Is DJ Lewis’s “Stop Ebola” his “Grippe Aviaire” pt. 2?

DJ Lewis recently released a “Stop Ebola” song and video that reminds me of “Grippe Aviaire”, a song he released during the global Bird Flu pandemic some years ago:

As I mentioned in my Cultural Anthropology contribution, “Grippe Aviaire” was more making fun of the disease, with a popular dance mocking the bird’s behavior more than trying to be educational about it. Perhaps that’s principally why Lewis’s attempt at an Ebola awareness song doesn’t sit quite right with me. Sure, there’s a cute no touching dance, but it all seems a little too playful, not really effective in any attempt to sensitize audiences. Plus, with all the fuss made over the role of traditional healers in the initial spread of Ebola, what’s the meaning of the last part of the video?

To be honest, most coupé-décalé artists would be too decadent (in their regularly scheduled programming) for this kind of message to be taken seriously by audiences anyway. Tiken Jah Fakoly summed this view up pretty nicely in an interview with Afropop in 2011, when he was asked about his role as a voice for the oppressed:

Yes, it is very hard. It is not easy but I chose it. I chose to do reggae music so I have to do this. If I didn’t want to, then I should’ve chosen “coupé-décalé” or something (laughs). For me reggae music is a fight, it is a mission so it’s not easy but it is our mission.

DJ Arafat and Soum Bill are two of the artists I have seen make sincerely socially conscious coupé-décalé, and I do believe coupé decalé is political in an “Of mimicry and membership” kind of way. But DJ Lewis kind of comes off as more of an opportunist in this case than anything else. Siddhartha sent over some great insight about the larger context of the genre after visiting Abidjan this year:

The bigger context here on the music side is that coupé-décalé is pretty stale at this point. It’s been around for 10 years now which is a long time for a style that isn’t exactly built on complex messaging. And coupé-décalé is fun but it’s derivative to begin with (of Congolese music and party style in particular). So DJ Lewis is also coasting on past glory here, not just the glory of his (awesome) Grippe Aviaire song, but the glory of the whole genre.

In Abidjan last January I didn’t hear a ton of coupé-décalé. I mean, it was there in the background, and I wasn’t really in the clubs (I did go to a few smaller, “bar-climatisé” spots, but they had mostly Congolese music on, and also some Naija jams) so I didn’t have a full panoramic view, but still, it feels like the genre is long past its prime.

Meanwhile zouglou which has been left for dead on previous occasions is chugging along, probably because it has more to say. But there’s space for a new Ivorian party music to rise up, for sure.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.