Drinking & Nightlife
If there is a city in West Africa to party in, it's Abidjan. There are plenty of parties, from ordinary maquis dancing to sleek DJ parties on rooftops. Note that a lot of the nightclub scene caters to wealthy Ivoirians and expats.
Coupé-decalé: Cut & Run
Picture the scene: it's 2002 and you're at the swish l'Atlantic nightclub in Paris. Around you, tight-shirted Ivoirian guys are knocking back Champagne, throwing euros into the air and grinding their hips on the dance floor. The music they're inspired by is coupé-decalé, one of the most important music movements to hit Côte d'Ivoire.
From the French verb couper, meaning to cheat, and decaler, to run away, the term loosely translates as 'cut and run'. It evolved as a comment on the shrewd but stylish Ivoirian and Burkinabé guys – modern-day Robin Hoods, if you like – who fled to France at the height of the conflict in 2002, where they garnered big bucks and sent money home to their families.
Originating from a group of Ivoirian DJs at Atlantis, an African nightclub in northeast Paris, it was characterised by wild displays of cash – some would shower audiences with crisp notes. The late Douk Saga, one of the founders of the movement, was famous for wearing two designer suits to his shows. Halfway through, he'd strip provocatively and throw one into the crowd.
Soon this music genre took off in Côte d'Ivoire, becoming increasingly popular as the conflict raged on. With curfews in place and late-night venues closed, Ivoirians started going dancing in the mornings. The more that normal life was suppressed, the more they wanted to break free from the shackles of war. Coupé-decalé, the who-gives-a-damn dance, allowed them to do exactly that.
Early coupé-decalé was characterised by repetitive vocals set to fast, jerky beats. Lyrics were either superficial, facetious or flippant – 'we don't know where we're going, but we're going anyway', sang DJ Jacab. As the trend has matured, coupé-decalé lyrics have become smarter, more socially aware and dripping with double and even triple entendres. The movement is now a national source of pride and, above all, a comment on Ivoirian society despite years of conflict, misery and fear, Ivoirians have never stopped dancing.
Today's coupé-decalé is cheeky, crazy and upbeat, and to fully appreciate it you should get yourself to an Abidjan dance floor. Tracks to seek out include Bablée's 'Sous Les Cocotiers', Kaysha's 'Faut Couper Decaler', 'Magic Ambiance' by Magic System, DJ Jacab's 'On Sait Pas Ou On Va', 'Guantanamo' by DJ Zidane and Douk Saga's 'Sagacité'. The latter spawned the Drogbacité dance craze, inspired by the footballer Didier Drogba. In 2006 DJ Lewis' hugely popular 'Grippe Aviaire' did for bird flu what early coupé-decalé did for the conflict – it replaced fear with joy.