Born in Bouake in the Ivory Coast, Gervais Koffi grew up in the thriving, multicultural capital city of Abidjan, where his musical career kicked off in the late 1980s. Through to the mid 1990s, Koffi performed in local venues with a host of bands including the Holy Guys, Mewlessels and Kangalet. While learning from these experiences, he felt his creativity was stifled because of the concentration on covers rather original compositions which was his passion. Although his residency with Kangalet at the International Golf Hotel in Abidjan proved successful, his was not a vision shared by the other band members and parted ways with the band in 1995.
Intent on broadening his horizons, Koffi moved to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1995 where he set about securing a recording contract. Having secured an introduction to Gallo's Geoff Paynter he then met the respected engineer Lance Longley at Downtown Studios. This led him to Dave Segal and the production of a demo CD.
What finally emerged after a long hard struggle was his first album, 'Oba-Oba', after the beautiful title track which infuses the sounds of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, from Lagos to Lusaka. The album, recorded at Gallo Records, boasts a South African feel, not surprising as almost 30 local musicians were involved in the project, including several who have performed with Paul Simon on his Graceland album. The multilingual Koffi sprinkled the lyrics on the album with a dash of English, French, Zulu, and his native Baoule.
Reeling with excitement from the project, Koffi set about putting together a band to tour and promote the album. Led by Koffi, the aptly named Cream of Africa delivered a vibrant stage show playing residencies and festivals across the country and sharing stages with the likes of South African legends Hugh Masekela, Sipho Gumede and Gito Baloi. His major South African festival performances included the 1997 Arts Alive International Festival which also featured Angelique Kidjo, and Brazil's Tanya Maria.
He also set the stage alight at the Oppikoppi Festival in Easter 1998 with the Pretoria News describing his performance as the highlight of the festival - 'originally scheduled for two 45 minute sets they ended up playing for over two hours to a crowd that was boogying its socks off and just would not let them off stage.'
Koffi's vision of a unified, peaceful and proud Africa was spread through his many radio, television and newspaper interviews which featured in the mainstream South African media. By the end of his four years in South Africa he had become a well-known artist struggling to promote and end to the many injustices brought about by xenophobia and intolerance.
Koffi arrived in Sydney in August 1998 to spread his infectious music and philosophies to the people of Australia. This time he decided to promote the rhythms of the African Diaspora. His ambition is to build a bridge between the black Diaspora, the descendants of African cultures scattered across the world as a result of slavery, and artists arriving in the 'New World' today.
Not content with a budding musical career, Koffi ventured into acting through a chance encounter while performing at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan in 1995. While performing one of Ismael Lo's songs, he was heard by a film director who was working with Ismael at the time. He was so excited, he brought Ismael to listen to Koffi's rendition of one of his songs. So taken was Ismael that not only did he insist on singing a duet with him but he immediately signed Koffi to back and appear with him in an AIDS film he was starring in - 'Afrique mon Afrique'.
Koffi's public pleas for an end to xenophobia and intolerance in Africa made him the obvious choice for the lead role in a highly acclaimed film, 'The Foreigner', which was produced in South Africa. Screened in Milan, Marsielle, New York and Rotterdam, it is a short, hard-hitting film about xenophobia in the heart of Johannesburg made by local filmmaker Zola Maseko. It played to thunderous applause around the world and won second prize in the short film section at the Festival di Cinema African in Milan, Italy.
Since moving to Australia in 1998, Koffi has appeared as an extra in numerous films including 'Babe 2', 'Looking for Alibrandi' and 'Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith'.