In early 1980, as KCRW’s host of Morning Becomes Eclectic, I decided to start a dedicated African music show along with Reggae Beat host Roger Steffens, who suggested the idea. Never mind that the station had precious few African LPs to spin at the time. We went ahead with the show anyway. Soon enough, L.A.’s African expat community was contributing their favorite jams to the show. Our Tuesday morning set was called “Morning Goes Makossa,” inspired by Cameroonian superstar Manu Dibango’s massive 1972 hit, “Soul Makossa.” It was the first African song to make American pop charts, peaking at No. 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The term, makossa, means “to dance” in the Doula language.
Recently, I discovered a fabulous new album of ’70s and ’80s Cameroonian pop music, titled, Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon (1976–1984). The compilation comes to us from German label Analog Africa, which was founded by Tunisian-born Samy Ben Redjeb. It’s a collection of fun—even if sometimes forgotten—music from Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Benin, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. (There is even an early Analog Africa CD called African Scream Contest/Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin and Togo!) I’m grateful to Redjeb and his team for their sleuthing and unearthing of these musical gems, most of which were recorded pre-synthesizers, pitch-correction and other production techniques that have since become common practice. (Thanks to Nick Robbins at Soundmastering in London.) In my opinion, that’s the stuff that ruins a lot of music from Africa, the Caribbean, and other places. Au contraire for Analog Africa, though; this is music for purists. You can hear the authenticity in the grooves.
For Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon (1976–1984), Analog Africa dispatched DJ and producer Déni Shain to Cameroon to seek out and license the tracks, scan photographs and artwork, and conduct interviews with the artists. His fruitful journey took him to the port city of Douala and Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, where he discovered the music of the band, Dream Stars, whose explosive classic, “Pop Makossa Invasion,” inspired the entire collection. Also on the album are superb cuts by Mystic Djim & the Spirits, Bill Loko, Pasteur Lappé, Eko, Olinga Gaston, Emmanuel Kahe & Jeanette Kemogne, Nkodo Si Tony, Bernard Ntone, Pat’ Ndoye, and Clément Djimogne.
The music on Pop Makossa is infused with the disco and funk sounds that made their way to Europe and Africa at the time, featuring modern Western instruments such as electric pianos and guitars. The CD comes with an extensive 44-page booklet. DJ alert: There’s also a deluxe 140-gram LP version that is accompanied by a 20-page booklet.
Kudos to Analog Africa for reminding us of this truly great African music from these bands who were on the scene before the term “world music” was even invented.