Filed under: Cameroon
The urbanization of Cameroon in the 1940s had a major influence on the country’s music. Up until that point, other than imported pop music and French-style chanson, there was the indigenous guitar based Ambasse Bey, which was developed in the costal city of Douala. But the migration to the capital city of Yaoundé, was a major cause for the popularization of Bikutsi music. Bikutsi is a native folk music based on a war rhythm played by three to five balafon players and various other percussion instruments. The vocals were usually sung by women, and the lyrics were about everyday problems and featured sexually explicit lyrics. During the 1950s, bars sprang up across the city to accommodate the influx of new inhabitants, and soon became a symbol for Cameroonian identity in the face of colonialism.
Anne-Marie Nzie was perhaps the most important of the early innovators of Bikutsi, followed by Messi Me Nkonda Martin and his band, Los Camaroes, who added electric guitars. Messi Martin had been inspired to learn the guitar by listening to Spanish language-broadcasts from neighboring Equatorial Guinea, as well as Cuban and Congolese rumba. Messi changed the sound of his electric guitar by linking the strings together with pieces of paper, giving the instrument a “thudding” sound that emulated the balafon. His style was instantly popular, and his songs “Mengalla Maurice” and “Bekono Nga N’Konda” became radio favorites throughout the country beginning in the early 1960s.
In the late 60s, Ekambi Brillant scored the first major Cameroonian hit, “N’Gon Abo”, and set the stage for the development of Makossa. Manu Dibango took Makossa worldwide popularity with his 1972 single “Soul Makossa”. Also, during the same time, a local variant on palm wine music called Assiko was popular. By the 1970s, Bikutsi performers had started adding brass instruments and more explicit lyrics. At the same time, Mama Ohandja was bringing Bikutsi to new audiences in Europe.
As for Les Kilts… I have not been able to find any information, other than what I can decipher from the record sleeve. This record was a promotional item for the local branch of the Bastos Cigarette Company, which was based in Belgium at the time. According to the liner notes, it was recorded at “Radiodiffusion Nationale du Cameroun Studios in Yaoundé and Douala”. Maybe side one was recorded in Yaoundé and the other was recorded in Douala? Who knows? The only credits, other than the recording information, is to the songwriters: Geo Duala for “Jerk Bastos” and Bob Ronald for the B side “Bastos Oyè”.
If you any information about the band, please contact me.
Catalog number… Well, there isn’t one. Released by the Bastos Cigarette Company. There is a matrix number engraved in the vinyl: AST PPN 4263 380. No other information available. Bastos, tourjous jeune!