Coupé Décalé is a genre of popular music written and performed by people from the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire. It is popular throughout West Africa, especially in the country’s neighboring Francophone nations and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The genre’s name literally means “to cut and run away.” This name has been interpreted as a political response to French colonists, who essentially came in to countries like Côte d’Ivoire, took their resources and ran away when they encountered problems. It also can be viewed as a critique of modern society, with the primary aim of going against the grain of what is seen as acceptable by “society.”
It began in 2002, when Ivorian DJs at the Atlantic, an African nightclub in Paris, started playing dance music. They started becoming popular after handing out wads of cash to the audience to gain a steady following. The primary group involved in these practices was Jet Set, a group of DJs who charmed the crowd with their outrageous acts.
One of the key members of Jet Set was Douk Saga, who released the first hit Coupé Décalé track “Sagacite” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwBJ8_V0_TE) in 2002. This song basically set up the genre and described what it was about: having fun and dancing. However, the genre also serves political aims.
The year of the song’s conception was also the year that civil war broke out in the country. This led many people to look to the music as both a form of escapism and a means of expressing their political opinions.
Coupé-Décalé provides a political voice for the seemingly voiceless people of the Ivory Coast. It provides a medium for them to express their confusion and frustration with local, national and global politics in a less formal manner than starting demonstrations or other acts of rebellion. The genre allows them to make light of their own struggles and escape from the stresses of civil war.