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Thursday 23 October  
Dobet Gnahoré
Sophie van Leeuwen's picture
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Dobet Gnahoré: I aspire to something better

Published on : 29 July 2011 - 4:49pm | By Sophie van Leeuwen (Photo: Mirjam van den Berg)
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Who is Dobet Gnahoré?

Dobet Gnahoré is an Ivorian singer, dancer and percussionist. She has released three albums: Ano Neko (2004), Na Afriki (2007) and Djekpa la You (2010).

She is the first Ivorian artist who received a Grammy Award (2010) for her song Palea, which was performed by the singer India Arie.

Why have you left the Ivory Coast?

I left in 1999 because I got married to my French guitar player, Coline Laroche de Féline, with whom I worked. I was pregnant and very sick so we went to France. I had very bad malaria and the unborn child was suffering, too.

We wanted to return to Abidjan after the birth. It was a time when we felt that change would come; there was still this beautiful energy for the Ivory Coast which made me want to go back. But politically it was a bad time for the Ivory Coast and it still is today.

I gave birth, I formed beautiful friendships with artists in France, I released three albums. We worked a lot.  I returned each year or every two years to see my family and to perform in concerts ever since.

Are you well-informed about the current situation in your country?

I call my parents every day, especially my mother, and my brothers as well. It's very hard. My mother told me that things are not as they used to be. To go shopping or hanging around for an hour of two is no longer possible. You have to get home very quickly and shut yourself in.

My mother tells me that there are a considerable number of armed men and young people roaming the streets. She saw walls covered with bullet holes. She didn't recognise the country.

You stand to be elected as president of your country. What would be your first priority?

The first thing would be to rapidly rebuild schools. We must send children to school so that Africa can build itself via them. And then I would make sure that there are more jobs.

Luckily, we see that things are already evolving. The internet has a positive influence on the illiteracy rate; people want to evolve and read. Africa wants to evolve. It will be good if the Ivory Coast goes along.

Perhaps in six months things will improve, since apparently the person in power, the current president Alassane Ouattara, seems to be someone confident and also someone who can perhaps bring about good things in terms of education and health.

What makes you smile when you think of Africa?

The smells, the music and the ambience of the country. I think that the African continent has lost lots of wealth. But it keeps something that I can't find elsewhere: the love for life.

I live in the Ardennes in France. When I am there, I think about the smiles of my brothers, or the smells of a house or of another country like Mali. The children who run along the sea, screaming - things like that.

Being an icon yourself, who do you admire?

Many. I am very attracted by the African tribes, the voices of pygmies, the old women who sing in the fields. I also like Miriam Makeba, Angélique Kidjo and Salif Keita, with his voice that is so pure and his simple personality. I have music from everywhere on my iPod when I travel.

Are you satisfied with your career so far?

Yes, I am happy. I hope to be able to go on for a long time and to make more albums. However, there are moments that I'd like to have a more beautiful voice and be a better dancer. I aspire to something better, to be much more than I am now. But well, I cannot change. 

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