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Tenor. Image via Facebook.

11 Artists From the New School of Cameroonian Music You Should Know

Here are 11 musicians making huge waves across Cameroon and beyond.

The previous generation of Cameroonian musicians made it so makossa and bikutsi were heard and appreciated on a global scale.

Today, there's a new wave of urban artists taking the country, and beyond, by storm with their unique sounds, through help of the exposure they've gained via social media.


These artists speak in French, English and a variety of local languages and their styles are as varied as the 250 ethnicities in the central African country of Cameroon. They push through boundaries placed upon them by the government and the fervor their countrymen and women have for foreign music rather than that of their own.

We've featured acts like Jovi, Stanley Enow and Reniss a number of times. Take a look at this list of 11 Cameroonian shakers and movers for much more.

Tenor

At just 19, Mengoumou Ayia Thierry,"Tenor" is a rap star, who gained notoriety for his unapologetically unique themes, versatility and tone of voice. In 2014, he turned his passion into a career and has been steadily advancing since. The 2016 release of "Do Le Dab" had kids dancing everywhere. In November of 2017, he became the first Central African Artist to sign with Universal Music Africa. Many are curious to hear what will come of this two album deal.

Mr. Leo

Fonyuy Leonard Nsohburinka or Mr. Leo has come a long way from the military camp in which he was raised in Buea, the South-Western part of Cameroon. Like many other artists on this list, he began singing in a choir. Though often discouraged by the opportunities not afforded to him, Mr. Leo would gain self-confidence and affirmation in the strength of his voice with the help of a friend, who also made this list, Salatiel. From 2010 onward, the two would become music partners and Salatiel would produce many a track for Leonard, under the Alpha Better Records label. In early 2014, they released "E Go Better," the song was a hit with both English and French Cameroonians and sealed his fate.

Presently, his 2017 album, Love Original, is enchanting audiences with it's soulfulness and powerful messages. He's been nominated for an AFRIMMA, signed an endorsement deal with Itel Mobile as brand ambassador and collaborated with artists Hiro, Locko, Magasco and more. He can do no wrong with hits like, "Pray," "Jamais Jamais," "Partout," and "Supporter."

Mink's

Minkada Franck Stéphane aka MINK'S got his start writing raps during school. He and the neighborhood boys were heavily influenced by the likes of Kanye West and Jay Z. He would enter a hip-hop talent search and be signed to Ach4life, shortly after. The singles "Panthere2.0" and "Le gars La est laid" were the viral hits that led to his 2016 album Tranchees2Vie. MINK'S engages his fans with a style comprised of humorously describing the world around him. It resonates with both young and older crowds.

Blanche Bailly

Bailly Larinette Tatah or Blanche Bailly is a songstress with curves for days. She hails from the Baganté tribe and studied in Kumba before leaving for France. In 2015, she left a job in London to pursue her passion for music full time. She burst on the scene with her tracks "Killa," a cover of Locko's "Sawa Romance" and "Kam We Stay." She cites Grace Decca, Longue Longue, Beyonce, and K. Michelle as influences.

Locko

Charles Arthur "Locko" is an R&B phenom who got his start singing in choir. His covers on Youtube from 2014 led to a deal with BIG Dreams Entertainment in 2015 as well as a Best Newcomer AFRIMMA Award in 2017. The aforementioned comes as no surprise, the love ballads on his album, Skyzo, are to die for, from "Margo" to "Ndutu" to "Sawa Romance." He's set to release his folllowing album, Bridge, on February 9, just in time for Valentine's Day and if the songs "Je Serai La" and "Supporter" are the indications of what we can expect, he's on his way to many more accolades.

Magasco

Tohnain Anthony Nguo, "Bamenda Boy" or Magasco is a Kom tribesman who also got his start singing in church at the age of 6. Today, at 29, he's been nominated as Cameroon's Best Urban Artist and has released the popular tracks "Marry Me" and "Wule Bang Bang". At the end of 2017, he dropped his debut album, Golden Boy, under Empire Company.

Daphne

Daphne Njie Gundem is a Buea-born songstress raised in Douala serenading audiences with her urban pop tracks. Daphne is choir-trained but her sound is a mix of pop, afrobeats, reggae, makossa, bikutsi, and hip-hop. In 2015, her debut album Here To Stay solidified her standing as one of the country's favorites. Last year, she released "Calee" which currently has more than 14 million views and "Jusqu'a la gare."

Salatiel

"Salatiel" Livenja Bessong is a household name with a passion for songwriting and production unmatched by many other artists. His love of music was bred in the church where his father was a pastor. His sounds can't be boxed-in and sound like a mix of gospel, traditional, pop, makossa, bikutsi, hip-hop, ndombolo, jazz, and world music. He's performed alongside artists Meiway, La Fouine, Flavour, Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Magasco, Skales and others.

He founded Alpha Better Records and has himself, Mr Leo, Askia, and Blaise B under the label. His upcoming album, I Am Salatiel, is said to feature Sarkodie, Skales, DJ Neptunez and many more.

Franko

Despite rapping for well over a decade and releasing an album, Kinguè Franck Junior aka Franko's addictive track "Coller La Petite" from 2015 was the global hit that set him apart. Play it in a room full of Cameroonians and observe the frenzy that ensues. The song being censored in his country and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Niger denying Franko entry into their country, helped catapult the artist and song to major heights. He has topped French charts and toured all over. Fans are curious to see what other gold he has up his sleeve.

Maahlox

Yaounde born and bred Kenfack Jean Jules or Maahlox Le Vibeur is another artist who is consistently censored. His lyrics are full of local colloquialisms that make it impossible for Cameroonians not to listen up when he's speaking. He goes from singing to rapping and fills his music with content that is jarring yet real. Maahlox has released explicit hit songs like "Tuer pour Tuer," "Tu montes Tu Descends," and "tu est dedans," and placed them all on his 2017 album Ca sort comme ca sort.

Though controversial, his Youtube videos are watched by an average of 800,000 fans. Maahlox stands firmly behind his words and gives fans a glimpse into a realm of existence that isn't necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing. He's violent, vulgar, outrageous, provocative, and authentic.

BOY Tag

Tongwa Njopmu is Boy Tag, the rapper recently signed to Stevens Music Entertainment. He's albino and flows in French, pidgin, and a variety of tribal languages. He tells vivid stories with his raps and his productions are as reminiscent of the past as they are based in the present. He's being called the next best thing to come out of Cameroon's hip-hop scene. Despite only having "Mignoncite," "Njoka," "Sauvagerie," and the most recent track "Talla" out, fans are eagerly waiting to hear more.

Interview
Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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