Africa: Côte d'Ivoire Prepares to Say Goodbye to DJ Arafat

DJ Arafat

Two weeks after the star of coupé-decalé died in a motorbike accident, more than 100,000 people are expected to attend Friday's music tribute to DJ Arafat. The popular musician and producer will be buried on Saturday.

Organisers of today's ceremony are expecting at least 100,000 people to flock to the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium in Abidjan, which can host a maximum of 40,000.

It follows an online petition calling for the government to grant use of the stadium to enable an appropriate sending off for the hugely popular and influential musician and producer.

Six screens will be set up around the stadium to allow crowds to follow the ceremony, which will also be broadcast on screens in neighbourhoods elsewhere in the capital explained Zoumana Bakayoko, member of the organising committee.

The ceremony - a mix of speeches, testimonials and a mega concert - begins at 16h local time and will be rebroadcast live on stateTV.

International artists expected

Over a hundred artists are expected to attend the music show.

"There will be a lot of Ivorian artists," says Zoumana Bakayoko, "people like Kedjevara, DJ Leo, the country's most prestigious artists." Along with what he described as "African heavyweights" from abroad such as Nigeria's Davido and Congolese duo Koffi Olomide and Fally Ipupa.

On Saturday, the remains of the artist will be buried in the Williamsville Cemetery, in Adjamé, which is being specially reopened for the funeral.

At around 4 a.m., DJ Arafat's coffin will be brought into the stadium and then carried to the Williamsville cemetery in the commune of Adjamé in the north of the capital.

Security challenge

Given the huge numbers expected to attend, the organising committee and the Ivorian authorities have deployed significant means to secure the funeral premises.

"More than 10,000 uniformed [police] officers are being deployed," says Zoumana Bakayoko.

But some sources suggest as many as 300,000 people may try to attend.

🇨🇮#IvoryCoast: Over 300,000 are expected to attend the funeral of #DJArafat in #Abidjan. Security forces have put measures in place. A number of banks have been closed in the Plateau commune. @IntellFusion #arafatdj #cotedivoire

Intelligence Fusion - Africa (@IF_Africa) August 29, 2019

The Abidjan Plateau district, where the stadium is situated, is in Abidjan's financial quarter.

Banks have been advised to remain closed on Friday and Saturday, and some international institutions and embassies are advising staff to avoid the Plateau area.

The Ivorian authorities say they are confident the can handle the event.

"I can assure you of the professionalism of our men," said Vincent Toh Bi Irié, the prefect of Abidjan, citing their smooth running of big events like the Francophonie and EU-Africa summits.

"We are asking people to follow instructions so that everyone can come and give DJ Arafat the tribute he deserves," he added.

Controversial, figure

Houon Ange Didier, alias DJ Arafat, was the star of Coupé-Decalé, a popular form of Ivorian dance music. He was named best artist of the year at the Coupé-Decalé Awards in 2016 and 2017.

Coupe-Decalé, meaning "cut and run", was created by Ivorian Douk Saga in Paris in the early 2000s during the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire. With its suggestive dance moves and emphasis on flashy lifestyles, it was a way of showing young people still wanted to have fun.

His huge fan-base in Cote d'Ivoire are known as "La Chine Populaire" (The Chinese) because of their sheer numbers.

DJ Arafat's hits included Dosabado, Hommage à Jonathan and more recently Moto Moto which has more than four million views on YouTube.

With 10 studio albums in his 15 year career he had a big influence on the French music scene as both singer and producer.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, the Minister of Culture, Maurice Kouakou Bandame announced the possible creation of a museum to honour the artist. The motorcycle damaged in his accident, his vehicles and his personal belonging could be conserved to generate income for his heirs, the minister said.

But the musician's life off stage was colourful to say the least.

He had regular run ins with fellow musicians such as Serges Beynaud, Debordo Leekunfa, Molare; there were incidents of domestic violence, and the much talked about break up with his mother, former singer Tina Glamour. He took to social media to lash out at his fellow musicians.

"The clashes started because I wanted to show I was number one on the Ivorian music scene," he told Jeune Afrique in March 2018. "Above all it helped me to invent new sounds, I needed competition to find inspiration. When the music scene is sleeping, you have to wake it up."

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