DJ Arafat, an Ivorian singer with a huge following in francophone Africa, has died after a road accident in Abidjan, evoking a wave of tributes to the award-winning star of the “coupe-decale” dance genre.
“Death of artist DJ Arafat… today at 8am as a result of a road accident overnight,” Ivory Coast state broadcaster RTI announced on Tuesday.
Hundreds of fans gathered on Monday, weeping and chanting “Arafat cannot die” outside the hospital in Abidjan’s Cocody suburb where the 33-year-old singer died, AFP reporters at the scene said.
According to messages and pictures circulating on social media, he had been driving a motorbike on Sunday night and smashed into a car. Critically injured, the singer was taken to the hospital where he later died.
Born in Abidjan in 1986, DJ Arafat — real name Ange Didier Huon — had a massive audience in French-speaking western and central African countries.
He issued 11 albums, mainly of “coupe-decale” — a dance music form combining rapid percussion, choppy rhythms with hip hop-style vocals.
“We are all in shock,” Ickx Fontaine, an Ivorian producer and specialist in hip hop told AFP. “He was a real singer… he gave a new breath of life to coupe-decale.”
Ivorian football star Didier Drogba, a former Chelsea and international player, posted a picture of DJ Arafat on his Twitter account with a heart symbol.
According to the Ivorian news site Alerte-Info, hundreds of fans crowded outside the star’s home singing some of his hits.
“It hurts me so much, I cannot believe it,” a fan, Estelle Oulaye, told AFP.
Ivorian Culture Minister Maurice Kouakou Bandaman expressed his condolences and said a tribute would be held to honour the musician.
The high-octane music often using electronic sounds was born in 2003 in Ivorian nightclubs, spreading quickly throughout Africa. DJ Arafat’s fame expanded to Europe and the United States, thanks in part to sports stars who made some of the genre’s dance steps popular.
DJ Arafat was named “Best Artist of the Year” at the Ivorian Coupe-Decale Awards in 2016 and 2017.
Among his hits were “Kpangor”, “Zoropoto”, “Enfant Beni” and his latest single “Moto, Moto”.
Music managers said the singer was known for his love of motorbikes.
He was born in the music world. His mother was a well-known singer and his father a prominent sound engineer, one music manager said. He started as a DJ in the clubs on Rue Princesse in Yopougon, one of Abidjan’s night-life districts.
“He was a legend of Ivorian music. He gave concerts all over Africa,” said Ozone, a hip hop producer and television host. “He had a natural charisma.. He will remain a force for Ivorian and African music.”