ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST - For nine young female musicians in Ivory Coast, breaking into the male-dominated music industry wasn’t easy. But their group, Bella Mondo, is now a household name in Abidjan and is booking shows abroad.
The nine women of Bella Mondo win over yet another audience. The group is one of just a handful of all-women ensembles in Ivory Coast.
It all started in 2007. Prisca Allou was a music student. A music producer came to see her. He said he wanted to make an all-female orchestra to fulfill a promise to his late mother.
Allou got on board and was charged with recruiting other members.
“It wasn’t easy at first. Some parents were against it. You know, in Africa, the place of women is often seen as being either in an office, or at home. That was the stereotypical image,” said Prisca Allou, the band's bass guitar player.
Allou spread the word and took out ads in local papers. Most of the girls she found were not professional players.
“I just played some tamtam. I learned to play drums when I joined Bella Mondo,” said Karis, the group's drummer.
The girls spent the next four years learning to play their instruments. Many gave up along the way, but eight of them soldiered on with Allou, and Bella Mondo was born.
The band plays original songs and covers. Their music spans a wide range of styles: funk, reggae, pop music.
They released their first album in 2013...and have performed in Paris, Dakar, Cotonou and, of course, here at home in Abidjan. You can see them nearly every Thursday at this bar, the same venue that gave the band its start years ago.
“Oh yes, I was surprised at first. A woman singing, you see that everyday, but an entire band, playing all the instruments and everything? It was extraordinary. I was dumbstruck. Bella Mondo is a great band,” said music enthusiast Kader Annema.
The women are now working on their second album.