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Magic System

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AboutOriginating from the Marcory district in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Magic System formed in 1996 and is made up of Asalfo, Goudé, Tino and Manadja. This group got together during school and sports competitions which were the essential melting pot of young people who have left the troubled neighbourhoods of the Ivorian capital these past few years.

They distinguished themselves firstly by the liveliness of their local shows and made confident by this success, decided to set out on a professional career. Up until then their ambition was to work their way into the spotlight of the musical scene and above all to improve a daily life that was made up of insecurity and uncertainty.

Christened Magic System, the group released its first album at the end of 1997, with the help of Claude Bassolet, a well-known talent scout on the Abidjan scene. He decided in fact to give Magic System a chance. The song "Momo", the first track on the album "Papitou", was a hit and was played on the airwaves throughout the country. Their traditional tunes, tinged with synthesizers put forth the magnificent voice of the lead singer Asalfo. "Momo" seduced music lovers and the disc jockeys played it continuously to the joy of the revellers.

Unfortunately commercial success was not in the cards and the group went through a dry period. But it would take more than that to weaken the enthusiasm of these boys determined to pursue the adventure. They went in search of a new producer with a new demo as a selling point which did not seem to have the effect they had expected. Tired of looking, they turned to their manager Angelo Kabila. Magic System thus became the first group of the company Show Box International created for the cause.

First Gaou

In the spring of 1999, Magic System went into the Soft studio, a facility technically capable of rivaling the most successful West African studios. They recorded the first tracks of their blockbuster album "1er Gaou."

In total, eight songs that talked about issues inspired by their social-economic environment. Simple stories told by Asalfo's warm voice like "1er Gaou" the chronicle of a lover who refused to play the "gnata" at the expense of his girlfriend who was very sensitive about the size of his wallet. The paedophile practices more and more common in the urban centres are denounced in "Complainte". As well as the burning issues of the time like the ethnic divisions ("Mi wan gno"), abortion ("Pourquoi ça"), juvenile delinquency or the virtues of tradition in "Amoulanga".

Short of financial resources, they revived steps to contact distribution companies who showed no great hurry to release the album. After much hesitation the group was signed by Showbiz. This was in the autumn of 1999 and the album had a spectacular result. More than 40,000 cassettes were sold in two weeks, the single "1er Gaou" became a hit and a commercial success.


It is the division of love out of self-interest, a recurring and classic theme yet treated here with humour and a rare enthusiasm. A song accurately accompanied by a simple rhythm which is effective and lively. After West Africa, the Magic System wave reached all the other urban centres of Africa, with almost 300,000 cassettes sold in their country and more than one million on the rest of the continent, the group earned a good reputation for themselves. All of the capitals sought them out and their hit was even successful in the night-clubs in Tunis. People were now talking about the Magic System phenomenon.

The banks of the Seine were soon reached. Distributed in France by Next Music, the sales progression of the album was dazzling and for several months the chain of FNAC stores declared Magic System as the best seller in the African Music category. The bar of 30,000 CDs sold was reached.

You have to go all the way back to the middle of the Eighties, to the heart of the golden age of African music in France, to find such a feat by a young group with their first release on the French market. A craze which has hardly died down in two years after the release of this opus. On the contrary the group set out to take the French provinces as well as Belgium, Switzerland and Italy and succeeding at each step to federate a public who at the base goes beyond their usual "clientele".

Artists and famous groups like Koffi Olomide and the group Bisso na Bisso brought along by the rapper Passi invited them to work together on stage, notably at Bercy in Paris. On April 14th, 2001 Magic System invited their fans to the Zenith in Paris accompanied by Jocelyne Labylle, Claudy Siar, les Garagistes and Koffi Olomidé to celebrate their success in France. They passed the test. The biggest surprise came from the Caribbean where Magic System earned more than just esteem by selling more than 5,000 CDs and attracting crowds where other famous African artists had failed repeatedly.

In June 2001, "Poisson d'Avril", Magic System's new album came out on JPS productions. To try once again to turn the Gaou wave, which was still high, into a second success, the four boys from Abidjan invited the famous South African singer Brenda Fassie to sing on "Kodjo Kodjo Tiré". This new album contained eight songs, one being "Poisson d'Avril", once again a story about a romance gone bad. Rhythmically also, the recipe had not changed much. The public's reception remained moderate when they announced a techno version of the song "1er Gaou" mixed by French DJ Bob Sinclair. You could say that the Gaou saga continues.

The first African hit since "Yeke Yeke"

After shooting to the top of the charts throughout Africa and the Antilles, Ivorian group Magic System went on to conquer France three years later with their infectiously catchy single, "Premier Gaou". This was a rare achievement for an African record indeed! In fact, the success of Premier Gaou had not been seen since Mory Kante's mega-hit "Yeke Yeke" some 15 years earlier.

Thanks to a new dance-oriented version of "Premier Gaou", Magic System dominated French FM stations throughout the summer of 2002. And by the autumn of that year "Premier Gaou" had become the third best-selling single in France. This success was all the more phenomenal given that the last time an African song had achieved mega-hit status was some 15 years earlier when Mory Kante rocketed up the French charts with Yéké Yéké. Magic System celebrated their success with a show at the legendary Olympia in Paris (on 1 December 2002) where thousands of newly-converted "Gaou-philes" flocked to see them.

On 1 December 2002, Magic System brought the house down at the Olympia in Paris, playing to a packed audience of "Gaou-philes." The group's fanbase had snowballed following the recent media buzz, their phenomenal album sales and their constant exposure on French radio stations and club dancefloors.

When the results of a "Médiamétrie" survey confirmed NRJ as the leading radio station in France, the station thanked its listeners with a series of jingles based on the beat of "Premier Gaou." Proof – if any were needed! – that the group's hit was the most popular French tune of the moment. Meanwhile, Magic System enjoyed a veritable boom on the commercial front, earning gold discs for both their album and their single – a feat never before achieved by a group signed to an independent label!

2003: "Un Gaou à Paris"

The Magic System success story continued in 2003 with the reissue of "Poisson d'Avril" (an album which had originally been rushed out in 2001 before France was swept by the "Premier Gaou" craze). The album was brought out with a new title: "Un Gaou à Paris." Despite the ongoing political crisis in Ivory Coast and the tense situation on the streets of Abidjan, the group decided to remain in their homeland. On the song "Un Gaou à Paris", Asalpho explained that it simply wasn't worth jumping through all the hoops to get a French visa. The group was better off staying in Abidjan, where life operated on a more human level!

Given the fact that their album "Un Gaou à Paris" looked set to be a huge hit, the musicians from Marcory had no trouble attracting an impressive guest line-up. Their new album included a duet with French teen R&B star Leslie ("On n'sait jamais") and another with the rap group 113 ("Un Gaou à Oran"). The South African music diva Brenda Fassie also guested on the album. Affirming themselves as a pan-African band, Magic System went on to break out of all existing formats. In March 2004, for instance, they played in Zambia, supporting two major local stars, Maureen Lilanda and Danny, in concert.

In June 2005, Magic System rocketed back into the music news with a third album, "Cessa kié la vérité." Musically speaking, this third album featured no great innovation compared to their first two. The group had hit upon the magic formula – and they were sticking to it! Sure enough, the single "Bouger, bouger" (featuring Mokobé from rap group 113) went on to become THE big summer hit of 2005. Other highlights of the album were "Petit pompier" (a track in exactly the same vein as "Premier Gaou") and a remix of "Un Gaou à Oran." The album "Cessa kié la vérité" also featured an impressive list of African guest stars including Brenda Fassie. The South African music diva appeared on the 'zoulou-zouglou' track "Matilisso" (recorded in Johannesburg just before her death, for her own album in 2002). Veteran Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy also guested on "Tikilipo", a song which appealed to teen rebels in Ivory Coast to restore peace and calm.

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