Cameroon is located in Central Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea. It has several large cities including Yaounde, the country’s political capital and Douala, the economic capital. Its cultural and ethnic diversity (over 240 ethnic groups, with 240 different languages) made Cameroon a nest of talent, not only in sports but also in music. In this article we will take a near look at the Cameroonian music in the country and in diaspora.
The Best known music of Cameroon is Makossa, for the most part, it is popularized in France by some major musical figures like Manu Dibango, Richard Bona and Etienne Mbappe. But our beautiful country has many other natural rhythms, some of which still belong to the traditional single register. Rhythms such as the “bikoutsi”, the “Bend skin”, the “Manga Mbeu”, the “Essewe”, “Ku Nga” and other like the “Assiko” rhythms are all joining gradually playlist in night clubs and wedding parties! In Cameroon, we do not learn to sing or dance, it’s a gift, something that we are born with and it is simply in our bones and blood. Sometimes we do not even need a guitar or a piano or any other modern music instrument; we make music with whatever we have on hand, and the result is simply extraordinary. That’s the originality of Cameroonian music, made of those strange musical instruments that are only found in Africa, and Cameroon.
Cameroonian Rhythm’s originality
Far from the global trends of pop, rock and disco, it is in cultural diversity that the Cameroonian music finds its originality. In fact, each region and each ethnic group in the country has its own rhythms that are inspired by its life experience, tradition and ancestral practices. But only some manage to attract record labels and to be promoted in radio stations and nightclubs. Among the most popular rhythms we have:
- Makossa: Being the most liked Cameroon music style; it is popularized by various diaspora Cameroonian artists in France, Switzerland and United States. It is based on the traditional dances of the people of Douala, namely the “Esewe” and the “Kossa”, with significant influences from jazz, zouk, “ambass bay”, Latino music, and rumba. Artists such as Eboa Lotin, Misse Ngoh, Richard Bona and especially Manu Dibango are major figures in the history of makossa. With the new generations, we see artists like Petit Pays, Samy Diko, Longue Longue, Sergeo Polo, Narcisse Prize and many others be on top of the charts.
- Bitkussi: This dance and music is from the Center and South provinces of Cameroon. It is a traditional dance of the Beti ethnic group. The word bikutsi means in Ewondo “beat of the ground” which is materialized by beating the ground with the soles of the feet. One of the emblematic figures of bikutsi in the country and abroad is indeed K-Tino. We also have monuments like Anne Marie Nzie, the band “Les têtes brulées”, Chantal Ayissi, Ai-Jo Mamadou, Lady Ponce, Bisso Solo and many others.
- Assiko: Originally a traditional dance performed in healing sessions, the Assiko has evolved over time into a party dance in itself. Less famous than the first two, this dance is mostly found, in Bassas and Betis regions. The dancers move in small steps swaying sensually. The music is played using guitars and traditional drums. Jean Aladin Bikoko is one of the icons of this musical style, he managed to make a career with Assiko and to bring and perform the music in more commercial arena like discos and nightclubs. Other assiko artists are quite well known: LIMAL Joseph, Mongo Mbea Paul Balomog Samson chaud gars, Kilama Kol Mbogol and Nlella.
- Manga Mbeu Bend and skin: It’s a musical style of the western region, especially the Bangangte people. It has been popularized by artists like Pierre Diddy Tchakounte, Andre Marie Talla and the group Kouchouam Mbada.
4million. This is the official number published by the Cameroonian authorities to estimate the number of Cameroonians distributed around the world including talent and Cameroonian music ambassadors. We will present here a few that have enhanced the International image of Cameroon through music.
- Manu Dibango: With over 22 albums to his credit, numerous compilations and unreleased Duo, Manu Dibango is now considered the greatest African saxophonist in business, and the godfather of all African musicians. His latest album titled “Joue Sidney Bechet” (2007) honors the work of the saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet from New Orleans.
- Etienne Mbappe: Born in Douala, Cameroon, he enrolled at the conservatory-Chevilly Larue to study classical guitar and then classical bass. Since 2000 Étienne Mbappé plays with Joe Zawinul and is a full member of the “Zawinul Syndicate. He also performed in many concerts with Louis Winsberg. In 2001, he recorded on the latest album of Ray Charles. With two solo albums under his belt, he still well represents his country Cameroon. saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet from New Orleans.
- Yannick Noah: Yannick Noah was born in Sedan in France May 18, 1960, from a Cameroonian father, Zacharie, and a French mother, Marie-Claire. He discovered Cameroon in 1963 when his father, professional footballer, was seriously wounded and decided to return to his country. Famous tennis player, man with a big heart, Yannick Noah is the only athlete ever to successfully make a conversion to a musical career. First doubted and finger pointed he was able to make the right choice and gradually conquer a place in French music. With 9 albums to his credit, he is regularly in Cameroon and multiplies shows and concerts.
- Richard Bona: First recognized on the international music scene as a fantastic bass player, he also leads since 1999 his career as a solo artist with six albums under his belt. Richard Bona was born in 1967 in Minta, Cameroon, in a family of musicians. He emigrated to Germany at age 22, then moved to France to pursue music studies. He played regularly in jazz clubs and performed alongside Jacques Higelin, Didier Lockwood, Manu Dibango, Salif Keita, Francis Lassus etc..
- Wess Madiko: Better known as Wes, is a singer and musician from Cameroon, born January 15, 1964 at Motaba. In 1992, he went to the U.S. for the release of his album Roots. He gave many concerts in Atlanta on this tour. Shortly after, he found success with the album Welenga (en), composed by Michel Sanchez, founder of Deep Forest. In 1997, his title Alane (in), resulting from Welenga, became a summer hit. The following year, his song In Youpendi is used in the movie The King Lion 2: The Honor of the Tribe