Blick Bassy, The Modern Cameroonian Griot Singing About Exodus & Migration

Cameroonian-born, French-based songwriter Blick Bassy tells simultaneously personal and global stories in his new album ‘Akö.’

Blick Bassy. Photo via the artist's website.

The Cameroonian-born, French-based banjo player, guitarist & songwriter Blick Bassy is a thorough man. By his own confession he assiduously works on his songs for at least 6 hours a day. A self-taught guitarist, Blick Bassy also doubles on the banjo since, he mentions, the instrument evokes childhood memories of the sound of a train approaching his village in Cameroon.

Bassy’s compositions astutely relate stories that touch on themes of education, exodus & migration from rural villages to African cities. Most of these stories stem from his personal experience and journey, as he was fortunate to split his time between Yaoundé & the village where he spent his childhood. It wasn't until his ultimate move from Cameroon to Paris in the early 2000s that he became aware of the privilege to have been exposed to one of the 262 languages co-existing in Cameroon.

This spirited, modern griot is fraught with simultaneously personal and global stories. He knows how to engage with any audience despite singing songs in the Bassa language, which neither the majority of his fans, or his bandmates, can understand. However, Bassy insists, "It's for the artist to find a way to speak to people's emotions and feelings, even when using an alien language".

Bassy is a versatile musician. His musical journeys overlap both South America, mainly the Brazilian percussion and rhythmic gems featured in his second album Léman, and Africa—Mali was also a large influence on his debut album Hongo Calling.

For his third offering, Akö, Bassy sought for new ways to express issues close to his heart.

The setting this time around is intimate and stipped-down to the bare minimum; a trombone, cello and Blick Bassy playing both the guitar and banjo. This unusual lineup fittingly emphasizes the quality of the human voice.

"Melodies—let's say in French or English—change because of intonation,” Bassy points out. “However, if we use other languages smartly—in this instance Bassa—it’ll bring something new to our ears. it's also a warning to our government, that if we carry on that way, we’ll lose our languages, hence the connection to our histories and cultural legacies."

The Blick Bassy Trio live at Maroquinnerie.

It wasn't until his move to Paris that Bassy became increasingly aware of the function of language and the centrality of culture in every nation & civilization. “France has its own history, this is Africa’s time."

Bassy’s unapologetic about the fact that he doesn't read music. His musical inspiration came from wanting to pay tribute to his hero blues man Skip James, while at the same time attempting to conjure up a richly diverse sonic tableau evocative of childhood memories and other personal journeys.

"Listen, I don't read music, so for the first day of a series of intensive rehearsals, I record all the melodies and give them to both the trombonist & cellist, insisting that I want them to play them their own way," he explains.

It’s against the backdrop of the layered minimalist interaction between trombonist Fidel Fourneyron’s hauntingly warm sound and the controlled lyricism of cellist Clement Petit that Bassy unravels a dozen short narratives about migration and education.

Passionate but never assertive, Blassy observes, "Give education to our kids about change and racism, because environment and context makes who we are! Why are we different? This is what makes the world interesting."

Visit Blick Bassy’s website to grab a copy of ‘Akö’ and see his full tour schedule.

Still from YouTube

Watch the Retro Music Video for Dyo's 'Go All the Way' Featuring Mr Eazi

The video, directed by Mahaneela, is a tribute to the vintage photography of Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso.

Mr Eazi teams up with budding Nigerian artist Dyo, for her latest single "Go All the Way."

The duo share a memorable music video, inspired by the work of vintage African studio photographers like Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso. The music video features cameos from several young African creatives including Congolese artist Miles from Kinshasa, who are all photographed in stylish clothes before staged backdrops.

The video was directed by multi-hyphenated creator Mahaneela, who also appears in the video,

The Mirza-produced song sees both artists singing suggestively about their lovers. "Go go, go all the way," Dyo sings smoothly on the track's chorus.

Still from YouTube

Keep reading... Show less

Join Us For an Everyday Afrique Party This Labor Day In NYC!

Featuring music by DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

Everyday People, OkayAfrica and Electrafrique are back with the best Labor Day weekend party around with Everyday Afrique.

Come hang with us for another installment of the party that brings out the New York City's finest.

This September 2 we're taking Everyday Afrique back to The Well in Brooklyn, where you can dance and drink the day & night away across the venue's outdoor and indoor spaces.

Grab Your Tickets to Everyday Afrique's Labor Day Party Here

Music will be handled by a top-shelf line-up of selectors including DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

The party will be hosted by Young Prince, Saada, Roble, Sinat, Giselle, Shernita and Maine.

Make sure to grab your tickets here and we'll see you on the dance floor!

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Sibu Mpanza.

INFLUENCED: Meet Sibu Mpanza—the YouTuber Who's Making a Killing from Just Having Fun

'I am the person I needed when and even before I started my YouTube channel,' the prolific YouTuber says.

OkayAfrica brings you the 2019 INFLUENCED Series. In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring the online communities being fostered by young South Africans who are doing more than just influencing. From make-up gurus and hair naturalistas to socially-conscious thought leaders, get ready to be influenced. Read the rest of the series here.

Years ago, Sibu Mpanza found himself experiencing two realities Black South African students are still battling with even today: crippling financial woes at university and debilitating depression.

An aspiring musician who ended up studying psychology instead at the University of Cape Town, Mpanza began skipping as many classes as he possibly could. He would spend copious amounts of time at a computer hidden away in the corner, passing the hours watching funny videos on YouTube. In fact, he says he spent so much time on YouTube that he was literally one of the very first people to view Beyoncé's epic "711" music video—something Mpanza recalls in stitches.

He was searching for something, although admittedly, he didn't quite know back then what it was exactly. It eventually got so bad that in his second year of university, he packed up his things, dropped out and moved to Johannesburg to see if he could become what he'd always imagined he could eventually be.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the name Sibu Mpanza is not only an undeniable success story but an entire brand.

Mpanza is a full-time YouTuber who has been able to capitalise on creating hilarious content about his life and pretty much anything that interests him. While he initially "blew up" because of a YouTube video he put out, a video which called out White students at the University of the Free State who were recorded beating up protesting Black students at a rugby game, he's since moved onto a second channel, More Mpanza, where he makes content that's a lot more fun, apolitical and doesn't take a toll on his mental health. As if two successful channels weren't enough, he's also got a third channel, Arcade, where he and his business partner talk about things they enjoy in the technology space.

For anyone looking to just let off some steam, watch a YouTuber who's willing to poke fun at himself or find some really quality content in an era where everyone seems to have a YouTube channel about something or the other, Mpanza is definitely your guy.

We caught up with him to talk about what inspired his various YouTube channels, the fame that comes with being a household name and what's really important to the young South African creative.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading... Show less
Sho Madjozi "John Cena"

The 19 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sho Madjozi, Odunsi, Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, Fuse ODG, Santi and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox