ABIDJAN - It took a mother's last wish, and a man to make it happen, but Ivory Coast now has it's first all-women musical ensemble in what is hailed as a little "revolution" in this fiercely patriarchal society.
"Why is it so surprising to see women play instruments?" asked Landry Louoba, one of the 10 women in the Bella Mondo band.
The energetic Louoba plays percussion ù and has the biceps to prove it ù alongside a drummer, a pianist, a bassist, singers and other musicians, most in their 30s.
The man who got things started is promoter Charly Maiwan, a Canadian from Montreal who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and made a promise to his mother, a passionate music lover, on her deathbed.
"You always told me you'd have me sing, but my time has come, I'm leaving. Promise me that now you'll make the women of the world sing," he told AFP, recalling his mother's words.
In 2007, Maiwan, who travels regularly to Africa, contacted Nadine Levry, an Ivorian singing in nightclubs in the economic capital Abidjan. She liked the idea and contacted bass player Prisca Allou.
Bella Mondo was born, and quickly recruited eight other members with a repertoire that ranges from reggae, afro-zouk and a local dance music called zouglou, to oldies and some of their own compositions.
"This adventure must continue and attract other women," said percussionist Louoba.
"It's the right time for our revolution," added Josiane Labi Luo, one of the group's four singers whose goes by the stage name "Jo Labi".
"Revolution", in fact, is the title the women chose for their first album, scheduled for release in 2013 and a testament to their will to overcome both the country's unbending macho ethic and the turmoil from a decade of armed rebellion and political conflict that claimed 3,000 lives last year alone.
A hairdresser by trade, Levry, the band leader and a mother, recalls the difficulty she had selling the idea to her own family. Through sheer perseverance she finally obtained their "blessing", but blamed such trouble on Ivorian society as a whole.