The long forgotten Makossa and the African performers behind it

Hailing from the culturally rich nation of Cameroon, holds a fascinating history.

Its ability to double as both a traditional and modern sound made it stand out from the countless African genres. Makossa might seem long forgotten but a few years back it used to be the dominating music genre in Cameroon and some other parts of Africa. Interested in finding out more about Makossa? Join us in this musical journey as we gain insight into Makossa and the African singers proudly representing the genre.

What is Makossa?

Makossa is a Cameroonian musical genre. The foundation of the Makossa sound is an electric bass guitar and brass elements. The sound itself draws inspiration from Rumba and Pop music. It is believed that the Makossa genre was founded by Emmanuel Eyoum, but its rise in popularity is unarguably credited to whose Makossa songs inspired international singers. Makossa was more than just a music style, back then it was a symbol of pride for the average Cameroonian.

It represented somewhat of a musical treasure that proved that the Cameroonians could be proud of their language and express it so boldly in their songs. Soon enough with the help of Superstars like Manu Dibango, Makossa songs were able to go international.
Makossa as a genre is typically characterized by sensual lyrics and dance moves. Since the sound is lively and upbeat, this does not come as a surprise. The music style is also closely associated with a seemingly back-breaking dance style. The dance involves sensual movements of the waist as the dancer twists and shakes gracefully. The genre enjoyed relative success and reception from fans in the 80s, but that didn’t last for too long.
African Makossa performers

Manu Dibango

It almost feels wrong not to start the list with Manu Dibango. This Cameroonian singer clearly made a mark in history with his Makossa songs that incorporated a healthy amount of Jazz, Funk, R&B, and other Black American influences. His song ‘Soul Makossa’ was and still is largely the reference point for all Makossa songs due to its worldwide success. Manu Dibango, the Soul Makossa Crooner practically revolutionized the face of Makossa in the world and his song eventually became one of the biggest hits on the planet. The hook of his song grew so popular that it was later borrowed by Rihanna and Michal Jackson for their songs ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ and ‘Wanna be Startin’ Something’. Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well as Manu Dibango went on to sue them for the alleged use of his song without appropriate permission. 38 years after his gigantic hit, Manu Dibango died at the age of 86 being the first world celebrity to die from the deadly Coronavirus.

Ben and Grace Decca

Ben and Grace Decca are siblings with a commendable love for Makossa music. Grace being younger sister of Ben, was able to start her music career under the guidance of her elder brother before standing on her own. Throughout most of her career, she also explored singing in French, Douala, and English. Some other notable Grace albums include Mouna and Besoin d’amour.
Ben, on the other hand, has also had an impressive career. The 64-year-old has produced classic Makossa songs like ‘Souffrance d’amour’, ‘Ndol’am’, and ‘Sontanele’ under the Decca records label. The two Douala singers distinguished themselves through their laudable Makossa songs like Mbango Muam and Apelle-moi-Princesse which made a mark in the industry at the time. The siblings are still regarded as some of the most outstanding Makossa singers up to date because of their successful Makossa music career.

Vetcho Lolas

Hervé Bié also known as Vetcho Lolas has reached considerable heights in the industry. He is an Ivorian singer who has dabbled in Makossa, religious music, and playing of instruments. The 42-year-old is also a disc jockey. He produced a couple of well-known songs like ‘Shamakwana’, ‘Matouguoye’, and more recent ones like ‘J’ai compris’ and ‘God’. His songs continue to entertain ardent lovers of his music.

Petit Pays

When it comes to numerous albums and songs, you’ve got to give it to Petit Pays. The 55-year-old Makossa singer who hails from Cameroon has been credited with having a whopping 35 albums to his name which is more than most Cameroonian singers. Some of his most notable songs are ‘C’est le moment’, ‘Eboki’, and. Even though Petit Pays has released so many songs, he never fails to deliver tasteful, energetic music. ‘Eboki’ for example is a song that makes you want to get your groove on. Petit Pays discovered his love for singing at a very early age, but it wasn’t until the 80s that his music career really took off. Interestingly, he has a band called ‘Les Sans Visas’ which can be interpreted as The Sans Visas international. The band is usually featured in most of Pays’ songs. Apart from Makossa, he also draws inspiration from the Salsa and Zouk music genres.

Charlotte Mbango

Charlotte was a Cameroonian Makossa singer who lived from 15th April 1960 to 2nd June 2009 amounting to 48 years. During the time as a singer, she released songs like ‘Konkia Makossa’ , ‘Bito’, and ‘Ayo Mbae’. Charlotte’s albums like ‘Nostalgie’, ‘Konkai’, ‘My Fight’, and ‘Malea’did not go unnoticed by the international scene especially ‘Konkai’ which went ahead to win her a Gold record. Her sound was quite interesting owning to the fact that she often fused the Makossa sound with Caribbean Zouk.

Conclusion

Makossa was once at the core of the Cameroonian music scene even being referred to as Cameron’s best musical export in those days. It still remains a fond memory in our minds for never failing to make Africans dance. Despite going obsolete, Makossa has no doubt left its footprints in the global music industry. A lot of Makossa musicians have reverted to other genres or have stopped singing entirely. Because of this, we silently ponder upon the possibility of ever witnessing the resurgence of Makossa in the music industry. Now, we are experiencing different styles of African sound and letting you know how Makossa rocked the industry was our goal.

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