Saturday, September 1, 2007

In Review---Dobet Gnahore (Ivory Coast)

Dobet Gnahore
Na Afriki

At the age of 12, vocalist-composer-dancer-percussionist Dobet Gnahorè told her father that she would not be attending school any longer, but instead would pursue a career in music. At the time of her declamation Gnahorè lived in an arts cooperative-village co-founded by her musician father in the capitol city of the Ivory Coast. And now at the age of 24, Gnahorè appears to be taking the musical world by storm.

She draws comparisons to Zap Mama's Marie Daulne for instance--another trailblazer. Her pan-African-multidisciplinary approach, which includes dynamo drumming, turbulent dancing, and vocals that set souls on fire, certainly places her on the same pedestal as Angelique Kidjo and Miriam Makeba, two other performers in which Gnahorè draws comparisons.

Her second recording, Na Afriki (not to be confused with Habib Koite's Afriki, out later this month), hops and skips around the African continent. Sometimes, she drops down onto West African soil, and other times, she's exploring Congolese rhythms. She sings in several African dialects, which might not mean anything to the average listener until they consider a person who sings in several European languages, with confidence. Although Gnahorè is not a griot, she offers socio-political messages in her songs. Similar to her West African compatriots, Oumou Sangare, Rokia Traore, and Dieneba Seck of Mali, Gnahorè does not shy away from feminist sentiments, which is strange since many women of her generation do.

Packed with gusto, she speaks out against polygamy--why can't a husband treat his wife like a queen rather than possess a concubine that takes care of all his needs, she asks (Polygamy). In the song Massacre, she warns to stop the massacre in Africa or expect the African people to liberate themselves in one way or another. She sings to protect women's and children's rights, but she can also turn out a sweet love song, My Breath, no doubt for her French guitarist husband, Colin Laroche de Fèline.

Perhaps, Gnahorè like Kaushiki (India), and Lura (Portugal), are from that wave of Indigo Children people keep mentioning. I don't know if I believe in special children who have come to save the planet, but on the other hand, I have noticed an upcoming generation of performers that are versed in multiculturalism, possess exceptional musical chops, and stop us in our tracks to make us reassess our values. This is never a bad thing. Yes, listen to the words of the elders, but also acknowledge the messages that the youth are sending out.

Some journalists are calling Gnahorè a future musical star. Forget the future, this performer is the NOW-- poised to make us stop and think, as we stand on the crossroads of this planet's future. She is more than the next Afro-pop sensation, and her music simmers a long time after the disc stops playing. She gets you thinking with your heart and your feet, well they might not stop dancing to these pan-African beats.