Whilst I’ve been in West Africa for several months, West African time still takes some time to get used to. At 9 pm, my fellow overlanding travellers and I had just finished eating dinner and were about to head back to our tents for the night, having not had much sleep the previous nights. In spite of many attempts to find out what time my local friend Papys would arrive, I was unclear as to whether or not he was coming, let alone what time.
Papys and his friend Francis turn up right as our bill arrives; they are ready to eat.
We drive in his new BMW down a dirt road on the spit in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, to a local restaurant. I am overly excited to discover a local Ivoire beer that we’ve seen countless advertisements for but not yet been able to find anywhere we’ve been in Ivory Coast.
Apparently, it came out only one month before. After ordering two bottles, one for me and one for Francis, they have now sold out of it. My friends order carp and salad and eat it with their hands.
Two men make an appearance in the restaurant, flaunting their tight clothing and g-strings. Wondering what to make of it all, Papys explains they are celebrating the life of their deceased brother by wearing what he wore. We get some pictures and hand over a money donation in return.
After washing their hands under the table in buckets, we head out across the bridge into the main part of town to a local nightclub, Epilogue.
Disco lights are flashing and people are starting to arrive around 10 pm but it would not get busy until much later that night. Francis and I start on our first bottle of sweet sparkling wine accompanied by peanuts and green olives and watch some people grooving on the dance floor.
Throughout the night, the music changes. Initially, there’s hardcore rap with illicit lyrics followed by French music including a song that repeats ‘soulever’ meaning ‘lift up’. Francis raises me off the floor multiple times leaving me in fits of giggles. Next, comes a mix of 80s and 90s music, my personal favourite, including Janet Jackson, Mark Morrison and Arrested Development. Then finally comes Coupé Décalé, the local Ivoirian music.
Papys shouts into my ear over the loud music that DJ Lewis, a Coupé Décalé performer just arrived in the club and is going to perform. We are warmed up listening to and watching his video hits. Then he addresses the crowd and sends out his two male dancers. The dancers shake energetically to the music and surprise us with back flips and head spins.
Once the dancers have finished the narrow dance floor fills back up. Everyone faces the mirror and watches themselves dance. I am the only ‘Blanche’ or ‘white person’ as they call us in the club for the most part until a ‘blanc’ (white male) arrives with his local girlfriend.
The Africa Lonely Planet talks about Coupé Décalé and the trend that performers would throw money out into the crowd, which later turned to punters throwing money at the performers. I asked Papys how much people throw and he said usually 50 or 100 euro bills. I have been trying to get rid of my spare Guinean Francs after Guinea and no one seems to want to exchange them here in Ivory Coast. I asked Papys if I could throw them around but he said it would be offensive and it’s just like throwing around paper due to their low value. The money throwing trend I was hoping to see has slowed down significantly so I was told and it depends on how the night goes. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it and I have to find some other way to get rid of my Guinean Francs.
Francis and I finish the second bottle of sparkling wine and decide to call it a night around 3.30am.
Papys kindly drops me off in his BMW and I fall into my tent, only to wake up a couple of hours later for our long day crossing the border into Ghana. Fortunately, I can catch up on my sleep on our journey though my fellow passengers take advantage and snap an unfavourable shot of me sleeping. Such is the life of an overlander though I am glad to have been able to experience a fun local night out in Ivory Coast.