Singer/composer Tou Kone Daouda a.k.a. Daouda le Sentimental was born to Burkinabe parents on 1 January 1951 in Niangoloko (Burkina Faso). He spent his childhood in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and moved as a teenager to Bry-sur-Marne near Paris, where he followed technical training at the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel. After completing his training in 1975, he got a job as a TV technician at the Ivorian Television (RTI).
|Daouda the technician|
Besides his work as a technician at RTI, music was Daouda's great hobby. He especially loved the romantic and comic songs of Togolese singer/songwriter G.G. Vickey. Daouda taught himself to play the guitar by playing the songs of G.G. Vickey.
Yet, it never occurred to him to pursue music professionally. It was his colleagues at the RTI who discovered his hidden musical talent and pushed him in front of the cameras, almost against his will. The unexpected appearance on the popular TV programme "Dimanche pour tout", in which he performed his self-written song Gbaka's d'Abidjan (Gbaka means Taxibus)live, accompanied by the RTI orchestra, turned the life of the modest technician completely upside down. Daouda had become a phenomenon overnight in Ivory Coast.
Georges Tai Benson, at the time programme director of the national Ivorian TV, recognised the amateur singer's potential and realised that you have to forge the iron while it is hot. Benson wanted to produce the song Gbakas d'Abidjan and set up the label Moya productions.
The single became a success and the public asked for more. Daouda therefore decided to focus entirely on a musical career from that moment on and proved with his second single, Les Villageons in 1977 that he was not only a good singer but also a gifted lyricist/composer.
In 1978, he recorded his first LP in Nigeria under the direction of his new producer Maïkano Adamou. This album also contains the first version of the song Mon coeur balance. In this song, Daouda sings about the 'problem' of not being able to choose between two girls: the first one is the most beautiful and the second one is the nicest, my heart is swinging back and forth. His lyrics, sung in French, which appeal to a wide audience, together with a seductive melody and an extremely danceable rhythm, ensure that his popularity is rapidly growing in large parts of Francophone Africa. Mon coeur balance became one of the biggest hits in French-speaking Africa in 1978. From that moment on, Daouda was nicknamed 'le sentimental' by his fans.
In the early 1980s, Europe also discovered African pop music. In 1983, Daouda recorded a new version of Mon coeur balance for Maikano in a new arrangement written by the Congolese guitarist Souzy Kaseya. Supported by bassist Aladji Toure and a wind section consisting of Jimmy Mvondo Mvele (sax) and Fredo Tete (trumpet), all from Cameroon, this new version of the song is an ideal mix of local Ivorian music influences and the then popular Congolese soukous and Cameroonian makossa. His biggest breakthrough comes when the London Sterns label decides to release this new version of Daouda's debut album internationally.
|Lyrics Mon coeur balance|
Meanwhile, Daouda had settled in Paris to further develop his career. In the early 80s, Paris had developed into the centre of African pop music. It was the time when the Antillean supergroup Kassav had its breakthrough, Zairean artists like Kanda Bongo Man conquered Parisian discos with their straightforward dance Soukouss and the popularity of the Cameroonian Makossa with its bouncing bass lines was at its height.
With the album's title track La femme de mon patron - which describes the problems of a driver to whom his employer's wife makes sexual advances and threats - Daouda once again shows that he is a formidable composer/lyricist. The song is extremely danceable, cheerful and the mischievous lyrics, in which many people recognise something of themselves, bring a smile to many people's faces. By happily singing about the daily relations between men and women, Daouada's music reflects the optimistic atmosphere of the mid-80s in Côte d'Ivoire, which at that time was experiencing a period of relative prosperity. The latter perhaps explains why many Ivorians can still intensely enjoy Daouada le Sentimental's 80s hits to this day - now that the country has been in dire straits for years.
|Abidjan in the 1980s; the good old days!|
In the years that followed, Daouda released several more albums, with varying success, with various record companies in several countries. With none of these albums, however, he managed to repeat the successes of Mon coeur balance and La femme de mon patron.
In the early 1990s, he emigrated to the US where he lived and worked as a machine operator in Greensboro, North Carolina. He did not really succeed in building up a career as an artist in the US. After more than ten years, he returned to the Ivory Coast, where he tried to make a comeback with limited success. He released several albums, partly containing new versions of his old successes, but partly due to poor distribution, these albums were hardly available outside Côte d'Ivoire. With the arrival of modern streaming services, this situation has improved somewhat, but the question remains whether Daouda will be able to reach the younger generations with these services. He will have to be satisfied with his loyal group of, by now, mostly older fans. With his successes in the 80s, however, he will forever belong to the icons of Ivorian popular music.
Daouda (le Sentimental), now 70 years old, has not forgotten how to write seductive, romantic songs, as he proves with 'Je te dis adieu', a sultry, slow mid-tempo song that has a Cape Verdean flavour, released around 2014.
Ronnie Graham, Stern’s guide to contemporary African musi: Zwan ‘Off the Record Press’, London, 1988.