Schedule as of Oct 11, 2022 - subject to change

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Wednesday, October 19 • 1:00pm - 1:20pm
The Art of Remixing in Abidjan (Ivory Coast)

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In the cosmopolitan city of Abidjan (Ivory Coast), various music traditions from Western Africa and beyond meet and hybridize with globalized genres such as reggae and hip hop. The music reputation of the city is partly attributed to JBZ Studio directed by French-Ivorian producer Jacques Bizollon from 1981 to 2018. There, internationally renowned reggae artist Alpha Blondy developed his career, and world music stars such as Ghanean Pat Thomas and Malian Les Ambassadeurs with Salif Keita recorded albums that received a lot of success.

Olivier started conducting fieldwork on local music production in March 2020 during the Abidjan Market for Performing Arts (MASA) that curates more than 200 shows of African contemporary creation [1]. Thanks to the network of Éliézer Oubda who directed the sound booth of the Mande stage at the MASA, she could interview a few local studio professionals. She came back in July 2021 to interview and film more professionals. In July 2022, Pras joined her to analyze the creative process of local pop music production as they did together in Bamako (Mali) [2].

In this paper, we describe the profile of 5 studio professionals, namely arrangers/engineers Patché, Charlie Kamikaz, and Lyle Nak; mixing engineer Gabriel; and beatmaker Tupaï. Moreover, we describe 4 production processes filmed in 4 different studios with 2 cameras, one focusing on human interactions, and one on the computer screen. The video data synchronized on the stereo recording of the cabin sound with a ribbon Royer SF12 placed behind the head of the engineer is indexed by McKinnon following the same methods as for the Bamako study [2].

Our collaborative fieldwork shows that the creative process of Ivorian studio professionals is commonly centered on remixing instrumentals that they select from the web or retrieve from their own past productions. For instance, they are likely to record vocals on an old beat and then re-create one that conveys a similar vibe. This process differs from what we observed in Bamako. While Malian arrangers/engineers primarily create versions of national songs from their folklore that they declinate into various genres, Ivorians may as well use samples of famous songs from Ivory Coast, French variétés, and international pop classics. This makes Ivorian productions less foreign to Western ears. Tupaï also explained that he could distinct himself from Western beatmakers with his understanding of complex Ivorian rhythms that are popular among African American rappers.

Our primarily analyses suggest that similarly to Malian arrangers/engineers, Ivorians dedicate most of their studio time to layering and editing MIDI programming and vocal recordings. Also, they keep retouching the arrangement until the very end of the session to emphasize the spirituality of the lyrics and vocal performances, or to overcome mixing challenges. We found that Ivorian studio professionals have access to more equipment and technical knowledge than Malians, so engineers like Gabriel who regularly works for Universal productions is at the control with his mixing tools. Nevertheless, local studio professionals from various generations denounce the lack of theoretical knowledge in acoustics and the need to learn more methods to achieve the sound that they have in mind.

[1] E. Olivier, “Individual Career Paths and Multiple Connections. Portraits of Three Arrangers and Sound Engineers in Abidjan (Ivory Coast)”, 哲學與文化 [Universitas. Philosophy and Culture], vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 41—66 (2022).

[2] A. Pras, K. Turner, T. Bol, and E. Olivier, “Production processes of pop music arrangers in Bamako, Mali”, presented at the 147th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society (2019 Oct.), paper 10296.

avatar for Amandine Pras

Amandine Pras

Lecturer in Sound Recording and Music Production, University of York
Amandine Pras is leading the Master of Art in Music Production and Audio Cultures at the School of Art and Creative Technologies of the University of York, UK. With a background as a sound engineer and music producer in alternative jazz and contemporary musics, she develops funded... Read More →
avatar for Max McKinnon

Max McKinnon

Research Assistant, University of Lethbridge
Max McKinnon is a 5th year Bachelor of the Digital Audio Arts program in the Music Department at The University of Lethbridge. Since Fall 2020, he has indexed and edited video data collected in West African recording studios as a research assistant for Dr. Amandine Pras’ SSHRC-funded... Read More →
avatar for Emmanuelle Olivier

Emmanuelle Olivier

Senior Research Fellow in ethnomusicology, CNRS
Dr. Emmanuelle Olivier is an Ethnomusicologist, Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Scientific Research, and Lecturer at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. Emmanuelle has worked in Mali since 2001 on the creative process of popular music... Read More →

Wednesday October 19, 2022 1:00pm - 1:20pm EDT