Weekend jam: allez Décalé Chrétien!

Nairobi’s Daddy Owen has taken Coupé-Décalé, the Franco-Ivoirian dance craze, to church with his praise song, Kupe De Kalle.

The song is at least six months old, though NPR just picked it up, so it’s been making the Internet rounds a bit more in the last few days. (The NPR article is oddly incomplete in describing the origins of Coupé-Décalé — doesn’t even name the style, which is several years old. For that, read the Wikipedia article.)

This is interesting and unexpected to me for a few reasons.

  • The distance between East and West Africa often seems vast. It is usually cheaper and easier, after all, to fly from Nairobi to London than it is to fly from Nairobi to Abidjan. (Read about some of the shenanigans involved in intra-African flights here.) Thus, talking to some Kenyans, for example, one often feels that people sort of think of West Africa as the bizarro world on the other side of the continent where life is unpleasantly loud and in your face. This song is an example of the digital breakdown of that distance — something that is increasingly common with high speed web connections.
  • There is a mild East African flavor to this version of Coupé-Décalé. It’s hard to describe. It’s not quite as hard-hitting, but a little easier to listen to while kicking back, than those joints from the Jet Set.
  • And Coupé-Décalé is a style that epitomizes raunchiness, ridiculousness and excess — not the genre you’d expect to be mined for church music. (Cue comment from reader revealing that there’s been a gospel Coupé-Décalé movement in the Ivory Coast for the last five years that I don’t know about.)

Check it.

Of course, music has always been one of those things that crossed African divides — borders, languages, politics, religion, great distance — with relative ease. So maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. In any case, this is awesome. Makes me want to go put on some pointy shoes and spit some gibberish raps.

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