Album Review: Pop Makossa – The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976–1984 [Analog Africa, 16th June 2017]


Analog Africa’s first release of 2017 is a masterclass in the exploration of long forgotten African grooves – this time Cameroon gets a vinyl archaeological excavation – and what a stellar selection of recordings they’ve unearthed!

Extensively researched sleeve notes and images are the trademarks of Analog Africa, providing meticulously curated packages for world beat fans.

The tracks on Pop Makossa are based around makossa – the national music rhythm, rooted in the tribal traditions of a psychotherapeutic funeral dance, originating in the coastal areas around Douala.

Prior to independence, Cameroon was divided between French and British rule, but it was the sound of makossa that came to unify the country. A melting pot of sounds and rhythms – Congolese rumba, merengue from the Dominican Republic as well as highlife from Ghana and Nigeria fused with local folk rhythms and 70’s funk and disco.

Kicking off the compilation, Dream Stars “Pop Makossa Invasion” is a deep, hypnotic, spiritual opener stripped back to guitar, bass and percussion.

What’s striking about this compilation is the immediacy of the music – these songs hook you in, resulting in the explosive hybrid sounds played in the bars and nightclubs throughout Cameroon and Paris.

Bill Loko’s “‘Nen Lambo” is soulful, with bright and breezy vocals backed with quirky keyboard flourishes and a tight rhythm guitar.

The sound threading through this collection is the liquid, elastic bass – testament to Cameroon’s reputation for producing bass players with an international reputation.

“M’ongele M’am” by Eko Roosevelt recorded in Paris has infectious horns, keyboards and percussion, underpinned by a driving bass, and topped with a persistent vocal line – a joyous, upbeat song that has a hint of Latin disco, which became a massive hit on the dance floors of Doula.

Bernard Ntone was the saxophonist in Manu Dibango’s band and only ever recorded two solo tracks – one of which is included here. “Mussoloki”, – has tight guitar, bass and percussion locked in with a heartfelt vocal lamenting the loss of Cameroon traditions.

This is an indispensable collection of ultra raw tracks from the heydey of makossa – exceptional quality control begs this album to be played in its entirety – this rightly deserves to be the soundtrack to summer 2017!

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