This report brings you scenes from around Abidjan for a change of pace and to give context to the festival experience, taken on this trip and a previous one. Abidjan has a striking visual presence molded by the Ebrié Lagoon, not unlike how water defines New York City. Plateau, the city center, sits on a peninsula accessed via bridge and ferry by many commuters. With colorful outlying neighborhoods, Plateau has a vertical compressed dynamic energy,
The Grand Hotel where I am staying in Plateau is an easy walk across the General de Gaulle bridge, or a $3 cab ride to the Palais de la Culture grounds where MASA’s activities are. I, and others I have spoken with, find Abidjan to be rebounding spectacularly from the civil war. My last visit here when the country was filled with uncertainty after disputed elections and the coup attempt (former president Laurent Gbagbo’s trial is just beginning in the Hague). Drummer Abou Diarrasouba, on tour with the Awa Sangho band, who hasn’t been back to his home town in seven years, agreed. The change is remarkable, security is good and people are enjoying life again, he observed.
And that is great news for local musicians. Music is back in the maquis (open-air restaurants), street parties, and in clubs like Champions, Parker Place and Le Pams, where African reggae, zouglou and coupe decale artists can be found performing nightly. Brisk development is also transforming the skyline. Recently opened hotels include the Radisson Blue, Onomo near the airport, and the Azalai on the Boulevard Giscard d’Estaing. Also, visitors should seek out a good local maquis like Chez Ambrose, in a parking lot in Marcory, but one of the best in Abidjan; or the Sole Plus in Treichville to enjoy attiéké with grilled fish or chicken.