Connect with UPR:
Music Reviews
12:37 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Zieti: Music As An Act Of Resistance

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 9:24 am

From its start in the late '90s, Zieti faced tough odds. Arranging gigs in Abidjan, Ivory Coast was a high-risk, do-it-yourself affair for the band. And that was before the country underwent a military coup, a rigged election and a brush with civil war. Zemelewa was recorded by 15 musicians in four studios on two continents. For all that, you can sense the band's solidarity, as if merely making this record was an act of resistance.

The mix of African tradition and American R&B is nothing new in West African music. But Zieti, a band with both African and American members, comes up with some novel twists, like folksy accordion and bluesy organ swells. On the slow, steamy "Bah Bohi," the band puts a village spin on a '60s soul vibe.

Zieti creates quirky, unpredictable sonic hybrids, with a spirit of experimentation that recalls the exuberant African pop of the '70s. But this is no nostalgia act. The band avoids formulas and writes songs that address contemporary themes — political corruption, the struggle for national unity in Ivory Coast and the ever looming threat of AIDS.

Over a decade in the making, Zemelewa is a solid debut for a band with stamina, grit and the musicality to breathe new life into retro sounds.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is music by a band called Zieti. It's two American musicians, along with three from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, or as they would say, they're the nation of Cote d'Ivoire. Zieti has been playing together since the late 1990s. But their CD debut was held back by a military coup and two civil wars. Now, their recording is finally out, and our reviewer Banning Eyre says it was worth the wait.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: From the start, this band faced tough odds. Arranging gigs in Abidjan was a high-risk, do-it-yourself affair. And that was before the country underwent a coup, a rigged election and civil war. This CD was recorded by 15 musicians in four studios on two continents. For all that, you can sense the core band's solidarity, as if merely making this record was an act of resistance.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: The mix of African tradition and American R&B is nothing new in West African music. But Zieti comes up with some novel twists, like folksy accordion and bluesy organ swells. On the slow, steamy "Bah Bohi," the band puts a village spin on a '60s soul vibe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAH BOHI")

EYRE: Zieti creates quirky, unpredictable sonic hybrids, with a spirit of experimentation that recalls the exuberant pop of the 1970s. But this is no nostalgia act. The band avoids formulas and writes songs that address contemporary themes: political corruption, the struggle for national unity in Cote d'Ivoire and the ever looming threat of AIDS.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: Over a decade in the making, "Zemelewa" is a solid debut for a band with stamina, grit and the musicality to breathe new life into retro sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Zemelewa" by Zieti.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related Program