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Interview with the benchmark of Traditional-modern music Bi Zoto!

Is not an artist who wants but who can. Many artists have invaded all five continents of the world. They are divided into two groups, the traditional group, and the modern group. In our research we had one of them that combines the two rhythms.

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EMI : Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I am Bi zoto, I am Gouro from Sinfra and more precisely from the

village of Djiamouadji.

EMI: When did you start music?

B.Z: I started singing since my childhood, but I started to take it seriously in the 90s by rubbing shoulders with former leaders in this case Abel and the Yeple Djazz, Bozan Clavert, Goré Rico, bebezo, Djazz from Tofla.

EMI: All in the Sinfra region?

B.Z: Absolutely.


EMI: Did you said in the 90s?

B.Z: Indeed, after this episode, on the 9th of June, 1991, I signed up for the first range program organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture on Ivorian television. Out of 1415 candidates, I was selected for the final stages, the final of which took place on the 6th July, 1992, live from

Ivorian television. The live was accompanied by the RTI orchestra conducted at the time by John Denis Scott.

As I said earlier, out of 1,415 candidates I was a winner by winning this competition. To this must be added the importance of the quality of the members of the jury, including the president, Mr. Robert Antoine, who was the president of the Paris musical conservatory, who came especially from France. Then I put an album on the market which was signed on the  1st of November, 1992.

EMI: So, this was your first album on the market?

B.Z: Yes, that was the very first one, whose flagship title won me the show called «Giselle». At the end of this album, the dominant track titled «Avritabli» was on the B side of the album. “Avritabli” is a Gouro proverb that refers to courage and perseverance. The etymological meaning in French means: “no matter how ugly you are, you will never be rejected”.

With this album I was 9 times first  place at the Hit-Parade in Ivory Coast and 6 times on the «Afrique Etoile» program presented at that time by Maxime Domingo, I also sold 94,000 copies, this sale was the best in Ivory Coast for 9 months.

I take this interview to tell an anecdote: “When the reggae man artist Lucke Dube went for the very first time to Côte d’Ivoire, he asked to listen to the Ivorian rhythm, at that time I shared, the celebrity with the late Gnaoré Djimmy, given the fact that my song «  Avritabli was in vogue and chosen 5 times in a row for the Variétoscope program, as an Ivorian rhythm to thus sell Ivorian culture at best‘’, Accompanied by Pascal Lokoua Kanza (Congolese from Kinshasa), Luke Dube opts for my piece as the best Tradi-modern rhythm and that of Meiway as the best modern artist.

In view of this prestigious selection from Luke Dube, we were celebrated (Meyway and me) on November 08, 1996 at the Hôtel du Golf, live from the HAPPATAM program, if I still   remember correctly, the number of the room I occupied was 484.

Long before the final of the first range show, the Director in this case Mr Issa Sangaré had asked each of the 11 finalists to bring back an orchestra, that’s how I created my orchestral group called the «Ziguignon» which worked with the whole new generation. Today I can say that I had success in this initiative because most of the members of this group have experienced a remarkable evolution by releasing albums which are: Seri Zéphirin and Marcelin Bahe Bi, today these artists are come out all the same well.

EMI: This episode of your musical career is purely focused, in Ivory Coast? Tell us when you took the initiative to export your music internationally and more specifically to England?

B.Z: Given the success in Ivory Coast and the explosive sales that this album has experienced nationally, the Ministry of   Culture decides in 1997 to hire me for the valuation and       promotion of Ivorian culture during the ceremony of the    Francophone in France, I did not respond favorably to this offer because of certain difficulties. But then I applied for a visa for a temporary trip to France. Because of some administrative difficulties around this time, I decided to join England and more specifically London.


EMI: How did you come to make music here in England?

B.Z: I was already a confirmed artist from Ivory Coast so my    integration should  naturally be easy, I would like to remind you that I was at the same time as my quality of artist, member of the reconciliation commission at Burida which facilitated cohesion or reconciliation between the late Gnaoré Djimmy and Luckson Padaud.

EMI: No worries, we will come back to the Burida later, tell us about your experience here in London instead.

B.Z: Ok, to come back to my experience, I said it earlier, Europe has its realities and especially this administrative     complexity that we all had to face at one point, given this state of affairs, so I was obliged to touch another activity different of course from music to get out financially and socially.

EMI: Which activities did you carry out when you arrived in London?

B.Z: Nice question, I oriented myself in the hotel industry and more specifically in the culinary sector, I was studied in a      culinary university I started first as a sous-chef. senior chef, then senior chef and now a head chef.

I have worked in the 10 best recognized hotels in London

including Lagrange Brasserie, Tenbrink, the Ritz, the Tower Bridge.


EMI: So you left your musical career aside?

B.Z: We wouldn’t say it that way, you have to make the difference between talent and gift, which means that when you learn a trade that you do not exercise for a while you will lose its    precepts, on the other hand if this thing is a gift you could not lose any of it precepts. Music, I live it, even being in the kitchen, that comes as a surprise to colleagues who discover this innate talent. So, when everything was fine at the administrative level in 2004, Mr. Simplice Ouongui signed a contract with my album with TV5, Air France which continues to play this album on its flights. It is always in this dynamic that he wanted to organize a dedication to the Bristol room to promote it, unfortunately four days before the event things turned out differently because of a denunciation made by our billboards. which would be placed in public places. So, on July 14th of 2005, after having      properly completed all the administrative formalities,

I decided to self-produce myself.


EMI: What is your wife’s role in this production house?

B.Z: My wife, who is called Madame Valérie Bi zoto, is the     director of the Production house whose name is «Yaapla        production».

EMI: Why do you only sing in the local language, gouro, does that allow you to best sell your music?

B.Z: I mean I do traditional modern, so purely Ivorian music and the ambition is to promote Ivorian culture, this musical style is more based on the eighth note, you see.

EMI: Tell us, what is the modern aspect of your musical style?

B.Z: The modern aspect is the rhythm.

EMI: Have you ever done concerts in London?

B.Z: I do more dance evenings than actual concerts, afterwards I also receive invitations for marriage ceremonies, birthdays, funerals etc. Otherwise apart from all this I have already participated in great performances.

EMI: Tell us what the structure of Ivorian artists in London is?

B.Z: Speaking of the structure, I would rather say that things are lagging, there was the elder Koré Vagnan who was responsible for organizing things in this         direction. But since my arrival, some people have       approached me to relaunch this initiative to organize our structures as well as possible and coordinate activities in the right direction. We are also faced with a downside in the availability of each other, everyone has their schedule so there is no time to attend meetings, but I am thinking of taking back control.


EMI: According to some thinkers, the cantors have taken the upper hand over traditional-modern music, what do you think?

B.Z: For me, if this is the case and it advances Ivorian music, it is already a good deal, it is in the interest of music in general. For an artist like Bi zoto who does not make a living from playback but rather from live it must be said that we need sophisticated equipment and especially instrumentalists that we rarely find, I know only one Koré Vagnan who studied at INSAAC, taking into account this shortage, instrumentalist and equipment it is therefore natural that we die artistically for the benefit of the singers. So, I take my hat off to them for the work they do.

EMI: So, does that mean that without an instrument it is impossible to do traditional-modern?

B.Z: Without an instrument it is impossible to make the musical style that we practice, unlike modern music like the offbeat coupé we have a great need for an instrument because a            traditional-modern artist one cannot rely solely on the rhythm machine which itself needs very strong percussion; That is to say at the level of percussion you need the bell, the small       tom-toms, the medium-sized tom-tom and the big tom-tom, so a total of 6 tom-toms. Then, regarding the drums, the cases, the cymbals etc. added all this a good guitarist a good soloist and a good bassist. So that you cannot program everything automatically and sing afterwards, something impossible to achieve      because you also have to even sing people for the backing vocals for the accompaniment.



EMI: How many people do you need in total?

B.Z: It is a team of at least 10 people divided as follows : 3 guitarists, 4 percussionists, a bell player, 1 drummer and possibly 2 accompanists.

EMI: Are you saying that there is a big difference between you and other styles

of music in this case zouglou?

B.Z: Indeed, zouglou can be played without an instrument.

EMI: Why have you never played this king of music ?

B.Z: No, Bi zoto cannot do zouglou for the    simple reason that I was not known as an artist practicing this style of music, if Bi Zoto is singing or dancing Zouglou then who is going to do the tradi-modern? No, I cannot.

EMI: But does everyone listen to traditional modern?

B.Z: Yes they do, of course they still kind of music a lot, that’s what encourage me.

EMI: Do you have any musician friends here in London?

B.Z: Yes, I have a plethora of them, I could quote «Nikese, Coremani, Saint Koff»

EMI: One could be tempted to say that your relationship is not looking good when it comes to the artists?

B.Z: Yes, that is what I was telling you, because of everyone’s unavailability, we could not see each other to talk about music. I assure you that I will take things in hand to restore the image of traditional-modern music.


EMI: Tell us which artist you relate best artistically speaking?

B.Z: I could say that I am unique in my kind although I was not appreciated during his lifetime by Gnaoré Djimmy and Luckson Padaud.


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