Assinie-Mafia, Ivory Coast – As the sun sets at the Akoula resort in the popular beach town of Assinie-Mafia, more than 100km (62 miles) east of the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan, hundreds of people huddled in scattered groups frantically converge by the DJ booth’s makeshift pit.
It is the afternoon of April 30th, 2023, and they are swaying to the music playing at another episode of La Sunday, the biggest music festival in Ivory Coast and one of the biggest in Francophone Africa.
The controlling rhythms are courtesy of Lionel Obam, more popularly known as DJ Jeune Lio, La Sunday’s co-founder and the event’s main act for the day, in the booth. As usual, his slender frame is in his signature white T-shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a beanie that neither the heat nor the humidity seem able to displace.
Next to him in the booth are one of his business partners and fellow DJ – Charles – a couple of friends and a handful of hypemen cheering Obam on and energising his smooth transitions from old-school Hip Hop classics, to Amapiano sounds and Afrobeats hits.
By the time Obam plays Zoblazo, the 1991 hit from Ivorian legend Meiway, a usual crowd pleaser, dozens have arranged themselves into an animated dance procession, waving white napkins over their heads. From that point on, there is no stopping the crowd.
An hour later when his set ends and another DJ takes over, the event’s security personnel struggle to clear the venue of partygoers who want more of Obam – and the festival. But he’s used to the attention; it is just another day in the life of one of Francophone Africa’s most influential music heads.