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The winners of Casa África’s Vis à Vis in the Ivory Coast were Djarabikan’s balafons and Spyrow’s reggae


The balafon and percussion band Djarabikan and the reggae singer Spyrow are the two groups from the Ivory Coast chosen to tour Spanish music festivals this summer, after being proclaimed the winners of Vis à Vis Abidjan. Casa África’s cultural project celebrated its seventh meeting, this time in the Ivory Coast, with the collaboration of the General Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), the Spanish Embassy in the Ivory Coast, the Ivory Coast Ministry of Culture  and MASA (Marché des Arts du Spectacle Africain - the Market for African Performing Arts).

Djarabikan is a group of young musicians who work with traditional percussion instruments from the north of the country including the most traditional Ivory Coast instrument: the balafon [a kind of wooden xylophone]. This group of three balafon players and two percusionists amazed the Spanish producers with a modern reinterpretation of this traditional instrument, including versions of african songs by well-known artists such as Amadou&Mariam and Magic System, creating a very different and surprising sound quality.

Spyrow, the other winner, is a reggae artist who is well-known within the Ivory Coast and has collaborated with some of the country’s greatest writers. In the country of Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, Spanish producers have had the opportunity to see how reggae is still the genre preferred by young people starting out in bands. Spyrow’s performance highlighted their great skill, comparable to any international band. They “gave a flawless performance” in front of the producers.

The Abidjan Vis à Vis was the seventh Professional Meeting between Spanish Cultural Promoters and African musicians. It opened last Monday when a dozen producers arrived in the Ivory Coast, most of them representatives of established Spanish festivals which include African music in their line-ups, such as Pirineos Sur (Huesca), Etnosur (Alcala la Real, Jaén), Al Rumbo (Chipiona), Jazz&Mas (The Canary Islands), La Mar de Músicas (Cartagena), Imagina Funk (Torres, Jaén), Mumes (Tenerife ) and Fuerteventura en Música.

This year’s meeting in Abidjan coincided with the celebration of the MASA Festival, one of the continent’s most important performing arts festivals. This enabled producers not only to discover the Ivory Coast music scene through Vis à Vis, but also to attend a host of African cultural events during four days of intense activity.

This seventh Vis à Vis arrived in the Ivory Coast after having visited Senegal (twice), Cape Verde, Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania, remaining true to the spirit of enabling direct contact between African musicians and Spanish producers and festivals.

The project aims to strengthen the presence of African music on Spanish stages during the summer festivals, and also aims to discover talent which is not yet known in Spain. This latter aim is achieved by going to the country and making a preliminary selection based on an open contest in collaboration with the embassies of Spain in African countries and with the songwriters' associations in each country. Once again, Vis à Vis was supported by the collaboration of the SGAE and by production from Dr.Zhivago.