[Portrait] Rabby Slo: on the winding paths of the Beninese star

While in college, Rabby Slo embarked on music in search of a livelihood. His first works, which became hits of the 2000s, made him chain of successes. But disappointed very early on, the star in the making flew out of Benin. Here is the story of the shooting star.

In the civil status, Rabby Slo is called Wilfrid Hounwanou. This birth name soon became unpopular due to its early success in music.

At the age of around 17, he released his first album in 1998 entitled “Enangnon”. But itit didn’t work too well”, remembers Rabby Slo. His entry into the Beninese artistic world fails. Rabby Slo knows “a bit of a hassle”.

Difficult childhood

Two years later, the teenager returns to the stage with “Djogbé”, a cult title that conquered Benin: “I did Djogbé. That’s what really got me started. It was a painting of what I experienced in my childhood”. A childhood “very difficult”. Who will listen, Wilfrid Hounwanou alias Rabby Slo confides :

I was born into a really modest family where we are 12 children. We experienced poverty very early on. We barely found food once a day.”

Like his brothers, Rabby Slo had to walk through the villages of Ouidah to sell “things: tomato, pepper, corn, gari on the head so that [sa] mom can follow”.

At school, Wilfrid Hounwanou, the 4th child in his family, was humiliated. “The accountant came during homework to hit us in front of everyone and took us out of the room. We do this in front of the whole class accompanied by insults, that’s what especially marked me”recalls Rabby Slo. But the native of Ouidah each time entrusts his fate to God. Because, “it took faith” to overcome it all. “Faith was the only thing you had because we didn’t have enough options. So I was reading an old Bible that was in our house”.

To take revenge on the precarious life of his family, the son of Peter Hounwanou, a baker, and Blandine Zomahoun, a housewife, abandons the way to school. “in 4th or 3rd class” to devote himself to “music because there was no means”.

Wilfrid then nicknamed himself Rabby, a name he discovered in the Bible during a reading. He adds Slo to it to form Rabby Slo. The whole thing means, according to him, “a teacher who has enough wisdom”.

Successes and disappointments

Now engaged in music, Rabby Slo faces the opposition of his father, Peter Hounwanou, who sends him away from the family home.

In his wandering, Rabby Slo gets fire Emile Desire Ologoudou a sum of 25,000 CFA francs. The young artist finances the arrangement of his first song in the studio of Marcel Padey.

With his rhythm called “afro-tchink”, the singer conquers his irresistible parents to the texts of his piece. He found himself at the peak of his art at the age of 19 in the early 2000s thanks to his albums Djogbe, Mahu-Mahu and Séwouê.

He successfully toured Benin with about fifteen artists. The boy, however, misses “a tour in Africa with [son tube], Coconut farm step” and others, for lack of support from the authorities: “Rabby Slo is not the only Beninese artist”the singer’s promoter was reportedly told at the time.

Shocked, he left Benin in anger in 2004 for the United States where he put on the student coat. In the new turning point of his life, Rabby Slo devotes himself to his studies at Holt high school music from New York for 4 years. He then produced music for films while he also studied marketing.

The Beninese star made her home there, but experienced disappointment in love. Father of two children, Rabby Slo remarried to another woman.

On Sunday February 05, 2023, the artist, author, composer and producer returns home. He sets foot in Benin 19 years after leaving with dual nationality: Benin-American.

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