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Field notes

1st blog by guest blogger Prof. Dr. D. Iyele Katamu (translated from French)


During our participation in the 2005 conference of the Institute on childhood and youth of the Council for the development of social science research in Africa (CODESRIA), held in Dakar, professor Yacouba Konaté who had given me a copy of his book titled “ALPHA BLONDY: le reggae et l’Afrique noire”, told me jokingly that he had written about Alpha Blondy, so I could – why not – write about Antoine Koffi Olomide.

This suggestion of Professor Yacouba Konate of the University of Abidjan (Cocody) remained a challenge for me I had to be released from. And from time to time, this sentence echoed in my head “you can write about Antoine Koffi Olomide”. It became a personal challenge I had to take, a scientific debt I had to pay. Whence I could leave no stone unturned to respond to this intellectual preoccupation.

Given the many difficulties internationally celebrated stars regularly have to face, I thought it would be useful to try to understand in my own way the realm of thought of Antoine Koffi Olomide. Embarking on such a move was a way to get around these difficulties. I told myself, if Cyndy le Cœur succeeded in singing Koffi, that is to say in singing his work in her own manner and style, why could I not dare to think Antoine Koffi Olomide, through presenting the readers my understanding of the realm of thought of this artist who has left his mark on African music in general and on Congolese music in particular? This is what we try to do in the framework of this on-going research.

The risk of such an act is that at a certain level, at certain points, there will certainly be discrepancy between the real thoughts of the author and our understanding of his thoughts. But what might seem inconvenient could, at a certain level, turn out to be wholesome, in the sense that this act can allow us to understand the different aspects of this thought and the comprehension others, music lovers, have of the internationally renowned Congolese musician’s way of thinking.

To be able to track down what we think the thoughts of Antoine Koffi Olomide are, we count on listening to his various works by setting aside the works that musicians have produced on the albums of Quartier Latin International. So, songs like ‘Coucou’, ‘Pharmacie’, ‘Biblia’… to cite some of them, are excluded of our field of research.

Although the artist has created certain pieces of music before the creation of Quartier Latin International, we find it useful to focus our attention on the works that have been written within this orchestra. It is a matter of choice. But, it is a choice dictated by the abundant music production of Antoine Koffi Olomide, because since the creation of this orchestra until today many albums have been produced: ‘Stephie’, ‘Henriquet’, ‘V12’, ‘Loi’, ‘Attentat’, ‘Monde Arabe’, ‘Boro ezanga kombo’, etc.

By taking such a move, there are a certain number of questions we think of. Why did Antoine Koffi Olomide act like the man with thousand nicknames? What does he look for behind all these nicknames he changes continuously …? In the hypothesis these names have been attributed to him by his fans, who is then hiding behind all these nicknames (‘Rambo du Zaïre’, ‘Petit frère ya Jésus’, ‘Le grand Libanais’, ‘Mokulukulu’, ‘Le grand Mopao’, ‘Mopao’, ‘Mopao mokonzi’, ‘Mopao molakisi’,  ‘Benoît XVI’, ‘Nzete ya mapela’, ‘Nzete moselu’, ‘Nzete ya mbila’,  ‘Songe ya mbeli’, ‘Chocolat chaud’) ? Why does the artist pay such a great attention to love in his songs (‘Stephie’, ‘Rue d’amour’, ‘Elle et moi’, ‘Petite sœur’ , ‘V.I.P’,  ‘Sylvie’, ‘Bye bye’, ‘Alya’, ‘Katagourouma’, ‘Ikia’, ‘L’amour n’existe pas’, etc) ? Why is there a lot of attention for religion in the artist’s works (‘Dieu voit tout’, ‘Tchatcho dit sorcier’, ‘Endrada’, ‘Myriam’, ‘Petit frère ya Jésus’, ‘Grand prêtre mère’, etc.) ? What are the social, political, economical, cultural reflections of Antoine Koffi Olomide? What are the sociological theories Antoine Koffi Olomide refers to in his various songs?

These are so many questions we are interested in, in this research, and to which we try to find answers. However, it is not at all easy to analyze an oeuvre as rich and complex as the one of the man of the 13th of August, who chooses deliberately for a proverbial, parabolic and argotic language. We should empathize with him and his language school in order to know what he wants to say, without the certainty to always understand him well.

Amongst the difficulties waiting for us in this research, we should stress the fact that on certain issues the musician kept the same position from the beginning until the end of his oeuvre, whilst for other issues he adopts different points of view from one day to the next. Should we, after the example of Karl Marx, speak of a juvenile and a mature Antoine Koffi Olomide? Some of his standpoints in the domain of love, religion, the state, to cite only some of them, seem to be contradictory according to the work one refers to.

Where we see contradiction, what would be the cause of this contradiction? Do the later ideas try to correct the previous or do these ideas co-exist? Are certain positions linked to the circumstances he lived in or are they simply the result of the dynamics of the human mind?

Dieudonné Iyeli Katamu

Phone : (+243)812674408

E-mail : iyelikatamu@yahoo.fr

translated by Inge Wagemakers


About Congo Research Network

The Congo Research Network (CRN) is a community of researchers working on DR Congo and its diaspora across the Humanities


One thought on “1st blog by guest blogger Prof. Dr. D. Iyele Katamu (translated from French)

  1. Interesting blog. If I may ‘pile on,’ from one who is not Congolese but African…. even more question. ‘Which’ Koffi Olomide? The brand or the musician, the person? What does Koffi stand for, what statement does he allow people to make about themselves, their lifestyles, the company they keep–to use Wi-Fi parlance–which people they ‘friend’ and ‘fan’ and ‘unlike’? I ask because the sonic is at once a statement and a bridge. Consider Koffi outside the Francophone world, where nobody speaks French, let alone Lingala, yet Loi, Effrakata, and all such are not only danced to, but sung along to as the song plays on the stereo. To what is this a witness? I do recall that in Grad School, I DJ’ed for my ‘global’ friends, most of them American, and as a ‘representative African’ I was called upon to demonstrate how one goes about dancing ‘properly’ to Loi.

    I would offer the same for Alpha Blonde who–along with Lucky Dube–were the two African reggae giants (Youssou Ndor’ comes quite late with his Morgan Heritage collaboration. The question one is left asking is how through the ‘vibe’ these and other musicians communicate a certain lifestyle, identity, and message without even making an iota of sense to those gyrating, nodding, or swinging to their music. The lyrics are not just in the words, but the ‘vibe’–and the visual, of course, both triggering whole new ecologies of lifestyle, identity, and message that might even be antithetical to the true intentions of Koffi.

    Posted by Clapperton Mavhunga | September 18, 2011, 6:22 am

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