When I was in in Abidjan / Ivory Coast in February 1999 during the big African Music fair MASA I got the chance to visit the legendary Jerusalem of Music. Jerusalem is the name of Alpha Blondy's personal concert and festival area close to the small city of Grand Bassam, 50km away from Abidjan, capital of Côte Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The area in that days looked a bit desasterous, the reason was the festival "FESTA '98" that happened here in December '98.
Alpha Blondy in West Africa and especially in his homecountry Ivory Coast is one of the most important musicians. He is very well known for his direct political lyrics and his loud mouth pointing on unjustice and corruption. When Ivory Coast's President Henri Konan Bedie in 1997 planned to involve Alpha in his exaggerated International Afro Music Festival to be held in Abidjan, Alpha accused the promotors for the incredible financial swindle that was build up (The event was planned to cost more than 26 million US$...) and himself started a concurring event that was to be held in the same days for not even 10% of the amount and nearly free for the audiance. The official festival never happened but Alpha's off-event happened on 25th of Dezember 1998.
The idyllic venue of the festival was Alpha's own yard on the spit of the wonderfull city of Grand Bassam between the calm Laguna and the wild Atlantic ocean. Alpha invited many local and international artistes to this mega event. So far I couldn't find out who actually played there, but the rumours about the number of spectators vary between official 70.000 and absolutely unbelievable 300.000 people that came to the "Jerusalem of Music"...
Anyway, who cares about the number of spectators or who was playing at FESTA '98? Finally Africa's Megastar Alpha was about to come to play for his people! Alpha was 'sheduled' for midnight. When he didn't show up at all 2 hours later, the massive began to moun, at 3 o'clock they started to tear down the whole ground. The massive (including the prime minister and many other officials) waited until 6 o'clock in the morning when finally Alpha Blondy appeared on stage and made the crowd to calm down in seconds. He rewarded his audiance with an legendary 6 hours show until high noon!
text, infos and design (c) Peter Beckhaus for the reggaenode
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