Is DJ Lewis’s “Stop Ebola” his “Grippe Aviaire” pt. 2?

DJ Lewis recently released a “Stop Ebola” song and video that reminds me of “Grippe Aviaire”, a song he released during the global Bird Flu pandemic some years ago:

As I mentioned in my Cultural Anthropology contribution, “Grippe Aviaire” was more making fun of the disease, with a popular dance mocking the bird’s behavior more than trying to be educational about it. Perhaps that’s principally why Lewis’s attempt at an Ebola awareness song doesn’t sit quite right with me. Sure, there’s a cute no touching dance, but it all seems a little too playful, not really effective in any attempt to sensitize audiences. Plus, with all the fuss made over the role of traditional healers in the initial spread of Ebola, what’s the meaning of the last part of the video?

To be honest, most coupé-décalé artists would be too decadent (in their regularly scheduled programming) for this kind of message to be taken seriously by audiences anyway. Tiken Jah Fakoly summed this view up pretty nicely in an interview with Afropop in 2011, when he was asked about his role as a voice for the oppressed:

Yes, it is very hard. It is not easy but I chose it. I chose to do reggae music so I have to do this. If I didn’t want to, then I should’ve chosen “coupé-décalé” or something (laughs). For me reggae music is a fight, it is a mission so it’s not easy but it is our mission.

DJ Arafat and Soum Bill are two of the artists I have seen make sincerely socially conscious coupé-décalé, and I do believe coupé decalé is political in an “Of mimicry and membership” kind of way. But DJ Lewis kind of comes off as more of an opportunist in this case than anything else. Siddhartha sent over some great insight about the larger context of the genre after visiting Abidjan this year:

The bigger context here on the music side is that coupé-décalé is pretty stale at this point. It’s been around for 10 years now which is a long time for a style that isn’t exactly built on complex messaging. And coupé-décalé is fun but it’s derivative to begin with (of Congolese music and party style in particular). So DJ Lewis is also coasting on past glory here, not just the glory of his (awesome) Grippe Aviaire song, but the glory of the whole genre.

In Abidjan last January I didn’t hear a ton of coupé-décalé. I mean, it was there in the background, and I wasn’t really in the clubs (I did go to a few smaller, “bar-climatisé” spots, but they had mostly Congolese music on, and also some Naija jams) so I didn’t have a full panoramic view, but still, it feels like the genre is long past its prime.

Meanwhile zouglou which has been left for dead on previous occasions is chugging along, probably because it has more to say. But there’s space for a new Ivorian party music to rise up, for sure.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.