The last time Dobet Gnahoré performed at Lawrence University, audience members were brought to their feet, singing and dancing inside Harper Hall. The performance captivated Lawrence’s student body, faculty and community members alike.
“It was really, in the seven years I’ve been here, one of the highlight performances,” says Brian Pertl, Dean of Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music. Gnahoré made such an impression that Lawrence decided to bring her back for a second show — this time in the larger confines of Stansbury Theatre.
The 32-year old singer, dancer and percussionist from Côte d’Ivoire will take the stage on Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in front of 445-plus people.
“I think students will find Dobet very relatable,” says Jillian Johnson, director of Conservatory programs and community outreach. “Her lyrics often touch on social issues like the AIDS pandemic and women’s rights in Africa, as well as personal meditations on family, children and her past,” Johnson adds.
Many in the Lawrence community are attuned to these social issues around the globe, making Gnahoré a highly anticipated act for reasons beyond music. Apart from Lawrence students and faculty, every audience member will be able to feel Gnahoré’s energy through her powerful vocals, distinctive dancing and prowess on the djembe drum.
Gnahoré’s music is best described as West African pop, characterized by melody and easy listening. In addition to social issues, the artist also sings about her village, Ki-Yi M’Bock. According to the Cumbancha record label, Cameroonian writer Wérewére Liking established the artistic and creative community in Côte d’Ivoire in 1985.
This cultural upbringing — where Gnahoré was exposed to people of diverse talents and interests — has formed her into the well-rounded artist fans recognize today. Gnahoré never loses touch with her roots and it comes through in passionate performances.
Cumbancha also cites that Gnahoré sings in seven different African languages, including the native Ivorian languages of Dida and Malinké. Ki-Yi M’Bock is near and dear to her heart, but she speaks to all of Africa through her music. This diverse language will once again be on display for the Appleton community on Jan. 14.
According to Johnson, Gnahoré will be performing selections from “Na Drê,” her latest album released in early 2014. “The audience should be ready for driving beats and exhilarated performance,” Johnson adds. Gnahoré will announce her song selections from the stage, adding a layer of spontaneity to an already diverse performance.
“We see different world music traditions as a liberal approach to education and music,” says Pertl. “What we also wanted to do was bring in pop music traditions from around the world. She is really at the forefront of that tradition.”
Be sure to purchase your tickets soon, and enjoy an invigorating global talent. For more information on the World Music Series and to purchase tickets, visit lawrence.edu/conservatory or call 832-6749.
— Reid Trier