Cameroon, a country which features as Africa in miniature version, is famous for its national team in football game. But, other than all of these, Cameroon is more famous for its music, especially Makossa and Bikutsi.
Makossa, which means “dance” in the Douala language, originated from a Douala dance called the kossa. Like much other late 20th century music of Sub-Saharan Africa, it uses strong electric bass rhythms and prominent brass. In the 1980s makossa had a wave of mainstream success across Africa and to a lesser extent abroad. Makossa is a type of funky dance music, best known outside Africa for Manu Dibango, whose 1972 single “Soul Makossa” was an international hit. y the 1970s, bikutsi performers like Maurice Elanga, Les Veterans and Mbarga Soukous added brass instruments. In 1980, L’Equipe Nationale de Makossa was formed, joining the biggest makossa stars of the period together, including Grace Decca, Ndedi Eyango, Ben Decca, Guy Lobe and Dina Bell. Makossa in the 80s saw a wave of mainstream success across Africa and, to a lesser degree, abroad, as Latin influences, French Antilles zouk, and pop music changed its form.
The word ‘bikutsi’ literally means ‘beat the earth’ or ‘let’s beat the earth’ (bi– indicates a plural, –kut– means ‘to beat’ and –chi means ‘earth’.) The name indicates a dance that is accompanied by stomping the feet on the ground. Bikutsi is characterised by an intense rhythm (3+3, with a strong “two” feel), though it is occasionally and its tempo is usually quarternote.It is played at all sorts of Beti gatherings, including parties, funerals and weddings.
Beti gatherings fall into two major categories:
1. Ekang phase: the time when imaginary, mythological and spiritual issues are discussed
2. Bikutsi phase: when real-life issues are discussed
A double sided harp with calabash amplification called the mvet is used during these ceremonies, by Beti storytellers, who are viewed as using the mvet as an instrument of God to educate the people. The Ekang phase is intensely musical, and usually lasts all night. There are poetic recitations accompanied by clapping and dancing, with interludes for improvised and sometimes obscene performances on the balafon (a type of xylophone). These interludes signal the shift to the bikutsi phase, which is much less strictly structured than Ekang. During bikutsi, women dance and sing along with the balafon, and lyrics focus on relationships, sexuality and the lives of famous people. These female choruses are an integral part of bikutsi, and their intense dancing and screams are characteristic of the genre. Traditional bikutsi was often ironic in its content, as many modern bikutsi songs still are.