Three authors trace Cameroon's music golden ages in new book.

Officials at the launch of the book in Douala

Three Cameroonian authors have made a detailed compilation of Cameroon's music golden ages in a new publication.

The book, titled: “100 key titles of Cameroonian music", is derived from a plethora of rich heritage through 70 years of musical excellence. 

With changes in times and the generational transition, three authors, Guy Landry Nkott better known by his stage name Kaiser Pakito, Thierry Minko'o and Heyndricks N. Bile, unwittingly provided a scathing answer to the question that has recently become almost an existential slogan, "what was there before? 

Written in 303 pages, each of the page takes the reader back to melodies that have made people hit the dance floor, lulled others to sleep and inspired several generations. 

"The ingredients here are unquestionably audacity, a passion for music, a love of history, all sprinkled with a zest of madness," a phrase in the forward reads. 

"In over 303 pages, Bilé, Minko'o and Nkott have compiled 70 years of musical richness and diversity. With force and detail, the authors succeeded in transporting us on a journey rich in sound and color through the ages, at a tempo punctuated by crunchy anecdotes and fascinating revelations," communication expert, Paul Mahel, said.

The 100 titles selected thus appear as prescribers of an identity referential that proclaims and assumes multi-culturality and diversity. 

“Through the 100 titles, whole swathes of our country's contemporary history are revealed. The songs are contextual and inspired by everyday life. Beyond the drum rolls, the precision of the guitar chords or the shimmering roar of the bass lines, each song appears as a marker of an era, freezing time in the collective memory,” he added.

The golden ages as unveiled 

The book revealed the 1950s era when music scene was still in its infancy, heavily influenced by sounds from elsewhere, such as Merengue from the faraway Dominican Republic or Rumba from the banks of the Congo River. 

In the background, the first notes of the Makossa rhythm emanate from the banks of the Wouri, answered from the center of the country by the jerky chords of an Assiko solo set to a meticulously paced bottle clink.

The 60s were a time of emancipation. Merengue and salsa held their own, while Makossa and Assiko were still rehearsing their scales. 

The artists of this time, most of them self-taught, were keen to win over an audience too long lulled by foreign music. 

The 70s was the decade of professionalisation. This was when long-toothed young wolves invaded the scene. 

Thanks to the African Cup of Nations that Cameroon hosted in 1972, a filler called Soul Makossa became the standard-bearer of the rhythm, which set out to conquer the world. 

Its foot soldiers were recruited from the boy bands that scoured the cabarets of the economic capital-Douala

The morning breeze of the '80s blew a wind of freedom with the scent of renewal. Makossa, at the peak of its art, formed a national team and Toto Guillaume naturally took up the armband.

Bikutsi asserted itself with the birth of one named Théodore Epeme AKA Zanzibar. A new generation, led by Samson Chaud gars, took hold of Assiko.

From the West of the country, Claude Ndam's "U Nguo Ya" took central stage while the North of the country came out with a frenzied rhythm called "Soul Gandjal" carried by Ali Baba.

Even the Armed Forces got intrigued with the ambient frenzy, releasing Golden Sounds, better known as Zangalewa. The 90s were marked by a series of crises, protests and mergers. 

Sala Bekono's "Long Courrier" and K-tino's "Ascenseur" were at the forefront of Bikutsi's emancipation, supported by Sally Nyolo's "Tamtam"and Zélé le Bombardier's "Pédalé". These were also the years of globalisation. 

Wes Madiko met Michel Sanchez, and their "union" gave birth to Alanè, which went on to reach the top of the charts. 

Meanwhile, Richard Bona conquered the legendary Manathan Center studios in New York to deliver "Dipita"

The mergers and influences of the '90s gave rise to some real nuggets in the 2000s: Bantou Posi's "Nikles", Koppo's "Si tu vois ma go", X Malea's "Yelele", Valséro's "ce pays tue les jeunes" and Stanley Enow's "Hein Père" all succeeded in making people forget the mysterious appearance of Simon papa tara and the lamentations chants of "le mari de la femme" of Romeo Dika

In a nutshell, the 100 titles stand through time, revealing fruitful collaborations, missed opportunities, fleeting loves, sentiment and artistic disappointments. 

The book has the merit of telling a story of Cameroon by Cameroonians highlighting specific identities, cultures and diversities.



This story was first published in The Guardian Post issue No:3163 of Tuesday July 9, 2024


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