Friday, July 10, 2009


In the 1950s, before Cameroon rallied around its homegrown makossa sound, the port city Douala moved to Nigerian highlife, Congolese rumba and Cuban music. But in the streets, troupes played a spirited folk music called ambasse bey, featuring stick-and-bottle percussion and guitar, a sound later popularized by Salle John.

Guitar-picking singers like Lobe Rameau performed and recorded topical songs, but it took Eboa Lotin's guitar-and-harmonica-based releases in the early '60s to bring these elements together and etch the beginnings of a new national sound, named for a children's hand-clapping game, kossa. Misse Ngoh, guitarist for Los Calvinos, moved makossa forward by developing the crisp, circular fingerpicking that became one of its trademarks. Rudimentary two-track recordings made in Douala prevailed until makossa pioneer Ekambi Brillant went to Paris and recorded in a modern studio.

By the 1980s, guitarist Toto Guillaume and bassist Aladji Touré had set up shop in the French capital, arranging and producing a stable of musicians who would shape the gleaming Paris recordings of makossa's heyday. Singers like Dina Bell, Guy Lobé, Ben Decca, Manulo, Douleur and Pierre De Moussy fashioned repeating hook melodies, mostly in the Douala language, backed by horn sections and dulcet female chorus singers, notably Sissy Dipoko, Marilou and Francis Titty. Like the nation's favorite beverage, champagne, makossa delivers sweet, fizzy intoxication. Makossa producers mixed the music's active bass lines loud for a punchy dancehall sound.

Moni Bilé proved one of the biggest hit-makers, starting with "Bijou" in 1982. But Sam Fan Thomas, with a sound based on the faster makassi rhythm of western Cameroon, gave makossa its most enduring hit with "African Typic Collection" in 1984. Since his late '60s work with the Black Tigers, Sam had worked his way into the Douala makossa scene. "African Typic Collection" celebrated the country's traditional music and worked around a lyrical refrain that proved irresistible and helped spread makossa to other African countries and to the West Indies. Sam's big hit also proved a tough act for him to repeat, and since then, a succession of singers have enjoyed their turn in the spotlight.

Lapiro de Mbanga's blend of makossa and soukous proved a marketing master stroke and appealed to a wide audience. Lapiro often sang in pidgin English--understood by more Camerooneans than the Douala language of most makossa hits--and he generated additional excitement with timely political jabs in his lyrics. Meanwhile, new artists like Charlotte Mbango, Prince Eyango and Grace Decca emerged from the Paris scene. By that time, producers like Toto and Aladji had begun blending makossa with another popular party-hardy style, zouk from the French Antilles. The resulting sound, sometimes called zouk, still registers on international dance charts in the wake of the makossa explosion. Singers Guy Lobé and Petit Pays have had particular success with the makozouk formula.

Makossa veterans have continued to branch out. The great Paris horn section Jimmy and Fredo worked out of Washington, DC in the late '80s. More recently, Cameroonian session players, mostly based in Paris, have played key roles in jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty's Tchokola project, and in Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints band, which also featured Cameroon's maverick guitarist Vincent Nguini.

In today's video upload, we are going to be focusing on one of the great Makossa legends, PENDA DALLE (right on picture).

Check this out and see if it unlocks any memories!
Happy watching...I am already dancing!

(Kudos to the music mastermind himself DJ Lewat for requesting this track!)

(This one is from team DC to y'all...I can so remember this video, I wanted to copy all the dance moves especially the guy in shorts towards the end of the video!!)

Stay sweet

1 comment:

Yayemarie said...

c'est vrai ke le makossa fait bouger ma grd soeur adorair