Tag Archives: Cameroonian music

Artist Profiles: Kristo Numpuby

Kristo Numpuby – Photo by Samy Nja Kwa

Born in Paris and raised in Eseka in Cameroon, Kristo Numpuby plays assiko music, the traditional rhythm of the southern Cameroon forests, using a guitar, knives, forks and spoons and empty bottles for the percussion. Singer, bassist and guitarist, the Afro-Parisian draws on the rhythms of the forest as inspiration for his compositions.

At the age of 8, he began composing songs for children, and took an interest in percussion. “In the village, there were always evenings with musicians, either baptisms, marriages or wakes,” he said. They became opportunities for me to admire the percussionists, playing bare-chested with their big muscles.? The education that his musician-grandmother gave him made Kristo a boy with a great interest in anything musical. “My grandmother, Ngueba, ran a bar in Eseka, he explains. “We listened to lots of different music all day long?classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, James Brown, Afro-Cuban, rumba from Zaire, highlife, makossa and biguine. You could say that I was totally immersed in a very colorful music world.”

Kristo received his first guitar at age 12. He began playing all the hits he heard on the radio. Two years later, he was a guitarist in one of the four groups in his school. At 18, he formed a trio that played only his own compositions. The three musicians constantly played each other?s instruments during their concerts. He was the lead singer in a group that mostly played assiko music, which no young people usually played.

Kristo says, “My buddies didn’t understand how a guy like me who spent his vacations in Paris was still interested in village music. Even though I liked disco and all the music in fashion, that music still fascinated me. Why? I can’t tell you. But I found real pleasure in playing Jean Bikoko, Medjo Me Nsom and Dikoum Bernard, and to finger the guitar strings like them in an unusual way. The assiko musicians and dancers have a special knowledge and a particular technique. I liked their style of music because it was different. But I was just as interested in classical technique as in that of the forest guitarists.”

In 1990, Kristo Numpuby got back into the music he had somewhat left behind. “After finishing high school in Duala, I went to the University of Yaunde, before heading off to Paris in 1986. I wanted to be a TV director. There were such beautiful posters in the metro and TV ads that left you breathless: “Generation Mitterrand, Citroen cars, Dim stockings?I was completely subjugated. There were advertising schools everywhere. I got a technical qualification and then for your years I was an advertising wonder kid. This is how I wound up in the studio to oversee the recording of advertisements that I was responsible for. We had a problem finding musicians. I reacted quickly, and Morning Limbe, a blues piece composed in 1982, became the soundtrack.”

Eventually, music replaced advertising. Kristo began hanging out in recording and rehearsal studios, and became a studio bass player. “In December of 94, I was touring in Ghana with an African star for the Panafest. At the hotel, I ran into Stevie Wonder. I had about 20 of his records at home. When we finished talking, he asked me if I had some work of mine he could listen to. I had nothing to show him from what I had been doing musically. That’s when I understood that I had to record my compositions.

After his first album, Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day) in 1997, Kristo Numpuby developed a faithful following in Paris, and played the prestigious New Morning venue that December. The following year, in 1998, he played on the radio and television show, ?Africa Live,? and took part in the Afro-Pfingsten Festival in Winterthur, in Switzerland. A number of his instrumental cuts were used as soundtracks for radio and television clips.

On stage, Kristo varies in style from sharp traditional African rhythms to the folk sounds of African-Americans, played on acoustic instruments. This singer-guitarist, accompanied by a percussionist bottle player and two other musicians, is one of those artists who excites and surprises his audience at every concert.


Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 1997)
An Sol Mè (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 2001)
Brassens en Afrique (Lon Yes/Mosaic Music, 2007)


Artist Profiles: Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue was born December 6, 1967 in Duala, Cameroon. Henri Dikongué grew up as part of a family of musicians. He was raised in the capital city, Yaunde, where he learned acoustic guitar from his uncle. His grandmother brought him to a Protestant choir where he first learned to sing. Like all young people in Cameroon, Dikongué was surrounded by the vibrant sound of makossa, a bubbling dance rhythm that blends guitar lines with unstoppable percussion.

It took years of soul searching before he was willing to devote himself to a life in music. After going to Switzerland to live with his sister, who had emigrated there, he soon became disenchanted with the Swiss system and moved to Bensacon, a French city near the Swiss border, where he began to study law. Dikongué obtained a law degree, but soon discovered that music was his true passion, so he joined the pan-African music and Theater Company Masques & Tam-Tam. There he met singer Alfred M’Bongo and percussionist Manuel Wandji, both of whom would become very influential in his career. He then joined Banthu Marantha, a South African vocal group for which he composed several songs. Dikongué moved to Paris in 1989 where he became a devout student of classical guitar. All the while he maintained strong connections with the creative African music scene in Paris. His first album, “Wa,” was praised by critics who saw him as a representative of the new generation of African musicians, creating melodic music that is intelligent, poetic and innovative.


Wa (1995)
C’est la vie – This is life (Tinder, 1997)
N’oublie jamais – Never forget (2000)
Mot’a Bobe (Tinder, 2000)
Biso Nawa (2005)
Diaspora (Buda Musique, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Francis Mbappe

Francis Mbappe

A native of Cameroon, Francis Mbappe is a talented bassist who has graced the stage with musical greats such as Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Ashanti Tokoto, Francois Louga, and Ernesto Djedje.

By the age of nineteen Mbappe was bass player and musical director for Manu Dibango’s band, with whom he toured extensively from 1982 until 1990. He appears on the albums Surtension, Abele Dance, Baobab Sunset and the renowned Wakafrika release which also featured Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, and King Sunny Ade.

Upon arrival to New York City in the 1990s, Francis started the band FM Tribe with some of the most exciting, innovative players around. With funk in the conception, rock in the attitude, swing in the movement and soul in the spirit, Francis Mbappe led his band FM Tribe through the New York City music circuit and recorded a stylistically revolutionary album entitled Need Somebody.

Before becoming one of New York’s most sought after bass players, Francis also co-produced and arranged the album Guido Vittale for Koning Plank, featuring Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, as well as working on music for the film Young Maestro, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Francis Mbappe also runs his music production company FM Groove Inc., bringing people of different races, educations and backgrounds together in an attempt to unify people through acts of artistic expression.


Need Somebody (FM Groove, 2000)
Celebration (FM Groove, 2005)
Seeds of Djuke (liveWired Music, 2009)
Peace is Freedom (FM Groove, 2010)


Richard Bona Announces American Tour and New Album

Richard Bona - Heritage
Richard Bona – Heritage

Cameroonian bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona has a new album titled Heritage, scheduled for release on September 16 in the United States. To promote the album he will be touring the United States in September 2016.

Heritage, Bona’s eighth, is the first with the Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano. This recording follows the roots of Afro-Cuban music back to its origins in the Mandekan Empire of the 15th century and earlier. The music explores the alchemy of African rhythms in Cuba.

Tour Dates:

Sept 2nd: Boston, MA, Sculler’s

Sept 6th: Washington, DC, Howard Theatre

Sept 9-10: NYC, Club Bonafide

Sept 13-14: Los Angeles, CA, Catalina’s

Sept 16th: Monterey, CA, Monterey Jazz Festival

Sept 20-21: Seattle, WA, Jazz Alley

Buy Heritage


Artist Profiles: Njacko Backo

Njacko Backo
Njacko Backo

Njacko Backo is a percussionist and singer. He was born in 1958 in the hillside village of Bazu, Cameroon. After studying under his village elders for many years, Njacko Backo left his life and family in Bazu at the age of sixteen, in order to investigate the world beyond. He traveled through over 15 African countries, learning, playing and performing with musicians from the diaspora. He arrived in Amsterdam, ten years later, and it was there that he began to record the sounds he had gleaned from his diverse experiences in Africa.

Njacko put two albums to press during a four-year stint in Holland. He recorded an album entitled Le Destin, as well as a 45” single called Bamileke Reggae, at Amsterdam’s Weekland Studios. These recordings gave him the inspiration and the desire to seek out North American possibilities.

In 1989, Njacko arrived in Montreal, where he collaborated with Canadian and Afro-Canadian artists. In 1992, he recorded Aventure au Desert with his group, Kalimba! Kalimba! In 1996, he released his first CD titled “Nkoni,” followed by the newly released compilation CD, Resurrection, which came out in November 1998. All of his Montreal recordings were produced in Morris Appelbaum’s Silent Sound Studios. Njacko lived in Montreal for a few years and then he moved to Toronto with his family.

Njacko Backo is one of the rare Kalimba players in the western world. Poet, writer, composer, performer and accomplished choreographer, Njacko Backo makes his own instruments, including the Kalimba, the Zaa Koua (African harp) as well as a wide variety of drums and small percussion instruments.


Bamileke Reggae (1986)
Le Destin (1988)
Aventure au Desert (1989)
Nkoni (1996)
Lode Yeuk (1999)
Kakoua (2000)
The Conscience of Africa (2003)
Ba Ba Oh (2006)
Ou est l’Amour [Where is the Love] (2009)
Ici Bas Rien Nest Impossible (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Manu Dibango

Manu Dibango - Photo by Louis Vincent
Manu Dibango – Photo by Louis Vincent

Emmanuel Dibango N’Djoké was born on December 12 of 1933 in Duala, Cameroon. Manu Dibango arrived to Europe as a young student. With his extraordinary musical talent and burgeoning love of jazz, the young Manu soon opted for a life devoted to adventure for the musical kind.

With jazz blaring in its every nook and cranny, Paris was the perfect place for Manu to mix, mingle, listen and learn. Manu was introduced to the music of Armstrong, Ellington, Young and Parker and all the multifaceted life of the Parisian jazz-scene.

His first stay in the French capital turned out to be relatively brief. It was a time when African nations were being born, either violently or more or less peacefully and words like “independence” and “afro centricity” were common currency.

The great Kabasele invited Manu to join his band, the African Jazz, to play Congolese music. The invitation was accepted and Manu returned to Africa. A love of jazz on the one hand and traditional African music on the other prompted Manu to experiment by combining various different styles of music to create his own unique blend.

With his inherent curiosity and sensitivity Manu has always been interested in widely divergent and different styles of music. A cursory listen to his output bears this out: jazz, reggae, rap… all these and more are in full effect.

In 1972 Manu scored his first international hit with the million selling “Soul Makossa”, which fared particularly well in the United States of America where it helped to create considerable awareness of African music and break down some prevailing musical prejudices.

Manu discovered a secret pleasure in going against the grain of entrenched ideas about musical purism and traditionalism. His purpose was and still is to build bridges between the continents.

Manu was the fist-mover in what became a deep-rooted relationship between the music of francophone Africa and Paris. He has recorded and released numerous albums. Today, as well as touring in the world, he spends considerable time supporting and encouraging young musicians and fighting humanitarian causes.


Soul Makossa (Fiesta Records, 1972)
O Boso (London/PolyGram Records, 1973)
Makossa Man (Atlantic Records, 1974)
Makossa Music (Creole Records, 1975)
Manu 76 (Decca Records, 1976)
Super Kumba (Decca Records, 1976)
The World of Manu Dibango (Decca Records, 1976)
Ceddo O.S.T (Fiesta Records, 1977)
A l’Olympia (Fiesta Records, 1978)
Afrovision (Mango/Island Records, 1978)
Sun Explosion (Decca Records, 1978)
Gone Clear (Mango/Island Records, 1980)
Ambassador (Mango/Island Records, 1981)
Waka Juju (Polydor/PolyGram Records, 1982)
Mboa (Sonodisc/Afrovision, 1982)
Electric Africa (Celluloid, 1985)
Afrijazzy (Soul Paris, 1986)
Deliverance (Afro Rhythmes, 1989)
Happy Feeling (Stern’s Music, 1989)
Rasta Souvenir (Disque Esperance, 1989)
Polysonik (1992)
Live ’91 (Stern’s Music, 1994)
Wakafrika (Giant/Warner Bros. Records, 1994)
Lamastabastani (Soul Paris, 1994)
Bao Bao (Movieplay, 1996)
African Soul – The Very Best Of (Mercury, 1997)
CubAfrica, with Eliades Ochoa (Corason Records, 1998)
Africavision, Vol. 3: The Cinema of Manu Dibango (Buda Musique, 2003)
The Rough Guide to Manu Dibango (World Music Network, 2004)
African Woodoo (2008)
Choc’n’Soul (2010)
Afro Funk (2010)
Afro Soul Machine (2011)
Past Present Future (2011)
Ballad Emotion (2011)
Africa Boogie (2013)
Aloko Party (2013)
Lagos Go Slow (2013)
Balade En Saxo (2013)


Artist Profiles: Blick Bassy

Blick Bassy - Photo by Hans Speekenbrink
Blick Bassy – Photo by Hans Speekenbrink

Born in 1974, singer, songwriter, guitarist and percussionist Blick Bassy grew up with 20 siblings in Cameroon’s capital Yaunde, a city where people from all parts of the country come together, and the first languages are French and English. Bassy says: “People in Yaunde lose their traditions and culture rapidly because they don’t speak in their mother tongues with each other or their children. My family is part of the Bassa ethnic group, a nomad tribe that originally comes from Egypt and has descendants down in South Africa. But nowadays people stay in one place because they need visas to cross borders. The word ‘bassa’ means ‘people from the earth’.”

Aged 10, Bassy was sent to live with his grandparents for two years in Mintaba, a small village situated in the center of Cameroon. His grandparents initiated Bassy into traditional customs and culture, training him in a variety of tasks, such as hunting, fishing and agriculture. He was also educated in their musical traditions.

In Mintaba, daily life is accompanied by music and it was there that Blick discovered the Bolobo (chant for fishing), the Dingoma (chant and percussion for the inauguration of Mbombock chiefs), the Bekele (chant and percussion for weddings), the Hongo (chant for funerals) and the Assiko (guitar percussion, chant and dance). “In Mintaba, people don’t talk much but they sing a lot during their daily tasks. It’s in the singing that they express their emotions and show their souls. My mother used to sing from morning till night. She’s the one who fired my musical aspirations and taught me how to sing. Back at my parents’ home, I started listening to Marvin Gaye, Gilberto Gil and Nat King Cole. I realized I wanted to blend the beauty of my Bassa culture and its musical traditions with other music that inspired me and create my own soulful sound.”

Blick Bassy started his first band, Jazz Crew, when he was 17. Playing a fusion of African melodies, jazz and bossa nova, Jazz Crew quickly became the most sought-after group in the city. In 1996, he formed a new band called Macase. During almost 10 fruitful years Macase released two acclaimed albums, Etam (1999) and Doulou (2003), as well as picking up various regional and international awards, including the RFI Prize for World Music (2001), Best Group by MASA (2001), Best New African Group by the KORA Awards (2003) and the CICIBA Prize (2003).

Then in 2005, Bassy decided to leave Macase and he moved to Paris where he started working with Manu Dibango, Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Lokua Kanza and Etienne Mbappé. A few years later he signed to the World Connection label and he finally got to do work on his solo album, Léman.

About the album he says: “I’ve been creating and carrying some of these songs around in my head for the past five years. Every detail is a part of me. It feels great to have been able to record them now and share them on stage. The song ‘Bolo’, for instance, is about having to leave your country and missing it. Lots of Africans have to move away from their hometowns to make a living. I’m the perfect example. But I also enjoy my travels to other places because I’m always looking for musical encounters. One of my trips took me to Mali and other West African countries. The Malian griot music is very present in the instrumentation (kora, ngoni), harmonies and melodies of this album.”

Léman was recorded in Salif Keita’s studio in Bamako, Mali, and in Bassy’s current hometown of Paris, and co-produced by Jean Lamoot (known for his work with Souad Massi, Salif Keita, Nneka and Kasse Mady Diabaté) and Jean-Louis Solans.

Blick continues, “Musically it’s interesting to use Bassa. Its specific intonation determines the melody. When I sing in Bassa, I make use of the proverbs in which the Bassa express themselves. They often have a literal sense but also a deeper meaning which you will only understand when you are initiated. For example, in the song ‘Masse’ I talk about ‘the owl that scratched my forehead’ which means as much as you’ve been struck by misfortune. But it won’t get me down because I feel I’m well protected by my forefathers!”


Etam, with Macase (1999)
Doulou, with Macase (2003)
Léman (World Connection, 2009)
Ako (2015)