Roger Bekono | Roger Bekono - LP
Release date: 16.06.2023
Long out-of-print release available digitally for the first time. Extensive notes by a local writer in English and French. Previously unpublished family photos. Urbanized traditional music at a dancefloor-friendly tempo. The very definition of an "Awesome Tape From Africa". Roger Bekono made a deep mark in the contemporary history of Cameroonian music through the four-on-the-floor, ribald intensity of bikutsi. The Ewondo-language dance-pop style that forms an undulating tapestry of interlocking triplet rhythmic interplay came to international prominence in the European "world music" scene as the 90s began. But the relentless sound of bikutsi developed in Yaoundé at the hands of Bekono and many others, as it developed from a village-based singing style performed mostly by women into a cosmopolitan music force that rivaled the popularity of established musics like Congolese rhumba, merengue and makossa. With his unique—some say suave—voice, Bekono contributed much over a period of more than 10 years as part of the evolution of this traditional rhythm-turned-urban dance movement. Bekono worked with legendary producer Mystic Jim, who had built a prolific home studio along with a crack team of musicians. They joined as part of the production of his self-titled album, which became known locally as "Jolie Poupée," the name of the album's lead single and most popular song. For "Jolie Poupée" Mystic Jim programmed the kick or bass drum, adding effects to have a heavier bass. Overall the album represented a new level of finesse and professionalism for his second release. In the middle of 1989, Jolie Poupée was released by the label Inter Diffusion System and aggressively hit the radio, discos and national television. The music video for the title track was on loop on TV. It felt like everyone was talking about it, even artists in adjacent music scenes like makossa. The album came out on vinyl and cassette and remains Bekono's best-selling recording to this day. With Jolie Poupée Bekono finally made an impact outside Cameroon as the record captured listeners in some Central African countries like Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo and Sao Tome & Principe. In these countries, we find the Fang or Mfan people (also known as Ekang), Bantu-speaking ethnic groups that are also found in Cameroon. This umbrella language group includes the language in which bikutsi is mainly sung. Most of Bekono's songs are in French, Ewondo (of which Beti is a dialect) and Pidgin. The four songs on Jolie Poupée are all considered bikutsi classics. On September 15, 2016, Bekono died of a long illness at the age of 62. In the wake of his passing the media published a wave of tributes, thanking him for what he did for Cameroonian music. He was an admired musician, songwriter and guitarist, and some of his old colleagues and some of the new generation of performers showered Bekono with vibrant tributes via social media, many of which noting something to the effect of: "The artist dies but his works remain.