he and his band radiate.

But the audience moved mostly for the evening’s two headlines. First Ariel Sheney, in the offbeat coupe category. From the first seconds, he announces the color with a text that appears in the introduction to his latest play Etessé: “I am the country’s musical lion. I decide when to dance and when to sing. I’m not God but I’m the master of the musical destiny of the Côte-. Take it or … take it ”. Surrounded by half a dozen dancers and as many musicians or singers, this former protégé DJ Arafat puts on a show with a repertoire that often flirts with variety, while the rain begins again.

Soaking the bone makes a few hundred dead not to give up. When Soum Bill takes the stage, long after three o’clock, the bodies are always ready to be drawn in, some solo, others in collective choreographies. The reference singer, who celebrated his twenty-five-year career in 2019, has managed to keep the recipe for zouglou over time and give it back its flavors from the first days.

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