Originating in the early 2000s in Paris’s Afro-Caribbean nightclubs, coupé-décalé was primarily a lifestyle, exemplified by the Jet Set. This band of young people from Abidjan, who had fled the coup in the Côte d’Ivoire, attracted attention in the capital’s clubs, where they would come to make some noise (boucan) and show off. DJs would even sing the gang’s praises (atalaku) because of their habit of making it rain bank notes (travaillement) when not entertaining themselves striking poses to the beat. They were playing at being the celebrities they would eventually become, and their attitude was soon creating a sensation in the Côte d’Ivoire, too.
Far more than a passing fad, coupé-décalé gained prominence in the war-torn country, becoming a social phenomenon. From the art of miming wearing handcuffs to imitating bird flu symptoms, the movement’s dances took the form of social and political satires, elevating their inventors to the rank of national heroes. Still, few have reached the pinnacle of fame attained by the twelve artists featured in our series of special collectible coupé-décalé trading cards created by Narjes Bahhar (Mouv host and producer for Trace Africa) and Tristan Perreton (a Lyon-based illustrator officiating under the tag Der Kommissar).
Header image © Tristan Perreton