Monday, February 11, 2019

Etoundi Aloa's Bikutsi



The "Patriarch of Bikutsi," Etoundi Aloa Javis, joined his ancestors on November 6, 2017. Shortly before his death he was honored at the annual "Festi-Bikutsi" celebration in Yaoundé, Cameroun.

I've been unable to find out much about Mr. Aloa, who recorded a number of albums and singles in the '70s and '80s, under his own name and as Javis & les Idoles. His early-'80s LP, Ma Yem Ya? (Africa Oumba AOLP 015), is an example of bikutsi at its best. Enjoy!

Aloa Javis - Ma Yem Ya?

Aloa Javis - Mengabo Wo Dze

Aloa Javis - Dze Ene Nkenga



Download Ma Yem Ya? as a zipped file here. Note: The cover misspells Mr. Aloa's surname as "Alao," but it is spelled correctly on the record label. Likewise, sides A and B are reversed on the sleeve.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Scandalous "K-Tino"




Before last week I'd heard of Camerounian chanteuse Catherine Edoa Ngoa, aka Kotino Ateba, aka "K-Tino," and her notorious sexually-charged hits. I never actually listened to her music, though, until I did research into my previous post, "Bikutsi Traditions."

A profile on the internet describes K-Tino's career arc this way:

...In the early 90s a woman named Katino Ateba emerged into the bikutsi scene with hits that took bikutsi fans by surprise. The orchestration was so good while the erotic lyrics expressed women’s fantasies. She broke all taboos and immediately knew success on the dancefloors around the country. By the number and regularity of her productions K-Tino is no doubt the Queen of bikutsi. She came into music with a powerful message that bikutsi is first of all the woman’s music. Her lyrics have sometimes been so intimidating to the sexual prowess of men that her fans have grown by millions among the women who see her as a symbol of their emancipation and empowerment. Totally fearless, K-Tino has become a myth, with her daughter K-Wash following her path to success.

K-Tino started singing in Chacal and Escalier Bar under the wings of the famous Epeme Theodore aka Zanzibar. She later joined the Band “Les Zombies de la Capitale” and set out for a solo career with the encouragements of the bikutsi patriarch Ange Ebogo Emerent. She performed so well that she became a crowd puller at Chalet situated in Mvan Yaounde. K-Tino has released several albums and her bikutsi is just irresistible, her performances are memorable. Her success has inspired so many young female bikutsi artists....
The event that really put K-Tino on the map, though, was her early-'90s smash "Ascenseur" ("The Lift"), a celebration of female sexuality that scandalized proper Camerounian society. Jean Victor Nkolo describes its impact in a chapter of the 1994 book World Music: The Rough Guide:

...Thanks to the rule of President Paul Biya - himself a Bulu Beti and a great bikutsi aficionado and dancer - the style has flourished on the otherwise heavily censored state-run radio and TV. A story that hit the drinking parlours of Yaoundé a couple of years back - part-joke, part-rumour - went like this: the archbishop of Douala, Monseigneur Jean Zoa, goes to the president's palace, hoping to get the latest bikutsi song banned. The piece in question was 'The Lift," in the Ewondo language. It comes from the raunchy Catherine Ateba, known as Katino Ateba, a young woman who fears no man, not even an archbishop.

According to the story, as the archbishop entered the president's living room to ask for the banning of "The Lift", he heard Biya himself asking his wife to "play that song again". The Monseigneur had to change his tune and his subject, throwing in the towel before uttering a word. Katino Ateba's songs are indeed crude, pornographic and anticlerical. But such themes are the essential thrust of bikutsi, a style whose origins go far back...
The lyrics themselves, barely disguised by euphemism, leave little to the imagination:

Action 69!
The lift, every male's secret
I like men who are not fools
Those who know how to press my sensitive button
The lift, that's every male's secret
I like a man who is no fool
I like a man who will suck me downstairs
I like a man who will suck me upsairs too
I like men who sin on earth
I like men who sin in heaven too
Even the parish priest loves that
Instead of giving me a private service
He comes home to sin downstairs
And I like the priest who sins upsairs too
And his mass will not be sad as a funeral ceremony
Because every male is a boss
Even in his pyjamas
But only when he's strong and big
With his prick as solid as a man's gun
Solid as a church's big candle
And I'll lick him up and down
And then, and only then, I'll ask him
To press the button in my lift
Every male's secret..
You can understand why the audience in the video above is going wild! (Translation courtesy of Jean Victor Nkolo).

Several years ago K-Tino renounced her salacious subject matter and founded a church in Libreville, Gabon, where she has a residence. Recently, though, she's made a return to form with a new naughty song, "Watafufu." As a report put it, "Yes, pastor K-Tino is singing again using dirty words!"

Enjoy more music by this brave, talented and charismatic lady!


Friday, February 1, 2019

Bikutsi Traditions



Making their first appearance here at Likembe are Les Veterans out of Cameroun, leading practitioners in the '80s of the rootsy, gritty bikutsi style.

The style of music most associated with Cameroun is the cosmpolitan makossa sound of the port city of Douala. But the country has a multiplicity of languages, cultures and religious traditions, so much so that it is often called "Africa in miniature." Bikutsi is the style most associated with the Béti peoples around the capital city of Yaoundé. Jean-Victor Nkolo discsusses the origins and history of bikutsi at some length in a chapter of the 1994 book World Music: The Rough Guide, to which I would refer you. Here's a representative passage, though:

...Originally, bikutsi was a blood-stirring war rhythm - the music of vengeance and summoning to arms, sounding through the forest. It used rattles and drum and the njang xylophone or balafon. Then, for decades, if not centuries, Beti women tricked the Christian church, as well as their own men, by singing in the Beti tongue and by using complex slang phrases reserved for women. While clapping out the same rapid-fire rhythm, they sang about the trials and tribulations of everyday life; they discussed sexuality, both theirs and their men's; and they talked about sexual fantasies and taboos. In the middle of the song, a woman would start a chorus leading to a frenzied dance of rhythmic foot-stamping and harmonious shaking of the shoulders, the back and the bottorn in that order: shoulders-back-bottom-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap. The whole thing was accompanied by strident screams and
whistles. These, in short, are the origins of bikutsi. The bellicose themes are no longer significant, but many women still perform the old folk dances, across the sprawling hills of Yaoundé city and beyond to the south....
When bikutsi was modernized, electric guitars replicated the melodic patterns of the balafons. Nkolo credits the creation of the "modern" bikutsi style in the '60s and '70s to Messi Me Nkonda Martin of the very influential band Los Camaroes (their 1979 LP Ressurection Los Vol. 1 has recently been reissued and is highly recommended!). The genre has continued to evolve. Briefly making a splash in the late '80s and early '90s were Les Têtes Brulées, who were the beneficiaries of a fair amount of publicity in the "World Music" scene but quickly disappeared. Other practitioners have been Chantal Ayissi, Sala Bekono, Mbarga Soukous and the controversial Katino Ateba. Wherever the music has gone, it's remained true to its gritty, unrestrained roots.

True to their name, I believe Les Veterans were associated with the Camerounian military in some capacity or other. They flourished in the 1980s but I don't know if they're still active. I'm aware of five albums they recorded and several 45s. This recording, 1986's Traditions (Ebobolo-Fia TC 010), has not been made available online before now to my knowledge. Enjoy!



Les Vétérans - Osun



Download Traditions as a zipped file here.