Africa / Dance / Music / Quality

Makossa in the Dreamland Cabaret, Bamenda

Makossa singer Geo Masso in the Dreamland Cabaret, Bamenda, Dec. 22nd, 2012, with guests

Makossa singer Geo Masso in the Dreamland Cabaret, Bamenda, Dec. 22nd, 2012, with guests

Many young people in Cameroon are no longer listening to Cameroonian music. It is mostly hip-hop and other stuff like that, and not the best. In the end, the music of the whole world is going to sound the same. How boring!

It looks like the century-old tradition of independent African popular music is retreating. It started with Highlife music around the beginning of the 20th century in what is today Ghana. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, other styles, like Soukous in the Congo area, emerged. The typical style of Cameroon in the 1970s and 1980s, Makossa, has its roots on both sides.

Now, 30 to 40 years later, some of the old musicians from those days are still alive, but they are no longer young. However, the times of this music are not completely over yet. It is showing grey hair, but is still alive and kicking!

On Dec. 22nd 2012, we visited the Dreamland Cabaret in Bamenda, Cameroon. What a great club! Very clean, strictly non-smoking (however, hardly anybody in Cameroon is a smoker), with good service. And the music is simply fantastic!

We came there between 10 and 11 P.M. The life music on stage was already going on. We heard they start at 10 P.M. When we left between 1 A.M and 2 A.M., the band was still playing. They did not have any break as a band, its life music continuously! The musicians are taking breaks in turn, playing some tunes that do not require all of them, but the band is continuously on stage. They play Makossa and really play it in the classical style of the mid-1980s. They also play Soukous, Bikutsi and a number of other styles, including some Njang, a traditional dance from the Bamenda area. These musicians, who are the house band of the club, are really marvelous. There is a drummer, a keyboard, a bass, two guitars and several singers, two of them females who are also great dancers and a male. Another male singer who appeared sporadically seems to have been from the audience, but I am not sure, a great dancer, by the way.

The musicians are no longer young and the same holds for the audience. Most people seemed to be in their 40s, 50s and 60s. One man from the audience turned out to be old-time Makossa star Geo Masso. He sang two of his old tunes. What a Great surprise! It was also a great fun for me to dance and to watch some really good dancers. It felt like in the old times.

Should you ever come to Bamenda, this is the place to go to Saturday night! If not, you are missing something in life.

7 thoughts on “Makossa in the Dreamland Cabaret, Bamenda

  1. I heard a Ghana band playing in JHB and I quite enjoyed the music although it’s completely different to what I’m used to. It was an old fashioned kind of band and played ‘easily listening’ music.

    • Hi Ricari, that was very likely a Highlife band, although I don’t know what style exactly. Highlife originated in the early 20th century (maybe even earlier), so West Africa has a tradition of popular music as old as Jazz. Originally it was played in large Hotels for the upper class people, hence the name (given to it by those who had to stay outside). Later however, it became popular among other people as well. It was influenced by military music, church music (which in turn was and is influenced by Highlife) and traditional African music styles like Adowa. In the 1940s and 1950, there was an influence from Swing and Calypso, giving rise to the style known as Dance Band Highlife (in this variety, they use a lot of brass and saxophones). Later a style called Guitar Highlife was developed that was popular during the 1970s and 1980s. Since this is a very old music tradition, there are many different styles.

    • Sorry, Ricari, it looks like you became a victim of my nerdishness here :-). I think I am a nerd and nerds have special interest topics. If you show anything remotely like interest in a nerd’s special area of interest, you might receive a whole lecture. I don’t always realize it in time 🙂

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