In eager anticipation for the upcoming North American return of Cameroon's legendary Bikut-si music ambassadors, Les Tetes Brulees, AfricaSounds is highlighting one of the only comprehensive histories of Bikut-si music. The project was undertaken during an educational arts grant - The Duke University Benenson Award - and was completed in 1997 after two years of research and field trips to Cameroon. The project was supervised by music authority and advisor, Jean-Marie Ahanda with the goal of creating a readable and fun study of this important and cultural music style that has often times been overlooked in Central Africa. Since 1997, Bikut-si music has begun to receive additional coverage as witnessed by the triumphant return of Les Tetes Brulees to headline AfricaFete in New York's Central Park on July 8, 2001. Please read on to better understand this fascinating music style from Cameroon. - AfricaSounds
A HISTORY OF BIKUTSI MUSIC IN CAMEROON
Hortense & Charles Fuller
BAND LEADER OF LES TETES BRULEES
YAOUNDE, CAMEROUN 1996-1997
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND: TRADITIONAL
ELEMENTS OF BIKUT-SI
Bikut-si music is historically rooted in the cultural traditions of the Beti people. The Beti today comprise roughly one half million people, divided into the Ewondo, Bulu, and Eton clans. Despite subtle group differences, the Beti language is the common thread that unites these groups with a common Cameroonian identity and history. The Beti have historically inhabited villages spread throughout the equatorial forest region surrounding urban Yaoundé, and further South into neighboring Equatorial Guinea.1 More recently, the Betis general trend has been a steady migration into Yaoundé, Cameroons urban and political capital, which offers greater access to modern amenities, educational opportunities, and finally better hopes at finding a job of financial means. However, to witness Beti tradition in its purist form, the surrouding villages in the countryside still offer the best alternatives.
The Betis music, bikut-si, is a rootsy and brutal musical style that has evolved into one of Cameroons most popular forms of cultural expression. In fact, bikut-si is lately running a close race for first in popularity and has even surpassed the export-friendly makossa music of urban Douala. Yet in its ability to transform with the requirements of modernity, Bikut-si music has been able to retain much of its rich cultural and traditional heritage, refusing to abandon those elements which make up its core, thrust, and strength. It is this balance - or equilibrium - between cultural tradition and modernity which has made bikut-si music so appealing to Cameroonians, African music fans, and roots purists. Bikut-si makes for a fascinating evolutionary study, albeit one which has, until recently, been starkly overlooked by historians.
Bikut-si is characterized by its intense and instantly recognizable 6/8 pounding rhythm. Its a beat that grabs you, grooves you, and finally overpowers you into stomping your feet rhythmically to the beat. Once youve heard it, it is forever impossible to mistake bikut-si for any other Central African music style. Likewise, one does not need to look further than its name for a literal definition of bikut-si. Bi is a term used by the Beti to pluralize whatever word happens to come after it. Kut is the Beti word meaning to "hit" or "pound vigorously" a solid surface in a continuous fashion. Si is Betifor the ground - or more literally cultivable land. Put together, Bikut-si means to beat the ground continuously.2 Bikut-si has traditionally been used as a form of communication, culturally tying together the Beti people through performances that exhibit tradition, group pride and solidarity. Bikut-si has historically functioned at a number of levels, ranging anywhere from small group gatherings of friends and neighbors to full-fledged ceremonies such as the funeral.3 Most important have been the village community ceremonies or rituals which have traditionally defined just what it signifies to be a Beti.
Finally, traditional bikut-si had many important functions within the
Betis village society. One dances this proto-bikut-si when visiting friends or
relatives, at weddings, and in the everyday dealings within the business community. More
formal traditions included the so ritual, the mevungu ritual, the funeral, and the
blood-stirring war rhythm which called fighters to arms.11 The notorious and feared so
ritual is a grueling series of tests which if passed signals an adolescent boys
passage into manhood and away from the fears of his youth. The mevungu ritual occurs when
a group of women would gather together to dance away the night, the goal of which was to
abstain from having sex during those hours for 9 days.12 Finally, the cry to war dance
provided soldiers with an adrenaline rush as well as physically prepared them for upcoming
fights of defense or conquest.13 These ceremonies represent the crux of Beti tradition as
well as Bikut-sis function in definining what makes a Beti really a Beti.
In Yaoundé, when all else hinted of colonialism and urbanization, at least the local bar could offer some culture and tradition to counteract these outside influences. Indeed, even the idea of a weekend was a colonial and thus foreign concept. But the Betis balafon tradition was able to transcend the seven-day-division of the week, and tie the Beti psychologically to the timelessness of their tradition.17 Thus the bars that were to thrive and remain in demand were ones which offered this taste of home. This meant forming a regular group of musicians into an orchestra whose home was to be the Yaoundé bar. A typical orchestra would consist of 3 to 5 balafons, one bass balafon, two more balafons would play against one another, and finally other percussion instruments.18 The balafons unique "thonk" sound, coming from its construction of wood blocks suspended on calabashes, would allow it to function as both a harmony as well as a percussive instrument. Musicians, living in this bar environment, became notorious for heavy drinking and often times would be drunk during performance.19 This, combined with the fact that there was no formal music schools or training for balafon players in Cameroon, meant that the music lacked technique. In most cases the sound was not overly developed, and the artists knew their limits.20 Yet despite their lack of technique and training, Yaoundés balafon orchestras of the 1950s stayed true to their traditions, function, and sound. An example was the Richard Band de Zoetele, which not only held tight to bikut-sis traditional message and sound, but was also received relatively well by the public.21 The band, however, lost momentum and eventually fizzled from the scene when the call arose to modernize the orchestras sound.
The Richard Band de Zoetele was unable to overcome the technical
difficulties of electrifying the balafons sound, hence giving it modern appeal.22
Thus in its purely traditional structure, the balafon orchestra was relatively short
lived, and was really only a presence during the 1950s. Because of bikut-sis
ethnic Beti identity, the balafon orchestra was subject to stereotypes created by
outsiders. To such outsiders, the bikut-si sound and lyrrics came to represent all things
"savage," and in many cases bikut-si was simply considered a "forest"
phenomenon thus its patrons "villageoise."23 These first evolving stereotypes of
bikut-si were a reflection of the clash resulting from the melding together of pure Beti
cultural tradition and the colonial and religious mindset of Yaoundés evolving
Messi Martin was a talented local musician whose early love for Spanish music - especially the acoustic guitars prominant role in Spanish music - led him to become an ardent student of the guitar.25 It might appear strange that Spanish music would be an influential factor to a Yaoundé musician until one considers that neighboring Equatorial Guinea had Spanish language broadcasts whose short-wave signals could be picked up on a radio in Yaoundé during the 1960s. Messi Martins love for Spanish guitar music was coupled by the strong African presence of the rumba, as was heard on imported records from Cuba then later reconfigured as Congolese music in neighboring Zaire. These two outside musical influences were strong factors in Messi Martins decision to employ the guitar in a revised form of bikut-si music. Messi Martins stroke of genius was in his realization that there were many strenghts behind the traditional bikut-si music popularized by Richard Band de Zoeteles balafon orchestra.26 All that was necessary was to translate this sound and message to more modern terms that would fare better in Yaoundés urban landscape. Since Messi Martin adored the guitar, he logically looked to it for the solution. The result, Messi figured, would be to incorporate the balafons sound into the electrical guitar.27 This shift from the balafon to a modern electric instrument was the link missing from bikut-sis development, as well as the stepping stone for its future success and adaptability. After much experimentation, he achieved the sound he was looking for by "linking together the guitar strings with lengths of [paper] to give it a damper tone with a slight buzz."28 The result was that his electric guitar, with the proper percussive picking technique, now emitted a "clonk" or "thud" sound that mimicked the traditional balafon. Messi was thus able to imitate the sound of the balafon with his electric guitar.
The second stroke of genius that Messi Martin had was his realization that
the traditional ekang and bikut-si repertoires of the Beti community could be effectively
applied to a modern form of bikut-si music.29 Messis mellow voice combined the
traditional topics of sexual and private life, social frustrations, commentary, and his
own particular blend of womanizing into his modern blend of bikut-si songs. The result was
immediate public acceptance, and hits such as Bekono Nga NKonda and Mengalla Maurice
emerged. These songs, given Messis modern touch, received continuous airplay
throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.30 Messi Martin had proved that
bikut-si music, given the proper boost, had the thrust to make it onto the popular music
charts in Cameroon. Messi Martin named his band Los Camoroes after the giant shrimps which
were sighted by Cameroons Portuguese colonizers. The band was a landmark in bikut-si
evolution because the traditional role of the music remained while the instruments which
expressed them were changed. The function of the balafon and mvet now shifted emphasis to
the electric guitar, while handclaps and sanza instrumentation were shifted to the
synthesizer.31 Finally, the crux of the Bikut-si rhythm - the 6/8 pounding of feet - was
now allotted to the drum set and other percussive instruments. Messi Martin had in one
step transformed the entire balafon orchestra to modern terms, giving a previously
stagnant but rhythmically potent bikut-si new and intriguing appeal.
The reality of this event was unparalleled in makossas evolution because it signaled not only a more youthful and organized form of the music, but also the explosion of Cameroons music on the African and Paris scene. First rate musicianship produced hits which in turn allowed international touring by the artists. Makossa, taking as its influence the rumba from Cuba and Zaire, as well as disco from Europe and America, at once developed a slick and Latin-tinged image which could appeal across ethnic lines. Makossas success allowed it to evolve as a music representing social comfort, urban mentality, and cross-ethnic solidarity.33 This image appealed to fans at home and abroad, and ensured makossas national and international success, as well as its continued representation in the top night clubs. Bikut-si likewise continued to stake out its territory and reputation, although it would not see its boom in development until the second half of the decade. Where-as makossa (and later Martiniques zouk music) became known as the chic and popular music of Cameroon, bikut-si continued to represent to some "savage" and "forest-like."34 The lack of an Equipe Nationale de Bikut-si, as well as the finances and access to the international scene, did indeed keep Yaoundés bikut-si artists rooted to home soil. Thus bikut-si musicians came to represent, as a stereotype, the inner-territory of Cameroon, and the lack of opportunity and travel projected a lack of drive and adventure to the music.35
Bikut-si was also struggling more with an inability to cross ethnic and urban lines. Bikut-sis frustrations did not stop at this level of image problems. Musicians, who remained concentrated in the Yaoundé region, continued to struggle with technical and creative advances, as well as an amelioration in terms of production, promotion, and marketing of the music. The 1982 development of the K7 (or audio cassette) hinted at new opportunities in this realm of production. Once the technology was allowed to further develop, it would offer greater portability as well as ease of production to the music.36 It would also develop a wider appeal than the LP, and give rise to a threatening scene of piratization within Cameroon. The greatest hope of the cassettes introduction was that it would allow producers to leap-frog over the requirement to send recordings to Paris for pressing and production.37 If production could take place entirely on home territory, then so too could costs be kept down. On the recording side, bikut-si studios were still inferior to those of the makossa musicians, poor sound quality being the immediate result.38 During this period, questions still overwhelmed the answers in terms of bikut-sis production problems. Bikut-si artists meanwhile were busy trying to develop the sound of bikut-si by experimenting with instrumentation and style. Early on predecessors to Messi Martin tried relentlessly to add something new to the bikut-si equation. Elanga Maurice added brass to his bikut-si style, while Nkondo Si Tony added electric keyboards and synthesizers as well as tried to improve the recording techniques used in traditional instrument recording.39
The group Les Veterans were to become one of the biggest new stars on the bikut-si
scene, combining a cool, almost easy listening bikut-si beat to rumba influenced guitars
and brass.40 Their series of recordings received considerable attention and Les Veterans
became one of bikut-sis all-time best known orchestras. Mekongo President introduced
his blend of bikut-si jazz, combining complex harmonies and arrangements. Other notable
names at that time included Otheo, Titans de Sangmelima, Ange Ebogo Emerent, and Seba
Georges.41 Around 1984, a new wave of musicians entered the limelight, including old-time
Los Camoroes member Sala Bekono (this time on a solo career), renowned rumba guitarist
Zanzibar (who would join Jean-Marie Ahanda to form Les Têtes Brulées), and a talented
bassist named Atebass. This surge in musicians who were willing and able to play and
advance bikut-si to their preferences meant that there was something bubbling on
bikut-sis horizon. Then in 1985, Cameroon saw the introduction of CRTV, the
government run television network that became a significant landmark in the development of
Cameroons music industry. From the moment of CRTVs introduction and onwards,
Cameroons music industry would never be the same.42 Television introduced a new
medium over which artists could express themselves and their music, and if they were
creative enough, even forge an image and hence a nation-wide identity for their group.
Overnight, television shows such as Elvis Kemayos Tele-Podium were to air,
broadcasting to a virgin public music videos that combined the makossa beat and images
reflecting makossas bourgeoisie image.43 Initially, it was makossa that was able to
transform itself from a music-only form into and audio-visual product. The immediate
result was that makossa not only increased its marketability, but also introduced the
concept of the musician as a spectacle and visual entertainer, popularly known as the
By noticing bikut-sis previously unexplored uniqueness, as opposed to makossa music, Jean-Marie was able to determine just how bikut-si could stage a rise to public attention and acceptance. Bikut-sis secret to sucess, he determined, was in the realization of its traditional strenths, and playing on such strengths in an outright attempt to challenge makossas musical dominance in Cameroon. Previously, bikut-si had lacked expert musicians, proper artist promotion and production. As a result, the public did not have a positive perception of bikut-si music. Jean-Marie believed that he could present a new bikut-si band that would challenge these three limitations and present bikut-si music correctly to the public in a new and revised form.46 These convictions worked, and by 1987 Les Têtes Brulées had materialized, shocking and wrecking havoc on the Cameroon Music Industry as well as the general public.47 It is safe to say that after the introduction of Les Têtes Brulées, the realities and demographics of Cameroonian music would never again be the same.
With Les Têtes Brulées, bikut-si finally found its niche. Their instantly recognizable sound was the result of the niche was found, satisfied by quality musicians, a unique image, proper management, and a sound that was innovative and yet rooted in Beti tradition. Bikut-si had found its "New Form." Up until Les Têtes Brulées, bikut-si had been lacking a feeling of electricity and excitement. The answer, Jean-Marie believed, was in creating a bikut-si that was more electric, with greater depth and diversity, which would offer excitement to its audience. "Bikut-si rock" thus evolved as the logical solution. Previously lacking from bikut-si was a guitar-balafon sound that was creative and not repetitive. Theodore Epeme, better known as Zanzibar, was the Têtes creative link to a new and intense guitar sound. A Congolese rumba guitarist by trade, he was one day convinced by Jean-Marie that bikut-si music had many untapped possibilities which could be unleashed through his guitar playing.
Through Zanzibars knack for the guitar, and his creative technique and innovation, he was able to push the balafon-guitar concept one step further than his competition. A true pioneer, Zanzibar chose foam rubber (from a bed mattress) and wove it in and out of the bridge of his electric guitar. This allowed him "to strike the strings with a hard percussive free stroke to produce a loud thunk sound."48 This technique provided less echo and more percussive thud, simulating a more "authentic" guitar-balafon.49 It was a more aggressive muting technique than had previously been attempted, and Zanzibars superb technical skills gave the group its edge over the competition in sound and uniqueness. Jean-Marie next realized tat a unique and creactive image was the real solution to bikut-sis previous commercial and economic woes. In 1987, only two years after music videos on CRTV, Cameroons public had become over-accustomed to the bourgeoisie, chic, and gold-studded "style" presented in makossa and zouk videos.50 The Cameroonian public was being fed outward appearances and literally nothing of musical depth and quality. Les Têtes Brulées (literally meaning burnt-out heads) was thus founded as a reaction against this popularly projected image upon bikut-si musicians and fans.
According to Jean Marie, "I wanted to present musicians living in Cameroon, playing only bikut-si - the sort of music that people dont want, but that the musicians decide to play anyways and succeed. When you try something your own way, and succeed [against the odds], then you are a Tete Brulée."51 The well planned image and presentation for the new group corresponded to this rejection of the slick pervading styles that were in fashion during 1987. When Les Têtes Brulées debuted their stage show on Tele-Podium that year, they immediately shocked, shattered, and reversed the values of the Cameroonian music-listening public.52 The group presented a visual spectacle to combine with their melding of Bikut-si and rock styles. With shaved heads and body painting representing scarification from traditional Beti ceremonies, the group immediately sent out a alternative message to the Makossa accustomed public. The addition of a variety of colors to the body painting implied a further ironic tinge that the Têtes had to add color to already "colored" skin.53 The group sported torn tee-shirts to represent the real economic situation of their country, rather than the elite escapist image that other musicians presented. Finally, the group wore backpacks during their performance as a homage to the Beti women who traditionally tied babies onto their backs and danced Bikut-si.54 Thus the embracing of Beti tradition as well as the economic realities of Cameroons masses represented an antithesis to the direction that the music industry had been headed minutes before Les Têtes Brulées had appeared on CRTV.
It was a revolutionary moment in its most blatant form. The response to the television debut was extremely positive - within a few weeks Les Têtes Brulées had not only found a spot for Bikut-si on the Cameroon music charts, but had also displaced the previously predominant Makossa music.55 A positive, fired up roots music had been lacking from modern Cameroons attention, and now the void had been filled and the public was buying the concept. That year, the group toured France - another landmark as the Têtes became the first full-fledged Bikut-si group to represent the style as musical ambassadors to the international public. Journalists in Paris and surrounding French cities proclaimed the Têtes a welcome and vibrant African musical spectacle, and made Western comparisons to George Clintons Parliament, Pariss Cabaret spectacles, as well as Britains punk scene.56 One thing the headlines seemed to miss was that Les Têtes Brulées were representing Beti tradition, albeit a slightly modernized form. However, the media attention was overly positive, and Bikut-si welcomed all the attention it was deserving of.
While in France, the bands first album, Hot Heads, was recorded, representing a significant improvement for Bikut-si in recording and production quality. For once Bikut-si had a finished product that could compete with and perhaps surpass a Makossa product. Hot Heads also represented the first example of Bikut-si music on the digital CD format. Lyrically, Hot Heads shifted the theme from solely dealing with womanizing to issues of social struggle and awkwardness. "Ca Fait Mal" dealt with shattered dreams while "Za Ayi Meyi" spoke of the difficulties associated with escaping the family in order to become a musician.57 The combination of Beti, French, and English lyrrics hinted at Bikut-sis maturity and realization that it indeed now catered to an international public, rather than just one concentrated in the Yaoundé and forest region of Cameroon. Winding up the decade, the group would expand its fame and tour extensively throughout Europe, the United States, Japan, and parts of Africa. Portions of their European leg of the tour were used by acclaimed movie director Claire Denis, in the movie "Man No Run," which debuted in cinemas throughout France during 1988.
A follow up album entitled Bikutsi Rock followed and included more complex
harmonies, Jean Maries trumpet playing, and even songs done in acapella style. By
1992 the band had come to represent to the world a significant part of Cameroons
cultural and musical export, resulting in the band being invited to accompany
Cameroons soccer team to the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and the United States in
1994. Cameroons subsequent victories were therefore celebrated in Bikut-si style to
the soccer spectators worldwide. Thus it can be said that the continuing successes of Les
Têtes Brulées acts as a powerful reminder that Bikut-si, given its adaptability and the
proper innovators, can be a powerful force in the music world.
FOLLOWING IN THE WAKE:
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF BIKUT-SI'S INCREASED
APPEAL NATIONALLY AND ABROAD
Hits like Atebas signaled a return to Bikut-sis sexual side, and the artists efforts to push the lyrics and the public further onwards with eroticism. Meanwhile, a Douala singer named Sissi Dipoko sang "Bikut-si Hit" which symbolically bridged the Douala-Yaoundé musical gap and proved that even Douala artists could in turn do Bikut-si numbers.64 Thus on the home front, this period was very productive and signaled a surge in creativity which would lead to Bikut-sis most recent explosion of popularity, the Pedalé movement of 1993. On the international scene, Bikut-si saw continued growth as well, including increased representation of artists and producers in Paris and New York. This fact, and the international presence of Les Têtes Brulées, meant that foreign artists were able to take notice of the Cameroonian rhythm and in some cases create their own tributes to the Bikut-si style.
A notable example among many was Paul Simons 1990 album Spirit Of
The Saints, a Brazilian and Cameroonian inspired fusion which included a strong Bikut-si
track entitled "Proof." This tribute by Simon is definitely pure Bikut-si
rhythm, into which he melds his own personal singing style and Brazilian/Latino horn
riffs. This event was most notable due to Simons collaboration with African
producers and musicians, including Georges Seba, Martin Atangana, and Vincent Nguini.64
The product and its impressive sales demonstrated the marketability and appeal Bikut-si
could have if produced under the right circumstances. At the same time, in both Paris and
New York producers and session musicians such as Uta Bella, Georges Seba, Jean Luc Ponty,
and Jimmy Mvondo Mvelé acted as counterbalances to the presence of Les Têtes Brulées.65
Thus by 1993 Bikut-si had been given its chance to break out into the world, both to make
itself known as well as to absorb outside influences.
In the words of singer Bisso Solo, this new pedalé form of Bikut-si must have an "accelerated, savage, and brutal" sound, rather than the previous cool beat of Bikut-si.68 It would be something that riveted all who heard it, forcing them to gyrate and stamp their way into physical and in many cases sexual bliss. Pedalé and the subsequent explosion of artists and Bikut-si recordings, worked wonders on the public. Bars, especially the large outdoor Carrosel Club, the Parisien, the Chalet, the Eldorado, and the legendary Escalier Bar, at once saw dramatic crowds of people pouring in to hear the live, juiced up Bikut-si on Friday and Saturday nights. The action that takes place in such clubs is a sight not to miss, as dancers crush together, shaking in frenzied trances on the square dance floor, expressions of physical and drunken pleasure plastering the face. Its the accelerated beat that does it, and as each song progresses, the realities and frustrations of the past week fade deeper and deeper into oblivion. Pedalé offers a way in which to escape from la crise economique which no other art form has previously offered the Cameroonian. A night at the Carrosel, for example, is literally "Bikut-si non-stop" as over 10 singers join the clubs orchestra for continuous music from 11pm onwards. Up until sunrise the crowd continues to grow, as fans trickle in from other dance clubs, not wanting to miss the increased excitement that the pedalé orchestra is bringing to the music. 5:00 AM singals the best artists as well as the height of an evening at the Carrosel - everyone is up and dancing, causing an ocean of empty benches as well a scattering of "33" beer bottles and whisky "condoms." The result is a swarming sea of packed bodies on the hot and sweaty dance floor, pulsating to the beat under a canopy of stars.
It is at this point that the new pedalé dance is truly appreciated.
People "pedal" their way through the blaring music, as if their arms are riding
a bicycle, each revolution equaling precisely one stamp of the Bikut-si beat. The pedalé
dance has adapted to the crowded dance floors so well that many regulars have begun to see
philosophical insight into its meaning. Carrosel announcer MC Hotman proclaims that the
pedalé can be looked at as a revolutionary message by the people against the economic and
social situations that they must face during the week. As the Bikut-si dance becomes a
philosophy, Hotman explains, "one can pedal away the weekend and forget that during
the week the children are needy."69 Its as if you are at the bottom of a long,
never ending hill. You must keep pedaling in hopes that the end is near, because if you
stop youll never know whats over the horizon.
REALITIES AND PREDICTIONS
(1996 - )
Hence it is not the music or the artists who challenge Bikut-sis future, but instead the infrastructure and realities of an industry that form constraints on the artists and their creativity. Pedalé singer BissoSolo highlighted several areas in significant need of improvement, and various post-discussions with other contacts (see sources) echoed these complaints regarding todays industry.72 Bikut-sis fundamental problem is the lack of good and talented producers within the field. Bikut-si artists are, across the board, in need of money and thus dependent on outside producers. In todays industry, most producers are local merchants who have limited capital and thus little interest in commitment and artist development. The problem is at once evident - the goal is to achieve a quick buck, something definitely possible when the artists is promoted for scarcely two months, and then dropped. Then where is the artist and his or her career?
In the field of promotion, one can be in Yaoundé for six months and if lucky come across one or two large scale concert performances. The producers just arent interested in organizing tours for their artists. Bikut-si recording facilites are inadequate, and the resulting Cameroonian-produced cassettes are often poor quality and thus inferior to a Makossa counterpart. Finally and most disturbing, is the readily accepted system of bribery which controls the realms of radio and television airplay. To get a song on the radio, an artist must first pay 50,000 CFA in order to get a droit de radio (radio rights).73 After the rights are bought, an artist must individually go to a radio DJ, and bribe the individual according to how much air time the artist wishes to receive.74 The result is that quality doesnt count, and money does. Likewise for music videos, where one must pay a bribe for each time a video airs.75 Because Bikut-si artists rely on their producers for financing, it is obvious that the entire issue of promotion and production is lacking and thus of critical importance if the Bikut-si artists are to see their present positions improve.
The second area of complaints regard SOCINADA, the national society for artistic development. Typical comments regarding SOCINADA ranged from "its better than nothing" to "its a sickness within the industry." Here are the facts. Almost every artist within Cameroon is a member, and yet barely one gets what he or she was promised out of the agency. The first promise broken is the continued fight against piracy of cassettes, as each artist member pays 85 CFA per cassette in order to have a SOCINADA sticker affixed assuring authenticity. But walk down any Yaoundé street, and you will be accosted by venders with cardboard boxes full of pirated and unauthorized cassettes for half the price. At the same time, enter any "disco" in a small town and you can have cassettes recorded for you, with any combination of artists, at half price. Not only is the quality second rate, but the artist never sees even one CFA from the transaction. There is no solution except a massive crackdown on the issue, and right now SOCINADA does not have the person-power to do so.77 The second complaint is that artists seldom get payments and loans from SOCINADA, even though a percentage of each cassette produced goes into the agency. If the artist pays in, the agency must pay out as advertised. Again, there are too many artists with too many needs, and the organizations structure as well as its documentation of payments needs to be improved if the artist is to see a better financial situation.78
Thus the areas of promotion and of artist organization are two which greatly plague the financial and career welfare of the Bikut-si artist. The music has proven with time that it can endure as well as adapt with the moment. It is now up to the Bikut-si artists to try and chisel away at the cumbersome infrastructure which binds them in place. If such changes can be made, then surely the history of Bikut-si will be bright. But if the system stays the same, then the artists, and perhaps the resulting musical output, may be jeopardized. One awaits the outcome.
Andrews, Sekou. Bikut-si Rap: 2 Musical Evolutionary Twins Destined To Mate. Indepenent Study Project #S1993
"Beko Sadey" Dikalo au Féminin. 29 Mars au 5 avril 1996, p8.
"Cameroon - Makossa I Bikutsi I: Music of a Small Continent." Rough Guide To World Music. 1994.
Graham, Ronnie. The DaCapo Guide to Contemporary African Music. New York: DaCapo Press, 1988.
"Jean-Marie Ahanda, le cerveau des Tetes Brulées," La Lettre aux Musiques et des Artes Africains. vol27, 5 Fevrier 1996 (p2-4).
"Jean Marie Ahanda - le manager fierté et amertune" Cameroon Tribune. #3916 Samedi 11 Juillet 1987
"La Musique Fievreuse des Tetes Brulées" Balafon Air Afrique Magazine. #126 Fev- Mars 1996, p44-47.
"Les Tetes Brulées" Agence France Press. Bourges: 7 Avril 1989.
"Les Tetes Brulées" Option Magazine(excerpt p.2)
Tenaille, Frank. "Les Tetes Brulées" Le Nouvel Observateur
Messi Martin: The Best Of Messi Martin, Editions Briff #006
Gibraltar Drakus: Tropical Rock, Medium Productions
Sala Bekono: Dans Ossas II Ecris Moi Otil Ma, Ekegs Production
Les Tetes Brulées: Be Happy, 1996 Declic
Bikutsi System: Heritage, Alex Ekoo Productions
Zele Le Bombardier: A Qui La Faute?, Editions ETS MC Pop Music
INTERVIEWS AND PERSONAL CONTACTS:
Jean-Marie Ahanda: Formal Interviews: 25 March, 29 March, 3 April, Informal Talks: Every Monday and Wednesday between 10AM-1PM from 27 March to 8 May, and most every other day as well.
BissoSolo: Interview on Socinada and Pedalé 23 April 1996, 1PM, his home
MC Hotman: Interview on Pedalé 1 April, Carrosel Club, 4AM
Celia Pama: Informal talk 15 April 1996, 7PM
Gibraltar Drakus: Various Informal Talks, various evenings
Tino (guitarist Tetes Brulées) + Catino: Every Monday and Wednesday between 10AM and 1PM, from 27 March to 8 May.
Musicians at Paquitta Plus
Roger Star, guitarist at Escalier Club
1Ahanda, Jean-Marie. Interview. 8 May 1996.
2Ahanda, Jean-Marie. Interview. 4 May 1996.
3La Lettre aux Musiques et des Artes Africains. vol27, 5 Fevrier 1996, 2.
4Ahanda, Jean-Marie. Interview. 25 March 1996.
5Ahanda, 25 March 1996.
6Ahanda, 25 March 1996.
7La Lettre, 4.
8Rough Guide to World Music, 325.
14Option Magazine, 1.
15Ahanda, 25 March.
17Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
18Ahanda, 8 May 1996.
23Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
27Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
31Discusions with Tino and Catino (see sources)
32Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
33Balafon Air Afrique Magazine, Fev-Mars 1996, 44.
35Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
36Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
37La Lettre, 3.
38La Lettre, 3.
40Solo, Bisso Interview. 23 April 1996, 1PM
41Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
43Ahanda, 3 April 1996.
44La Lettre, 3.
45La Lettre, 3.
46La Lettre, 3.
47La Lettre, 3.
50La Lettre, 4.
52La Lettre, 3.
55La Lettre, 4.
56Various Headlines supplied by Project Director
58Ahanda, 25 March 96.
59Ahanda, 25 March 96.
60Ahanda, 25 March 96.
63Ahanda, 8 May 1996.
67Solo, 23 April 1996.
68Solo, 23 April 1996.
69Solo, 23 April 1996.
70Hotman, MC. Interview. 1 April 1996.
71Solo, 23 April 1996.
72Solo, 23 April 1996.
73Ahanda, 29 March 1996.
74Ahanda, 29 March 1996.
75Dikalo au Feminin, 8.
76All Personal Sources
77Socinada Administration Visit
78Socinada Administration Visit
DISCLAMER: AFRICASOUNDS IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR INCORRECT INFORMATION, NOR THE VALIDITY OF THE CONTENT OF THIS WEBSITE. AFRICASOUNDS IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE VALIDITY OF THE LINKS TO OTHER SITES ON THE WEB.