Ivorian reggae singers bury rivalry for "peace" tour

Tue Nov 6, 2012 12:13pm EST
 
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By Joe Bavier and Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - As darkness falls over Ivory Coast's lagoon-side commercial capital a steady thumping cuts through the tropical night.

But where once the thud of heavy weapons set the Abidjan's residents scrambling indoors for cover, tonight it is a reggae bass line that draws them out.

Here, little over a year ago, supporters of then-president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara were fighting a brief post-election civil war, the final deadly showdown of a decade-long political crisis.

After years teetering precariously between war and peace, the flames of division, xenophopia and anger - fanned in no small degree by some of the country's most famous musicians - exploded into a conflict in which more than 3,000 people died.

One of Ivory Coast's leading reggae artists, Serge Kassy, even rose to become a leader and organizer of Gbagbo's Young Patriots street militia - a group accused of numerous atrocities during the war. Kassy is now in exile.

"When I looked at the musical scene in Ivory Coast, I realized that we ourselves went too far," said Asalfo Traore of the zouglou band Magic System, one of the few groups that refused to take sides during the crisis years.

"It was when everything was ruined that we wanted to glue the pieces back together. But it was too late."

Now, long-divided musicians are once again coming together, hoping to use their influence, so destructive for so long, to help Ivory Coast heal its deep wounds, and the country's leading rival reggae artists are showing the way.   Continued...

 
Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy performs during his concert in Abidjan November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon