Cameroon is located in Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.
Cameroon has produced lively dance music. The best known artist in the international scene is sax player Manu Dibango, whose 1970s hit song “Soul Makossa” became the first African song to reach the US top 40.
Another well-known group from Cameroon, Les Tetes Brulees, painted the musicians’ faces with neon streaks and performed bikutsi rhythms with a punk rock attitude.
Sally Nyolo, a former member of Zap Mama, also brought the music of Cameroon to an international audience.
Bikutsi is a rhythmic style which originated with the Beti people of present day Cameroon. Literally it means to “thump the earth.” Originally, the bikutsi rhythms were war and blood affirming. The music would call the people together by resounding through the forest. Such calls were made for requisite vengeance against other groups. These heavily energetic rhythms were meant to enjoin one’s blood to boil — in the figurative sense — for the cause of war.
Rhythmic dances of the bikutsi were preserved by the women as a response to Christian missionaries who attempted to “save” the people from their own “sinful” expressions. Story telling occurred followed by dances in which the shaking of the shoulders, back and buttocks were followed by a series of clapping.
The dances are still performed and the fighting concepts have been removed. Sexual underpinnings and fantasies as told in the stories of the women clearly remain in the bikutsi rhythms.
Makossa was originally a Cameroonian dance rhythm from the Duala region. It later developed into a popular pop style typified by Manu Dibango.