Tag Archives: Cameroonian music

Kaïssa’s Joy

Kaïssa

Kaïssa greets me warmly at the door of her New York City apartment. She is a tall, thin, striking beauty with dark penetrating eyes. Born in Cameroon, she left at thirteen for France. As a young woman in Paris, she was first inspired musically by her elder brother. Raymond Doumbè Mouloungo is a bass player and led Miriam Makeba‘s band for several years.

Kaïssa began her musical apprenticeship in Paris, singing backing vocals for some of the greatest musicians to emerge from Africa: including Salif Keita and Manu Dibango. In 1996 she emigrated to New York. Here, she began to sing, songwrite and record independently. I Am So Happy, her second solo CD, was released in July 2011. We met in New York to discuss her life, her music, and this CD.

When you left for France as a young teenager, did you still feel a connection to Cameroon?

Yes a very strong connection! I have to acknowledge this was quite a trauma. It was quite a change. I moved from a very warm place, filled with people, a huge family. I am the youngest of ten, so you know when you get the love from your mum, it’s not the only woman’s love you get, you will see that when you go to Africa.”

The sense of community in your country, is that what you’re talking about?

Absolutely, that was what was terribly missing in France.” (Her voice is decisive.) “It was a culture shock. Something I first observed was an older woman, my neighbor’s children did not visit her. This happened in the French, modern, so called ‘civilized society. So, no, Cameroon never left me, because it was in me. Why the move at such a young age? Because my parents were told by a doctor that there was something wrong with my eyes, and they wanted me to get the best treatment available.”

You moved alone?

I traveled alone, but my three brothers and one sister lived here and were attending Parisian Universities. As a teenager, I used to break my brother’s ears, I want to sing, I want to sing,” (she chuckles), “One day he said, ‘you want to sing, don’t you want to sing? He was a member of ALAFIA band and Angelique Kidjo was one of the singers. She was unable to make the gig that night, that was the beginning.”

Tell me about that time in Paris, your musical life?

When I moved to France, Africa was very present culturally; it was a rich platform being in Paris in the late seventies and eighties. I sang in Bambara, Arabic, Wolof, Zulu, Duala, and French. You had so many African musicians,” She says enthusiastically.

So living in Paris exposed you to music that you would not have heard had you grown up in Cameroon?

Exactly, Paris was a very, very rich platform. So that’s when my brother said ‘viens, apprendre’ come, learn, and I had one week to learn the songs in Mina, one of the languages from Benin.” She laughs.

“So the experience in France, it prepared you for the musician you are now, doing backing vocals for all these great artists?

Absolutely, yes, my experiences in Paris, the diverse tours I did with Salif, Papa were the greatest schools, music and all of that, show business.”

Kaïssa

But, before Paris, you said that your father was musical?

Oh yes, it was how we would occupy ourselves on Saturdays, long meals, ten kids at the table, plus Uncles, Aunts, friends visiting, so, yes, we could all hear him. He could sing, and of course being born in Cameroon, that is one wonderful artistic tapestry. You have music, art, culture every day, every hour.

The particularity of Cameroon is that there are so many different people. It is a country in Africa with over two hundred and fifty languages; so many different languages mean many different rhythms. You go, for example, from the pop Soul Makossa of Manu Dibango with its strong bass to the music of the Bamilike, which is a 6/8 rhythm. We grew up listening to that diversity every day and I am really feeling blessed I was born there.”

Kaissa – I am So Happy

I am So Happy captures just the musical diversity that Kaïssa describes. It ranges effortlessly from soul to jazz to slow ballads. Each track is unique, yet the tracks work easily together. Kaïssa’s vocals strengths are twofold: she sings from the heart and has great vocal versatility. The first track on the CD, “Baka”, successfully highlights her technique. Here her voice becomes fun, playful, percussive, mimicking a drum. The rhythms interweave with repetitive breathing on this song, reflecting the traditional sounds of the Baka forest people.

Talk to me about the song “Baka.

Growing up I saw some kids making fun of the Baka and them being disregarded. Why should that continue today in a world where they should be protected, where the natural habitat should be restored? They are known as pygmies, but I don’t like that word because it is condescending. Growing up, kids would call them monkeys, and yet these are the original people of Africa. How can we go forward if we ignore everything from the past and treat them as if they are animals? And let me tell you their music is beautiful and they have a profound understanding of herbs, life and more.”

Indeed, a concern for humanitarian issues weaves its way throughout this CD. Kaïssa speaks to justice in her music, “One lady said ‘you should not sing about female genital mutilation on “Fanta.” You’re going to alienate a lot of people, and you’re not going to be understood. They might not play the CD.’ But I had to do it. This song “Fanta” is very personal to me even though I was not a victim of genital mutilation, this problem concerns us all. I first heard about this practice as many people did in France in the early eighties. This Malian child was about three and she died as a result of mutilation. It was all over the news, and I think legislators in France were forced to take action to try to prevent it from happening again. I remember crying, and asking my brothers. I was fourteen, and I could not believe it! I said, ‘Her own parents took her, explain to me why do they do that?’ I swore that one day I would write and maybe sing about it. I wrote the lyrics about four years later, exactly as they are.”

“Fanta,” is an earnest and introspective song. It is simple, yet full of feeling with the spare, gentle accompaniment of guitar and kora. Kaïssa sings, “Babo ba nongui oa owone, the lyrics say:

They took you away,
thinking they knew only the best that is good for you.
They never looked into your eyes,
because they would have seen you are such a precious, little being.

Kaïssa said, “I wrote it and then I met Idan Raichel about five years ago and he said, “Oh I have a melody,’ so we worked on it and then I re-recorded it a couple of months ago for the album. So you know this CD has really been a long work in the making.”

Tell me about the inspiration of your father – the fact that he got arrested in Cameroon. You have said this was a pivotal moment in your life. Did he influence you in terms of your commitment to justice?

“My Dad was Secretary of Culture in the first Cameroonian government in the early 1960’s. He was arrested in 1973 for writing “subversive” literature.

To me he was a visionary, more than a politician, I don’t think he should have touched politics, because he had to speak his mind and criticized the government. They used the pretext of the book he’d written to say he said bad things about the government. His thoughts about life, justice, liberty, left a serious imprint on me. After he got arrested, we went as a family to visit him in prison. They had taken his shoelaces away.

I remember asking my mother why they did that. Then closing, locking the door and it was so dark in that prison cell. After that, they never took me back. I came to realize he was jailed on no grounds, no court, no trial, nothing! You see one of the most important people in your life being taken away, and it’s an image that will never leave me until my last breath. So, yes, I sing about things that matter to me, that I believe are important.”

Tell me about working with Salif Keita, one of the best known singers from West Africa? What was that like? (Keita’s inspiration can be felt on her version of “Mandjou,” a song previously recorded by him)

“I love Salif, I love Mandinka music, it moves me, I always liked it. Working with Salif was an honor, an unbelievable great school.

Kaissa

You don’t like to be in one box, in one genre of, for example, rhythm and blues, Salif symbolizes West Africa. You like your music to be diverse.

“No I don’t! It is too restrictive. My music is diverse firstly because of the great diversity we have in Cameroon. Between my first solo CD and this one, the woman who inspired me the most musically, Miriam Makeba, who I called Mazi passed away. I recorded “Ntylo Ntylo” as tribute to her. She came to one of my first gigs with my mum and my brother.” (Kaïssa smiles fondly), “And when my brother confirmed that she would be there my throat went bloop, (gasp) because I had never sung in front of her before, and she gave me a standing ovation. That was a wonderful gift. That is something I will never forget.”

And finally, tell me about the title track, “I am So Happy.” This is truly an upbeat song.” (The sound is light, fast, somewhat funky, pop in feel).

When our oldest brother Eyoum passed in 2001, my sister Mamadé sent me a beautiful poem saying: ‘I’m not dead, I just went to the other side, keep on talking to me as you used to.’ I don’t remember who wrote those words, but they strongly helped me go through the process of grief. When Mamadé passed 5 years ago that poem she had handwritten helped me to go through the terrible pain of losing a loved one.”

It gave you comfort.

“Yes, it gave me a lot of comfort, because those words are so true. You lose someone, but at the end of the day, they are still somehow in you. And then you realize that love does not end. And that’s why I sing, “I am So Happy” because love never ends.”

What would you want a listener to take away from this CD?

It’s really for people to get what they want; I’m not here to educate or to indoctrinate. When people come to Zinc bar, for example, and tell me: ‘Oh, I walked in and I was so sad and disappointed by life and now I’m leaving and I am uplifted‘. (She laughs.) “Oh boy, that feels good, I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Music can be a powerful tool. It has helped me deal with my own demons. And when people tell me they feel better, I feel great, because that’s what I want my music to do, to relax, for people to have fun, to think, for listeners to take whatever they want to take from it. I am putting out there things that are important to me, that make me smile, that shock me, and that I think should get more attention. Finally, I want to stay true to myself, to my music and what I want to present. I want to put people in a place of joy.

For more information about Kaïssa, please visit www.kaissa.com

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The Idiosyncratic Vocals of Moken

Moken – Missing Chapters

Moken – Missing Chapters (Moodswing Records, 2019)

Cameroonian singer-songwriter Moken delivers a genre-defying album where virtuosic jazz meets Afro-roots, American folk, lively Afropop and blues.

The signature sound of Moken is his inventive vocals; he uses unexpected, quirky vocal modulations, shifting his pitch throughout a song, similar to the work of Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer Carmen Souza.

This is a feelings album. Whatever felt right, we kept it,” reveals Moken. “This album has given me the musical wings I always wanted, the wings to fly and create.”

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Artist Profile: Achu Normad

Achu Normad

Ndifor Achu, better known as Achu Normad, was born on April 10, 1988 in Cameroon. He grew up in the village of Mankon in Bamenda, Cameroon, Achu Normad, always felt his heartbeat synchronizing with the drumbeats played by the village dance groups around him.

The son of a guitarist, Achu soon picked up the guitar and started playing to these African rhythms. Soon after, jazz music caught his attention and the harmonic minor swing feel captivated him. He started experimenting by combining the African rhythm guitar playing style with Latin American influences and a dash of jazz. All these, coupled with his soulful voice, have enabled him to be able to tell his story to the world.

In the fall of 2014, he emigrated to the United States, where he was finally able to put into motion what he had been grooming. He created a band in Lexington, Kentucky where he worked on mixing the West African rhythms of Makossa and Bikutsi with Cuban jazz and soulful vocals. Two years after, he released his debut album Alieh, released under the record label Akumba Music.

Achu Normad currently resides in Kentucky, United States and tours the United States and Europe.

Discography:

Alieh (Akumba Music, 2016)

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Gino Sitson’s Adventure

Gino Sitson – Photo by Alain Herman

Gino Sitson is a singer with a vocal range of four octaves. He soars while others crawl. As a high-flying acrobat, he glides from one place to another in an instant, reminiscent of Bobby McFerrin. He sings jazz; he sings classical; he sings traditional African music. And he mixes them together in a spicy gumbo. His vocal flexibility far exceeds most of his contemporaries. He has a distinct voice that listeners know is his. He often taps his face and chest in percussive accompaniment as he improvises. But he doesn’t just fill the air with endless notes. He understands the necessity of silence.

In March this year, Gino released “Echo Chamber.” It is his eighth and most ambitious album. As its title hints, he performs with a chamber group of Western musicians, who play violin, cello, clarinet, and viola. The Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango also makes a guest appearance on the album playing marimba. An echo chamber reflects the sounds put into it – it’s a symbol of conformity. But, Gino does not conform to one way of playing music. He is a musical explorer, seeking to innovate. But, he comes from a people – the Bamileke of Western Cameroon – with a strong musical tradition. And his music reflects their powerful percussive rhythms. He marries them with European counterpoint.

Gino Sitson – Echo Chamber

Astor Piazzolla combined the classical tradition with the Argentinian tango. Gino weaves the same classical tradition in chamber music with jazz, his ancestral African rhythms and melodies. After years of being aware of his music, I decided it was time to interview him about his life and his gift.

DJL: What music inspired you as a young person?

GS: As a child, I was fascinated by sounds, the sounds in our local environment in Buea, Limbe (Victoria), and Duala, Cameroon. As a teenager, it was soul and Motown, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Ritchie, and George Benson. I grew up playing music with my siblings. But back then, nobody knew that being a musician could be a full-time job. My brother Teo Sitchet-Kanda was the first to lead the way, to play music as a professional. He inspired us. It was also important that our parents did not forbid us from playing music.

DJL: I read that your mother was a Director of a Church choir. Is she a powerful singer? Has her singing influenced you?

GS: Oh yes, very much so. My mom has always been a huge influence on my singing through her knowledge of our language, Medumba that I sing in, and particularly her phrasing, in addition to the joy that emanated from her while she sang.

DJL: Did you sing as a child?

GS: I explored singing without knowing I was exploring it. I would hear an instrument and try to mimic that sound with my voice.

DJL: Later, you moved to France.

GS: I pursued several degrees in Musicology, Educational Sciences, Littérature at Paris VIII- St Denis and Sorbonne Universities. I was interested in how music is transmitted, for example, from one generation to the next or from one person to another. Bobby McFerrin invited me to be a part of the PBS program, “Music Instinct: Science and Song.” Listening to the scientist Daniel Levitin talk about his research on music fascinated me. I decided to pursue a PhD in Musicology.

DJL: For your PhD you went to Guadeloupe, an island with roots in Africa, where you studied the Gwoka, a genre that encompasses traditional dance, drumming, and song.

GS: Yes, I enjoy the sentiment, the eloquence of that music. People may improvise vocally out of the blue in the Gwoka.

DJL: You work as an academic and researcher, but you also teach vocal workshops, is that something you enjoy?

GS: Yes, so much, I like helping people to feel confident in their voices, to enable them to let go and to be free. I have a passion for the voice, for exploring and sharing music. If you think about it, we all improvise everyday.

DJL: To explore in music requires confidence. Are you more confident as a singer than when you first started out?

GS: Yes, I remember once, I was doing an audition in France, I had a guitar with me, I was a bit shy. The person in charge of the auditions told me to put down the guitar. At first, I did not understand why he wanted me to do that. Then, I realized it was because he wanted to hear my voice really come through alone.

DJL: You also help young Cameroonian children with music as an Ambassador for UNICEF. Are you trying to build confidence in them too?

GS: Yes I am. I work with street children in Yaunde. I am planning to return to them this year. I try to encourage their musical skills, to teach them a bit about music production, to empower them in a way that they may not have been before.

DJL: And now, how is your current CD, “Echo Chamber,” different from your earlier ones?

GS: It is a chamber ensemble with ingredients from New York, Cameroon and Europe. I am telling my story in my own way. The music reflects my thoughts and feelings. The listener is hearing someone who is able to encompass diverse sounds, but who is more at peace.

DJL: Is this CD more classical than some of your earlier ones?

GS: Yes it is. But if you listen to a high energy track like Upper East Side, you can hear the Bikutsi that is an up tempo rhythm from Cameroon.

DJL: How do you compose?

GS: Sometimes a note will come and then I let it evolve in an organic way. I compose on several instruments: guitar, piano or double bass. It all depends on the moment.

DJL: But the choice of the musicians on this album sounds very deliberate, for example, Maria João’s vocal alongside yours on the track “Night in Molyko.” This is a playful, upbeat song. There is a magical interplay created between the two vocals with the strings playing under them.

GS: Yes, you are right. How did you know that? (He chuckles). I am careful about the specific instruments that go on the album. I want the instruments to sound right together. This is a chamber group. My band persuaded me that the instruments would be recorded all together in one room. Only the vocals were recorded separately. I think it sounds better that way.

DJL: Are you trying to create a new sound that has not been heard before?

GS: I’m following my path by being true to myself. As you know, I’m an Associate Researcher at IReMus (Institut de recherche en Musicologie: Paris-Sorbonne University, CNRS, BnF, Ministère de la
 culture), in addition to being a musician. I’m an explorer…  it is a quest.

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Artist Profiles: Sally Nyolo

Sally Nyolo

Sally Nyolo was born in a small village called Eyen-Meyong, in southern Cameroon. At the age of thirteen, she moved to France and lived in Paris for many years. A former member of Zap Mama, Sally established herself from 1982 to 1994 as a respected session vocalist by performing and recording with many artists such as Jacques Higelin, Sixun, Nicole Croisille, Toni Childs, Princess Erika, Toure Kunda and many others.

Sally began her solo career by composing the music for a radio series for ‘France Culture’ National Public Radio called “Le Jeune Joseph,” which was an adaptation by Jacques Taroni of Thomas Mann’s novel. The following year she was asked to work on French producer Gerard Louvain’s movie soundtrack Ashakara. She delivered an original composition which she recorded for the soundtrack called “Semengue.” By 1993, Sally had her own ensemble and had gained a tremendous reputation for her performances in and around Paris.Around that time she was invited to bring her band to England for the WOMAD Festival, one of the most prestigious venues for world music artists.

After WOMAD, Sally’s career began to develop rapidly. She recorded four songs for Peter Gabriel’s label Real World, including “Djini Djome” which was produced by Dave Bottril. The tracks were released on Around The World In Twenty Tracks (RealWorld) and Strictly Worldwide (Piranha). Soon after the Real World sessions, Sally met up with Zap Mama lead singer Marie Daulne. Marie claimed that Sally was “her roots,” feeling a cultural bond that led her to ask Sally to join the group. The two immediately became friends and launched into an adventurous new level of success. Sally joined Zap Mama in 1993.

Sally’s composition “The Mamas of the Mamas” appeared on Zap Mama’s second recording Sabsylma (Luaka Bop). The result of that release was a world tour which took them to the U.S. three times. With this new exposure, Sally added a song of her own to Paul Aster & Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face in 1995. Sally’s song “To My Baby” was a superb contribution to the film score. The movie featured Harvey Keitel, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Lou Reed, Roseanne and Jim Jarmush.

In 1996, in the midst of a heavy touring schedule, Sally recorded her first solo album Tribu for label Lusafrica, which was released in 1997 and received the RFI World Music Award.

Nyolo returned to Cameroon, where she opened a studio, with the intention to produce and promote Cameroonian music. She produced Studio Cameroon, released in 2006 by World Music Network.

Nyolo sings in various languages, including French, Arabic, English, Spanish, and her native Eton.

Discography

Tribu (Tinder, 1996)
Multiculti (Tinder, 1998)
Beti (2000)
Zaione (Lusafrica, 2002)
Studio Cameroon (Riverboat, 2006)
Memoire du Monde (2007)
La Nuit a Febe (2011)
Tiger Run (Riverboat, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Richard Bona

Richard Bona

Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo, better known as Richard Bona, was born October 28, 1967 in Minta, a village in central Cameroon. From the moment of Richard Bona’s birth, music has been the center of his world. He is the grandson of a famous percussionist and singer.

Beginning with the music his mother and four sisters sang in church every Sunday, Bona gained an early passion for sounds and harmony. He joined the choir at age 5, and soon Bona’s family realized they had a musical prodigy among them. Richard has a highly unusual gift — he only has to look intently at someone playing, and he can learn the instrument.

Not blessed with traditional instruments, Bona found creative ways of making instruments for himself, including reed flutes, a large balafon, wooden percussion instruments and a 12-string guitar. “I hung around the workshops where they repaired bicycles,” Bona recalls, “and as soon as the guys turned their backs, I’d put brake-cables in my pocket for my prototype.”

Rehearsing for eight to 12 hours per day, Bona honed his skills. He performed as a singer and a multi-instrumentalist in a range of religious ceremonies, and soon he became known beyond his village for his musical virtuosity. At age 11, Bona went with his father to Duala, sea-port city with nearly 2 million residents. Bona quickly found his first job, as a guitarist with a dance group.

In 1980, the French owner of a local club gave him the task of setting up a small, jazz-inspired group (with soul-jazz and jazz-rock leanings). Meanwhile, he entrusted Bona with a collection of some 500 vinyl albums. Through these albums, Bona discovered the essence of jazz -the freedom, complexity and virtuosity of the music invented by the American descendants of his forebears. “That’s how I came across the Jaco Pastorius album, the first one, the one with his name on it (Jaco Pastorius, Columbia, 1976), and I never looked back,” Bona says. “When I started listening to it, I wondered for a moment if I’d got the speed wrong – I thought I was playing it at 45 rpm instead, and I even took a look. Before Jaco, I’d never thought of playing bass.”

Cleary, the influence was strong enough to hold. In 1989, when Bona was 22, he left Africa for Paris, where he quickly built a solid reputation. He played with Didier Lockwood, Marc Fosset and Andre Ceccarelli, and took part in studio sessions with leading musicians such as Manu Dibango, Salif Keita and Joe Zawinul (My People, 1992.)

In 1995, Bona followed the footsteps of singer Angelique Kidjo, whom he also accompanied, by crossing the ocean and settling in New York. He quickly hooked up with Zawinul again, and he was invited to accompany Zawinul on a world tour. Bona’s talents continue to gain notice in the world music community. The list of musicians who have played with Bona looks like the roster from the musicians’ hall of fame.

Bona also joined forces with Zawinul again in 1998, when he sang and played bass and percussion on Zawinul’s world tour; and when Bona played the same role on Zawinul’s album, Faces & Places. In addition, Branford Marsalis recommended Bona to play on the first compact disc by Frank McComb, the singer from the Buckshot Le Fonque group (the funk side of the elder of the Marsalis Brothers). The album was produced by Columbia, and a few months later, the label gave Richard the chance to create his first album as the leader.

Bona’s first three albums – Scenes from My Life, Reverence and Munia – allowed listeners to discover a great storyteller and musician. His style blends a horde of influences, including jazz, bossa nova, pop, afro-beat, traditional song and funk. Munia (The Tale) features Malian star Salif Keita as a guest. Keita cowrote the track “Kalabankoro.”

This unique combination has given Bona’s music a new dimension, one that is unexplored yet genuinely universal. As Bona says, “I play the bass, but I am not just a jazz bass player.” Bona’s fans around the world have their own moniker derived from his unique style, referring to him as “The African ‘Sting.’ ”

On Tiki (2006), recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Bona surrounded himself with old friends and special guests, including ATN Stadwijk, Vinnie Colauita, Susheela Raman, Djavan, Mike Stern and Gil Goldstein.

The collaboration Toto Bona Lokua features Richard Bona along with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza. They have released two albums.

Discography

Scenes from My Life (Columbia Jazz, 1999)
Reverence (Columbia Jazz, 2001)
Munia (Universal Music France, 2003)
Toto Bona Lokua, with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza (No Format!, 2004)
Tiki (Universal Music France, 2005)
The Ten Shades of Blues (Universal Jazz France, 2009)
Bonafied (Universal Jazz France, 2013)
Heritage, with Mandekan Cubano (Qwest Records, 2016)
Bona Makes You Sweat (Universal Jazz France, 2008)
Bondeko, with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza (No Format!, 2017)

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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.

Discography

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

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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.

Discography:

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)

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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.

Discography:

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

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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

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