In this thesis I investigate modern music genres and performance practices in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. I worked with three band structures, within three different genres: The local pop genre zouglou, the dancehall genre and the reggae genre. I have especially concentrated on reggae, and I compare how it is played and performed in Cote d'Ivoire to how it is perceived in Jamaica. Interestingly enough, reggae sounds different in the two countries, and in my thesis I hope to show the various reasons for this phenomenon. I am interested in the questions: Why do Ivorians listen to reggae, and what do they do in order to adapt it to the Ivorian setting? I claim that a certain social environment produces certain aesthetical preferences and performance practices. In short it produces taste: History and taste go together. Thus styles are historically constructed identity marks. Christopher Waterman has linked various social histories to musical genres and tastes in Nigeria in interesting ways (Waterman 1990). The Ivorian setting creates a sound that is denser and involves a heavier orchestration than the Jamaican one, which is cut down to the core. The two countries have different points of departure and different histories, and one can hear the traces of this in the two versions of reggae. Global inspirations become local expressions to Ivorians. Singers must uphold their local credibility and authenticity, and thereby create a resonance between themselves and their audience. If the singer "forgets" local aesthetics, the very competent listeners heavily reprimand him. Globalisation here is about difference and sameness, and not merely about copying or reproducing an artistic expression. Global influences and local musical tastes are about continuity, contrast, self-representation and what Gregory Bateson has called "a difference which makes a difference" (Bateson,1972:459).
I therefore link pragmatic everyday Ivorian musical lives to musical genres, and try to show patterns in how music is consumed. Ghetto life is harsh and people are constantly searching for the unpredictable, fluid good or gain. People are forced to have an expedient approach to each other, and this creates give-and-take relationships. They are used to running rather than queuing in order to obtain something, as demand is always higher than any supply. This is reflected in people's behaviour during concerts, where they run to the stage,'dancing and screaming. This is how they consume the musical event. One might also say that in this highly individualistic environment, this is how they consume togetherness and community feelings. The concert is an event during which they can lower their constant guard, and experience and share something with others. The concert is thus not only a happy event, but also a compensation for the lack of collectivity.
The expedient attitude people have not only affects their patterns of music-consumption, but also pervades the actual social organization of music making. Before the band gets together to play, various social processes take place. Who is present and how they have arrived, who is late and who is not invited to play, who sings if the singer is late, are all crucial questions. The musicians live in Abidjan, and are familiar with the repertoire of most singers. The power negotiations between them are not so much about the sound as about the hierarchical positioning of the band members, the singers and their managers.
Summed up in keywords, then, this thesis is about local musical preferences and aesthetical evaluations, ghetto discourse and pride, a predatory individualistic environment and concert togetherness, precariousness and extravaganza.