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Lessons From Cote d’Ivoire’s Femua Festival For Africa Month

May 27, 2022

The Anoumabo Urban Music Festival, also known as FEMUA, is to date, West Africa’s largest music festival. Ushering in Africa Month for the last 14 editions undertaken during a time of socio-political turmoil for the region, Abidjan comes to life with thousands of keen festival-goers in attendance taking part in rigorous debates, lively showcases and cultural experiences across a week in the Anoumabo village in Ivory Coast. Nestled between the student barracks of the INJS (National Institute of Youth and Sports) fields, FEMUA is thronging with people young and old meandering across grounds spanning almost 4 soccer fields. By day, as far as the eye can see, there are Ivorian flags, fried plantain stalls, beads and beer-sellers along with plastic chairs being set up across the complex with children running back and forth under the 32-degree sun, and by night the city descends on the grounds to enjoy music from Afro-pop to Zouglou echoing early into the next day. Ivorian-French and a local slang known as “nouchi” bandies around the atmosphere, billowing from the end to end of the city. At the very edge of the nearby lagoon is a quiet maquis – an outdoor bar – where festival goers who need a break from the ear-shattering music can take a relaxing break. Every corner of the festival is dedicated to “bigger,” “bolder,” “louder” and “prouder,” as FEMUA brings incredible lessons to the region every year of solidarity, growth, togetherness and belonging. Here are just a few in the wake of Africa month that we can all take to heart if we want to build the Africa we can truly call home.



Run entirely by the Magic System Foundation (the namesake of the band that created the world-renowned tracks “Premier Gaou” and “Magic in the Air”) a festival of this size has had great impacts on Ivory Coast’s economy as well as its capacity for raising the level of education across Abidjan. Having come out of extreme circumstances himself, lead-vocalist of Magic System and co-founder of the Magic System Foundation, Salif “Asalfo” Traore went on to become a renowned name across West Africa, and aimed to create the same kind of festival opportunities he saw traveling the world, back at home in Cote d’Ivoire.

“You cannot know your identity if you don’t know what it is that your country has to offer,” Asalfo explains to Afropunk. “So what Magic System did was we took something known locally, and exported it so that the kids who grow up here know how valuable what we have here is. Everything we have made is built from the music. The experience we got traveling the world is what we wanted to build here. So everyone we left behind must be able to see what we saw, and have the experiences we had abroad, right here at home.”


Every year a new guest country is honored in an effort to bring the continent together and instill pride in what we have to offer as a united continent. This year, FEMUA remembers the legacy of Papa Wemba in their honoring of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a special tribute to the late Congolese star. Also on the lineup was Bongo-flava artist Diamond Platnumz, one of Tanzania’s biggest exports to date. While tensions between African countries do exist, when it comes to music, we couldn’t be more connected. Papa Wemba, known for bringing “Rumba rock” to the cultural fore, is one of Africa’s most revered artists, as is Diamond Platnumz – and the two were set to release a music video together for the log -awaited collab “Chacun Por Soi” in 2016. However, that year, Papa Wemba died suddenly of a stroke while performing on the FEMUA stage – and since, FEMUA has made every effort to remember the acts that changed Africa’s narrative for the better. 

“I remember I was in Paris at the time and my manager told me he was in Paris as well,” he tells Afropunk. “We went into the studio, and I think it was after 2 weeks we had a video planned, but about a month after if I’m not mistaken he cae here and I heard what happened… and it was bad to me. It was a great opportunity to me to work with an icon, and that song meant a lot, there was a lot of love there.”


This year, FEMUA also focuses on youth development and employability, creating space for young people to discuss the avenues through which the Ivory coast can grow. In addition to cultural and social activities, FEMUA offers a platform for exchanges between cultural professionals, civil society actors, government representatives and development agencies through thematic workshops and seminars. That’s also why this festival is completely free of charge to the public. Built entirely from the surrounding community, everyone involved brings whatever they can offer to the festivities, whether it’s a little bit of extra knowledge or a spot to buy something to quench your thirst. The key here is that everyone has something to offer, and everyone is enough.

“We have to be proud of what we have first. Before we can go anywhere we have to be proud of what we have, without this inferiority complex that has been with us for so long. You see so many young people dying in the sea to cross to Europe thinking they can get whatever success they want anywhere away from here. White is not always right. You won’t see any white people building this festival and holding these talks and feeding these kids’ minds. We do it all.” 


A definite highlight lies with Cameroonian artist Coco Argentee, whose performances full of wardrobe changes and abrupt theatrics brought a show of epic proportions. Her gender-bending male dancers donned shimmering skirts supported by suspenders, while moving to the music with such showmanship that can only be described as akin to Ballroom culture shows, incorporating voguing and twerking alike. This is hardly commonplace for Ivory Coast, but  Coco’s forward thinking, body positive setup inspired the crowd to cheer harder for an act that welcomes new ways of being.


Congolese star Inoss B is no stranger to the Ivorian spotlight, coming to Abidjan for the second time. Just a few months after his debut album’s release, he’s still feeling the love from across the continent. In an offering called Mortel 06, he aimed for an album that gave him the feeling of a  higher understanding of himself and wanted to express his art much more plainly, going for 15 melodious tracks with no featuring artists to give himself some room. At FEMUA he is glad to be able to to show the world why what we have is so special.

“The world is interested in African music because what we have is unique.” explains Inoss B. ”We have thousands of different genres of music; our music is really rich, you can’t just say ‘African music’ because we have Rumba, Ndombolo from Congo, Coupe Decale from here, we have Zumba, etc and I think that’s why they chose to call it ‘world music’ – it’s true, because there are worlds within Africa and when we do it, we don’t play! Even our brothers in Nigeria are killing it right now with Afrobeats; back in the day it used to be Congo, now we have amapiano coming from South Africa and we are all trying to catch up. But it feels good to know it’ll always be Africa that gets the gold.”