zondag 1 augustus 2010

Salle John

In 1989 I bought a CD with the title 'The Best Of African Music Volume I  Le Cameroun',  released by ACDC/Kanibal Records . Through this CD I became interested  in Sallé John, who was represented with the song "Bon'essoky from his album "Special JohnCo".  Later I found the original record  and learned that  Sallé John was the main force behind the revival of the breathtaking “Ambass-bey music and dance”. As a result he has always been rightfully referred to as the “king of Ambas-bey”.

Ambass-bey originated among the Yabassi ethnic group and grew popular in Douala after World War II. It is a style of folk music and dance based on guitar with percussion provided by sticks and bottles.
Eboa Lotin performed in the 1960's a style of Ambass-bey on harmonica and guitar that is often regarded as one of the earliest forms of Makossa, a style that quickly came to overshadow it's predecessor and became Cameroon's most popular form of indigenous music. The way Sallé John got involved into music was pretty unusual. In an interview from 2002 he said the following about the start of his musical career:

(…)Already early in life I faced a lot of difficulties. These difficulties and the injustice I encountered led me straight to the life of an artist. The trigger was made the day I lost everything during a fire in Bonaelèkè (Douala) where I lived. Feeling alone in the world, totally lost, there was more than heaven the earth, the lord. I asked him to protect me, to keep me. This is how the Lord began to send me messages that I turned into a song. At first I gave my compositions to some artists. These compositions have made extraordinary successes, until one day a relative came to tell me that I had a formidable voice, and that I could sing myself. Thank God I became an artist, the embryo that makes me live until today when I am 53 years old (…).

Supported by some members of the famous Black Styles he released his first LP around 1979. Shortly after he formed his own band Les Johnco, with the young Manulo Nguime on guitar. His breakthrough came in 1982 with the album Dansons L'Ambass Bey avec Sallé John. The song Pai o Yabassi in which he sings about the area where he was born became a massive hit in Cameroon. It was not only the lyrics and the music, but also the exciting dance moves by Sallé John and his dancers during live performances, that made the Cameroonians enthusiastic.

Today, no one can talk about Cameroon music without mentioning the name Sallé John. Papa Sallé, as fans call him is one of Cameroon’s most dynamic, most passionate, most exciting and interesting artists. He released several more albums during the 80's, but in the 90' the output of new records stopped. After more than a decade, he surprised his fans in 2001 with the well received CD Le soleil rayonne.  In 2013 he released his most recent album, the tasteful Confessions intimes.
♫ clip 2013: Wa domse
♫ clip 2014: Sallé John et Manu Dibango au musée du quai Branly

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