Makossa is a music genre originating in Douala, Littoral Region, French Cameroons in the late 19th century.[1] Like much other music of Sub-Saharan Africa, it uses strong electric bass rhythms and prominent brass. Makossa uses guitar accompaniments, in the forms of solo and rhythm guitar, with a main singer (lead vocalist) and a choir of backup singers, with the focus being on the texture of the guitar, the role it plays in the song, the relationship between it and other instruments (including the bass, drum set, horns, synthesizers, etc.), the lyrical content and languages sung as well as their relationship (as far as timbre goes) with the music, the uses of various percussion instruments, including the bottle, the groove of the bass as well as the drums, and the use of technical knowledge and microprocessors to make the music.[2] It is in common time (4/4) for the vast majority of cases. Language-wise, it is typically sung in French, Duala or Pidgin English.[3] Tempo-wise, it is typically in between 130 and 170 BPM. It traditionally consisted of guitar-picking techniques that borrows from bikutsi; with a guitar-structure of a guitar switching from solo to rhythm from assiko; supplanted with complex bass grooves, and gradually picked up on brass section, from funk and later in the 70s, string section, from disco. It along with this acquired the sebene from Congolese rumba. In the 1980s makossa had a wave of mainstream success across Africa and to a lesser extent abroad. It is considered to be one of the greatest Cameroonian and even African "adventures" as a music.

Makossa, which in some accounts is said to mean "the contortions" and others to mean "(I) dance" in the Duala language,[4] originated from a Duala dance called the kossa. Emmanuel Nelle Eyoum started using the refrain kossa kossa in his songs with his group "Los Calvinos". The style began to take shape in the 1950s though the first recordings were not seen until a decade later. There were artists such as Eboa Lotin, Misse Ngoh and especially Manu Dibango, who popularised makossa throughout the world with his song "Soul Makossa" in 1972.It is the most sampled African song, in history to date.[5] The chant from the song, mamako, mamasa, maka makossa, was later used by Michael Jackson in "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" in 1983.In 2007, Rihanna similarly sampled it too for "Don't Stop The Music".[5] Many other performers followed suit. The 2010 World cup also brought makossa to the international stage as Shakira sampled the Golden Sounds popular song "Zamina mina (Zangalewa)".[6]

Etymology edit

The word "makossa" is originated from the Duala words "m'a" and "kossa". "Kossa" is a term that was a term at the edge of neologism expressed initially as a cry of exhortation, and as "a kind of swear word that has the status of a stimulus, a spur. In the book Le Makossa: une musique africaine moderne, a passage including this quote is written as follows: "En effet, le terme Makossa, dérive de << m'a kossa >> qui veut dire littéralement en langue duala et au pluriel les contorsions ; au singulier << di kossa >> la contorsion. Ce vocable << Kossa >> est un terme à la lisière du néologisme et du cri d'exhortation, mieux, une sorte de juron ayant statut de stimulus, d'aiguillon."[2] In the same book, the author explains that according to Remy Minko Mba (late journalist),[7] "Kossa is a kind of exclamation, a cry of joy that is usually uttered to give more vigor, [and] more energy to the dance." In the original French version, a passage including the translated version of this quote reads, "Remy MINKO MBA poursuit: << Kossa est une sorte d'exclamation, un cri de joie que l'on pousse généralement pour donner plus de vigeur, plus d'énergie à la danse. Il s'agit donc d'une sorte de stimulus qui doit nécessairement provoquer une réaction positive >>."[2] In Cameroonian Pidgin English, a cognate that could one of the ultimate underlying origins of the word "makossa" is: "kosh". One of the definitions of this word is: "to insult, abuse, curse, swear at."[8] In the context of the word "makossa", the last two verbs would be most logical. Why this went on to come along into the Duala language and overarching Sawa culture is because of the huge influence that Cameroonian Pidgin English, also known as Kamtok, has in Cameroon. Furthermore, because of the influence of European colonizers and their imposing of their languages on indigenous peoples in Africa, as well as their culture, words came along that didn't exist in at least some parts of Africa. Words like "window" and of course, "curse" were brought along to Africa, along with the Standard English as spoken by the British at the time of colonization, which led to the mutation of the word in the Kamtok version "kosh", then into "kossa", and finally into "makossa".[9] Other schools of thought have equally attributed the origin of this word to the Spanish word for "thing", or "cosa". This is given the fact that at a certain time, Cuban and other Latin American rumba records in which this word was used were broadcast on the radio in Douala. It can also be noted that this Latin American music spread to the Congo and Zaire, with whom there was a musician that Emmanuel Nelle Eyoum had frequent contact with.

Origins edit

Before "makossa" as a word existed, the genre of music known as makossa today emerged in the late 19th century.[1] It was based on the currents of musical influence in the city where it was born. The term makossa was founded by Nelle Eyoum. He did this when casually shouting out "kossa kossa". This was to stimulate partners on the dance floor to redouble or increase in fervency in the dance, especially during the frenzied part of the composition, commonly called "secousse" or "balle à terre". But even though Nelle Eyoum coined the term, they were others who played a significant role in the developing of the music. These include musicians such as Lobe Lobe Rameau, Mouelle Guillaume, Ebanda Manfred, Tibo Essombe, Epee Mbende Richard, Eitel Tobbo, Ebolo Emmanuel, Charles Lembe, Ruth Soppo, Jacqueline Ewondo, Tapelon, Epata, Eyoum Decca, Willy le Pape, etc. Labels such as Opika, Decca, Ngoma, Disques Cousins, etc., allowed them to record for them. These pioneers established the basic characteristics of makossa, such as the tempo, harmonies, melodic phrases possible, timbre that goes along with the phoneme of the Duala language, and the singing technique. They set the basic rules of makossa, in other words. Other rules that came into play include 1-3 chords, from the rhythm guitar and a song that alternates in a melody that they both have in common. Bass and percussion set the stage in a persistent manner, playing as separate elements. It is important to note that many are truly considered virtuosos in the guitar playing field. Their music is often referred to as a "one man show", despite having more than one musician. Duos exist, such as Rameau and Jacquy Lobe, Ekotto Robert and Ruth Soppo, Mouelle Guillaume and Jaqueline Ewondo. Rumba and merengue influenced the development of makossa.[10] Makossa can seem, upon attentive listening, to be a slowed-down version of assiko. Assiko itself is a variant of palm-wine music from Sierra Leone. Palm wine music was brought to Cameroon when Kru sailors arrived in Douala. Their merchants ships docked in the port city from other African cities such as Lagos, Nigeria via Cotonou in Benin, Monrovia in Liberia and Freetown in Sierra Leone in late 19th century. The influx of instruments and musical ideas filtered to the local population and influenced the development of this music in the city of Douala.

Early development

Makossa developed, expanded and evolved into one of most popular and ubiquitous modern music genres in Cameroon. Its influence shaped and altered the musical discourse in the country for more than half a century, so much so that its reach expanded far beyond the nation's borders to other parts of West and Central Africa. It is the rhizomic evolutionary offshoot of the musical confluence arising from the colonial era and its revolutionary relationship between the West and sub-Saharan Africa in the 18th century. Along with this came variegated cultural ideas and expressions, intellectual concepts, religious values, as well as radical and disruptive new technologies from Europe that were at the presence of African societies. The outcome was a plethora of newer musical forms and modes of expression along the coast of West and Central Africa. Like the Kru people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, business people, migrant workers, travelers, and musicians who were from the French Congo also brought along another stream of music with them to Douala.[1]

This junction between "old Africa and a new world of modernity" produced new auditory and visual frontiers. It allowed for a sensory experiential interface which culminated into a wide array of artistic and contemporary forms in West and Central African previously unheard before. It was out of this milieu that makossa would emerge, in one which was being revolutionized by new experimental and experiential realms which would revolutionize the entire continent.[1]

Makossa is a type of funky dance music, best known outside Africa for Manu Dibango, whose 1972 single "Soul Makossa" was an international hit. Outside of Africa, Dibango and makossa were only briefly popular, but the genre has produced several Pan-African superstars through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Following Dibango, a wave of musicians electrified makossa in an attempt at making it more accessible outside of Cameroon. Another pop singer in 1970s Cameroon was André-Marie Tala, a blind singer who had a pair of hits with "Sikati" and "Potaksima".

By the 1970s, bikutsi performers like Maurice Elanga, Les Veterans and Mbarga Soukous added brass instruments and found controversy over pornographic lyrics. Mama Ohandja also brought bikutsi to new audiences, especially in Europe. The following decade, however, saw Les Tetes Brulées surpass previous artists in international popularity, though their reaction at home was mixed. Many listeners did not like their mellow, almost easy listening-styled bikutsi. Cameroonian audiences preferred more roots-based performers like Jimmy Mvondo Mvelé and Uta Bella, both from Yaoundé.

1980s edit

By the 1980s, makossa had moved to Paris and formed a new pop-makossa that fused the fast tempo zouk style popularized by Kassav from the French Caribbean. Prominent musicians from this period included Moni Bilé, Douleur, Bébé Manga, Ben Decca, Petit-Pays, and Esa.

The 80s also saw rapid development of Cameroon's media which saw a flourishing of both makossa and bikutsi. In 1980, L'Equipe Nationale de Makossa was formed, joining the biggest makossa stars of the period together, including Grace Decca, Ndedi Eyango, Ben Decca, Guy Lobe and Dina Bell. Makossa in the 80s saw a wave of mainstream success across Africa and, to a lesser degree, abroad, as Latin influences, French Antilles zouk, and pop music changed its form. While makossa enjoyed international renown, bikutsi was often denigrated as the music of savages and it did not appeal across ethnic lines and into urban areas. Musicians continued to add innovations, however, and improved recording techniques; Nkondo Si Tony, for example, added keyboards and synthesizers, while Elanga Maurice added brass instruments. Les Veterans emerged as the most famous bikutsi group in the 80s, while other prominent performers included Titans de Sangmelima, Seba Georges, Ange Ebogo Emerent, Otheo and Mekongo President, who added complex harmonies and jazz influences.

In 1984, a new wave of bikutsi artists emerged, including Sala Bekono formerly of Los Camaroes, Atebass, a bassist, and Zanzibar, a guitarist who would eventually help form Les Têtes Brulées with Jean-Marie Ahanda. 1985 saw the formation of Cameroon Radio Television, a television network that did much to help popularize Cameroonian popular music across the country.

Jean-Marie Ahanda became the most influential bikutsi performer of the late 80s, and he revolutionized the genre in 1987 after forming Les Têtes Brulées, whose success changed the Cameroonian music industry. The band played an extremely popular form of bikutsi that allowed for greater depth and diversity. Guitarist Zanzibar added foam rubber to the bridge of his guitar, which made the instrument sound more like a balafon than before, and was more aggressive and innovative than previous musicians. Les Têtes Brulées emerged as a reaction against pop-makossa, which was seen as abandoning its roots in favor of mainstream success. The band's image was part of its success, and they became known for their shaved heads and multi-colored body painting, done to represent traditional Beti scarification, as well as torn T-shirts that implied a common folkness in contrast to the well-styled pop-makossa performers of the period. They also wore backpacks on stage, a reference to Beti women's traditional method of carrying babies while they danced bikutsi.

It took only a few weeks for Les Têtes Brulées to knock makossa off the Cameroonian charts, and the band even toured France. While in France, Les Têtes Brulées recorded their first LP, Hot Heads, which was also the first bikutsi music recorded for the CD. Hot Heads expanded the lyrical format of the genre to include socio-political issues. Tours of Japan, Africa, Europe and the United States followed, as well as Claire Denis' film Man No Run, which used footage from their European tour.

1990s edit

In the 1990s, both makossa and bikutsi declined in popularity as a new wave of genres entered mainstream audiences. These included Congolese-influenced new rumba and makossa-soukous, as well as more native forms like bantowbol, northern Cameroonian nganja (which had gained some popularity in the United Kingdom in the mid-80s) and an urban street music called bend-skin.

Les Têtes Brulées remained the country's most well known musical export, especially after accompanying the Cameroonian soccer team to the World Cup in 1990 in Italy and 1994 in the United States. A new wave of bikutsi artists arose in the early 1990s, including Les Martiens (formed by Les Têtes Brulées bassist Atebass) and the sexually themed roots singer Katino Ateba ("Ascenseur: le secret de l'homme") and Douala singer Sissi Dipoko ("Bikut-si Hit") as well as a resurgence of old performers like Sala Bekono. Bikutsi's international renown continued to grow, and the song "Proof" from Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints, released to mainstream promotion and success in 1990, gained yet more renown from international audiences. Vincent Nguini also contributed guitar arrangements and performance to Simon's Rhythm of the Saints, which became an influential world music album, introducing many North American listeners to the wide range of instrumentation and genres.

In 1993, the Pedalé movement was born as a reaction to the Cameroonian economic slump. Youthful artists like Gibraltar Drakuss, Zele le Bombardier, Eboue Chaleur, Pasto, Roger Bekono, Mbarga Soukous and Saint-Desiré Atango was a return to the aggressive, earthy sound of bikutsi roots. Meanwhile Henri Dikongué, whose music incorporated, amongst others, bikutsi and makossa, began to release albums which met international success. He went on to tour Europe and North America. The most recent form of Cameroonian popular music is a fusion of Congolese soukous and makossa, a scene which has produced Petit Pays, Marcel Bwanga, Kotto Bass, Papillon and Jean Pierre Essome. Other popular genres include tchamassi, mangambeu and makassi.

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c d RaDio2-FuTure1-AfriCa2. "Music: The Emergence Of A New Sonic Language". Radio Future Africa. Retrieved 29 February 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c Noah, Jean Maurice; Owona Nguini, Mathias Éric (2010). Le makossa: une musique africaine moderne. Études africaines. Paris: l'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-296-54150-4.
  3. ^ "Makossa Music Guide: A Brief History of Makossa Music". 22 March 2022. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  4. ^ George Echu. "Multilingualism as a Resource: the Lexical Appropriation of Cameroon Indigenous Languages by English and French". Section "Cultural-based terms" (last line)
  5. ^ a b Durosomo, Damola (8 May 2020). "This video explores the countless songs that sample Manu Dibango's 'Soul Makossa'". Okay Africa. Archived from the original on 14 May 2020. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  6. ^ Smith, Courtney E. (19 June 2019). "Shakira has the biggest World Cup song of them all. Here's how she did it". Refinery 29. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  7. ^ "Cameroon-Info.Net". (in French). Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  8. ^ Kouega, Jean-Paul (2008). A dictionary of Cameroon Pidgin English usage: pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. LINCOM studies in Pidgin & Creole linguistics. München: LINCOM Europa. ISBN 978-3-89586-204-5.
  10. ^ Noah, Jean Maurice; Owona Nguini, Mathias Éric (2010). Le makossa: une musique africaine moderne. Études africaines. Paris: l'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-296-54150-4.

References edit

  • West, Ben (2004). Cameroon: The Bradt Travel Guide. Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press Inc.
  • Noah, Jean-Maurice (2010). Le Makossa: une musique africaine moderne. Paris, France: L'Harmattan