I was looking for the Palmier en Zinc, and I found the Palmier en Zique

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Every month, we publish a letter from an African writer. Idris Youssouf Elmi, author of La Galaxie de l’absurde (L’Harmattan, 1997), hereby recounts the opening of a recording studio in Djibouti.

Djibouti, colonial times: a symbolic setting known as the Palmier en Zinc was a haven for adventurers in search of the new and exotic, and for French soldiers killing time. Among them, was a young man, pith helmet on head, revolver on his right hip, and… a guitar slung around his neck. During his free time, he would compose a few verses and sung with his pastor’s voice. It was the only way he had of deriding the ardour of the local sun. But one day, he never showed up again. His place of predilection, the Palmier en Zinc bar, would never again hear the naïve melodies of the young man ‘with windy soles’. Two decades on. Time has set to work. The Palmier en Zinc has in turn abandoned the picturesque setting of the little capital. And ever since then…
At the junction of the inspirations and blending of the arts which have traversed the Horn of Africa, and thus contributed to forging Djibouti’s cultural identity, this Francophone peninsula is now living in another time. The word is there, present in the transmission of knowledge and pastoral laws. And the place of music in all that?… Grass-roots work has shed light on a generation of burgeoning artists who eagerly promote new directions.
A generation which juxtaposes respect for the traditions and the increasing demand for African music in the West. The impact of modern music and the ‘world music’ fashion has indeed enormously helped these musical forms based on a precise harmony between ancient melodies and modern rhythms to emerge.
The ADAGIO association has thus been born. It has set itself the task of collecting, producing, and distributing the traditional and modern music of the Horn of Africa countries. This has required setting up a digital, 24-track recording studio for the project, however. Which has been possible thanks to the Mission de Coopération Française in Djibouti, the Arthur Rimbaud French Cultural Centre, and the Adagio association itself. It is called « Le Palmier en Zique« . The studio has produced the « Wassi Wassi » CD by Maalesh, in co-production with the CCF and the Alliance Franco-Comorienne. At the moment, it is working on two recording projects. The first is with the Ethiopian group Trio Lakomenza, who have been asked to play at the Africolor Festival in France. The second is to produce the Djiboutian band Dinkara’s first CD. Furthermore, the Adagio association, which runs the Palmier en Zique studio, has promised to carry out a distribution and promotion campaign for each record released, thus committing itself to playing the role of the bands’ artistic agent in an effort to help the young artists find contracts elsewhere.
Perhaps one day an old man passing through Djibouti, guitar in hand, pith helmet on head, gazing up at the bar signs up-town, will stop in front of the studio. Zinc or Zique, it doesn’t really matter. Sat on the ground, a few verses will spring forth again from his gaze. He will strum on his guitar, beginning with these words: « I was looking for the Palmier en Zinc, and I found the Palmier en Zique« …

///Article N° : 5343

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