Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Ivory Coast by Rancid

The trenches are dug and the bones they do shiver
And the taste of war is so cold and bitter
Rancid's "Ivory Coast" isn't one of their better known songs. Nestled way down at number 17 on the track listing for the album Indestructible, "Ivory Coast" is the epitome of punk: a song upbeat and jovial in sound, with lyrics that examine the atrocities of civil war. This dichotomy in punk has long been a defining characteristic of the genre, and Rancid is no exception.

Côte d'Ivoire (in English, the Ivory Coast) is a West African country bordered by Liberia, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Guinea, with a soccer team ranked second on the African continent by FIFA. But this nation isn't known for its prowess on the football field or for its swaths of magnificent, palm lined beaches and seaside cities. Like so many African countries, Côte d'Ivoire has a history peppered with violence and political unrest. In 1843, the French made their first move in what has been described as the European "scramble" for Africa. By 1893, Côte d'Ivoire was a French colony. It was only in 1960 that the country was granted its independence under the leadership of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. For 33 years there was peace and prosperity, thanks to a booming coffee and cocoa industry.

Children at Côte d'Ivoire<br>Photo: kassoum_kone, PixabayChildren at Côte d'Ivoire
Photo: kassoum_kone, Pixabay
In the 1980s, Côte d'Ivoire experienced an economic slump, which contributed to the political unrest, leading to a coup d'etat in 1999 and a subsequent civil war starting in 2002. The war raged for years and should have seen an end in 2005 with presidential elections. The elections were postponed for five years and re-scheduled for 2010. This resulted in the 2010-2011 Ivorian Crisis and a second civil war between Ouattara and Gbagbo forces. In November 2011, after his arrest earlier that year in April, Laurent Gbagbo was handed over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands where he joined the likes of Charles Taylor, facing charges of crimes against humanity.

Rancid holds a clearly bitter view of the turmoil in this nation. The opening verse says it all, For 24 hours on the Ivory Coast, They relieved soldiers from their post, And they gave champagne for a toast, To pay dividends to the country's host. "Ivory Coast" is one of few songs on the album with such heavy and dark content, a song conspicuous by its absence in most reviews of the album. The anthemic "Fall Back Down" and "Out of Control" take all the glory, winning the popularity contest by being featured on video game soundtracks. There is little mention anywhere of the one song that attempts to make a statement about the dismal situation in a country rarely, if ever, contemplated by those not directly affected.

Indestructible was severely criticized at the time of its release for sounding 'poppier' than previous offerings by the band. Despite the criticisms, Indestructible debuted at number 15 on the charts and sold over 50 000 copies in its first week, making this 2003 album the second highest-charting album for the band. Indestructible is considered the most personal album ever recorded by Rancid, covering issues such as Tim Armstong's divorce from his ex-wife, and the track "Otherside," written by Lars Frederiksen to his brother who died in 2001. Where the political diatribe of "Ivory Coast" fits onto this album rife with personal sentiment is open to speculation. Perhaps "Ivory Coast" serves to illustrate that despite the seeming frivolity of the punk-rock lifestyle, these musicians still have a far-reaching social awareness and aren't afraid to express their opinions.

Suzanne van Rooyen
September 14, 2014

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.


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