Zieti recorded this debut album across an ocean, and in the process created an original style of roots music from the Ivory Coast via Washington, DC. The story begins back in 1997 when two American musicians living in Abidjan met up with three Ivoirian musicians living in a beach shanty near the airport. They became fast friends and spent the next two years weaving strong bonds and making music as the band Zieti.
Rehearsals were held several times a week, either in a closet-like space at the drummer's home or under a paillote on the beach where they brought instruments--drum kit, battery powered bass amp, guitars--and held impromptu public jams. Gigs were few, far between and mostly disastrous, with headaches of every conceivable sort arising from the DIY nature of live music in Abidjan.
The Americans left in 1999 with a solid 10-song recording all but completed, and with big plans to come back early the next year to make things happen for the band. But as they say, "The best laid schemes..."
First, the unfinished recording was cruelly lost when the studio closed abruptly and no backups were made. Then in December of 1999 the country experienced a military coup, and travelling there suddenly became dangerous. In the intervening years babies were born on both sides of the pond, jobs and other musical projects grabbed at time and energy, and the members of Zieti were scattered to Maine, Maryland, Montreal, Abidjan and a campement somewhere near the Liberian border. Meanwhile, the political crisis in Cote d'Ivoire deepened year to year.
But there has always been something binding this disparate group that endures despite their circumstance. Even though it's been more than a decade since they last clacked fingers, and sometimes months have gone by with nary a phone call to connect them, their belief in Zieti's music and in their friendship has never really waned.
Skip ahead to 2012 and the durability of Zieti's bond is made manifest in a genre-busting debut album, "Zemelewa." Original members YEOUE Narcisse (lead vocals), TIENDE Laurent (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Michael Shereikis (guitar) and Alex Owre (drums) are all reunited on this trans-continental recording, along with some of the top African and Afro-inspired musicians around Washington, DC. 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 for a refreshing and passionate take on Ivorian tradition and the current state of Afropop.