Far across the lagoon, people swayed as the music from battery-powered amps and sardine-powered jams drifted over the water...
They were dancing to the beach rehearsal of Zieti, two Americans (guitarist Michael Shereikis and drummer Alex Owre) and two Ivorians (lead singer Yeoue Narcisse and guitarist/vocalist Tiende Laurent) who had unexpectedly become fast friends. By the water near Abidjan’s oceanfront shantytowns or in a tiny rehearsal studio built from shipping crates, the quartet developed an exuberant rapport in skillful, insistent songs.
Now a decade removed from Abidjan's mellow beaches, after years of political turmoil and violence, and despite the players' radically different backgrounds, Zieti has done the impossible: make roots-rich music that sounds utterly fresh and organic. Undulating bass lines, bright vocal harmonies, glittering percussion, wailing organ and accordion, and a vintage vibe winking at the best of 70s Afrofunk, they all come together on ZEMELEWA (Grigri Discs, March 6, 2012) for a refreshing and passionate take on Ivorian tradition and the current state of Afropop.
Despite over a decade of tense civil conflict and violence in Cote d'Ivoire, Zieti has managed to stay connected, and even arrange for studio time for Narcisse and Laurent to record some tracks. WAV files were send to Shereikis in the US, and more tracks began flying back and forth from Maryland to Maine where Owre had settled, as the American side of the project emerged. Shereikis recruited masterful players of everything from sax to slide guitar, including bandmates in Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band and émigré musicians he knew from around DC. Now more lushly arranged, Zemelewa channels the band’s original spirit, first formed on the sand across the ocean long before.
For Zieti though, this project doesn't stop with the long-awaited release of their debut album. The group is now working together to help struggling artists harness their creativity by providing instruments to Ivorian musicians, lack of which is one of the key reasons MIDI production rules the day there. A first shipment of instruments was recently delivered to Narcisse, who has rented a small rehearsal space near his home in Abidjan, a place poised to become a community music hub.
A second shipment has just been sent (February (2012), with enough donated gear to equip a live music spot in Zeiti's old stomping-ground of Port Bouet. “The project we started with the instruments is very important,” Yeoue says, “and that’s what’s going to make the difference. Our work together proves what can be done, no matter how far apart or how different we seem from one another.”
Learn more about Zieti on the band's official website: www.ZIETI.com
View Zieti's online press kit at FlipswitchPR