vrijdag 6 januari 2017

Black Styl's

Les Black Styl's  1972 - 1993:  A short history, based on an interview by Jean Celistin Edjangue with founding member Nkotti Francois.

"I still do not understand the magic of the Black Styl songs. Even today I start crying when I hear one of there songs", tells Jean-Pierre Mongam a taxi-driver, who was a teenager in the late seventies. "It's the band of our generation, he continious, we grew up with their music".

It's around 1971 when Nkotti Francois leaves Souza and moves to Douala,  where his sponsor  just opened a cabaret/dancing in the Deido Quarter. Nkotti Francois has a good voice and starts to sing in the new place.  In 1972 Toto Ekane Felix director of the Davum Bar, asks Nkotti if he wants to sing in his bar. He agrees ans as singer in the Davum Bar he meets the young gitarist Mouelle Jean, who introduces him to another young gitarist Toto Guillaume. After some time the bassplayer/singer of the Davum Bar house band is replaced by Emile Kangue.

From the beginning the new band  decided to play only Makossa.  Finally it is in the Bonaberi Quarter where they celebreate their first success. It is  in this period around 1973, that Toto Guillaume writes a letter to Sono Disc in Paris, with the question if the company is interested in recording some of there songs. Sono Disc agrees and at the end of 1973 they record eight songs. The company  choo ses  the songs 'Francoise', written by Toto Guillaume and 'Ndutu' a song by Nkotti Francois as the A and B sides of the groups first 45 rpm single.

The single becomes a big hit in Cameroon and within a year, the group scores with a new producer again with 'O sambo'.  The band goes on tour across the country and gives  a very successfull  show in the capital Yaounde. They they also play in the club 'Mount Cameroun'in Bali, where they meet the very talented drummer Yves Lobe. He joins the group and remains faithful to the end.

At the height of their success, Toto Guillaume gets the opportunity to study music in Paris. He took the opportunity, left the band and went to Paris. Shortly thereafter Alexandre Ebonick  who lives in France offers the band the opportunity te record an album in Paris. On the 20th of september 1978 the band led by Nkotti Francois arrives in Paris, where they record the album 'Les Black Styls in Paris'in Studio Harrison. The album becomes a success and sells good ans is followed by a second one in 1979. But at the same time the first tensions become manifest.  There is a problem about a contract between Emile Kangue and the rest of the group and also the personal  problems of Monny Miller have a negative impact on the band. Both of them leave the band and the rest continious with Eyoum Paul ass the new bass player and Jackson Berry on guitar. But the momentum is gone and the 'second' Black Styl misses the spirit of the 'first' Black Styl's. The band survives but is not very successfull anymore.   

In 1993-1994 the group has a brief revival when they record a new album with the female singer Nadia Ewande. Apart from Nkotti Francois, also the old members   Kangue Emile,  Lobe Yves, Mouelle Jean and Monny Miller participate in this recording. This record is the last sign of life from the Black Styls.  Today the band stays  alive in the hearts of those who grew up in the seventies.

♫ Blacks Styl (Cameroun):Cameroun Partout Vol.11
♫ Guardians of the heritage !!!



dinsdag 3 januari 2017

Johnny Tezano

Allthough the emphasis on this blog  remains Makossa, I will occasionally pay some attention to other popular Cameroon music styles such as Bikutsi, Ashiko and Mangabeu.
Johnny Tezano is a singer/guitarist from the Cameroons capital Yaoundé where the Beti / Ewondo people live. Most popular music among the Beti is Bikutsi, a modernised traditional music style. As in the rest of Cameroon, Congolese music is also popular in and around Yaoundé and in the 80’s most of the Bikutsi records contained at least one Congolese inspired song.
Johnny Tezano made a different choise, before Kotto Bass he is one of the few artists in Cameroon who seduced his audience with Congolese inspired music. More than 30 years he was quite successfull  in Cameroon with his own brand of "Soukous".  Meanwhile the man retired, but for many years he combined his life as a musician with a job as a police-officer. To me this looks a quite unusual combination.

maandag 5 december 2016


With a career spanning more than 30 years and nearly 150 songs to his credit, Ben Decca is one of the most successful Makossa singers of his generation. Initially, nothing indicated that the young Ben would be such a successful singer. Raised in a family of car technicians his father had a career as a technician in mind for his son. It was more or less by accident that he became involved in music. In 2006 Ben Decca told the following story about the release of this first single in an interview with RFI:

 "I arrived in the music world like a hair in a bowl of soup," Decca claims, flashing a broad grin. The budding young musician was a student at the time, completing a college course in France. One night a friend happened to hear him sing and his fortunes changed from one day to the next. "My friend thought it was a pretty good song," recounts Decca, "and he offered to record it." But Decca turned down the offer, knowing his father would be furious if he found out his son was neglecting his studies to make music. The friend insisted they could find a solution and persuaded Decca to record an album, promising it would be released without his face on the cover. The single entitled Nyong’a mulema came out at the end of 1981 – featuring a close-up photo of the singer. "And all hell broke out," recalls Decca, "My father took it all very badly, of course. But with time he finally came to accept my career."

 From that moment Ben Decca has been continuously at the top of the Makossa scene. With love, his homeland and morality as recurring themes in his songs, he reached an unprecedented popularity as crooner, especially among women. In 1987 he was elected as Artist of the Year for the first time in his career and also received his first Gold Record for the album L’amour a sens unique’.

Ben Decca has always remained faithful to the pure Makossa. With the album ‘Makossa Phoenix’ he showed in 2006 his devotion to the authentic Makossa that has been so lacking in recent years on the Cameroonian music scene.

Last year Ben Decca celebrated his 30th anniversary as a singer. Shortly after he was elevated to the rank of knight in the national order and exceptional value. He received this award by the Minister of Arts and Culture in recognition for his entire musical work.