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How the new generation of artists are shaping the  sounds of Cameroon  

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Despite the impacts of major musical labels, the new generation does not seem to be running towards immediate success. Instead they desire for the stabilisation of their career through sustainable ecosystems.  

They face challenges deeply rooted in the industry. Namely: issues of copyright management, lack  of performance venues and other issues that are often released into the public arena. However,  these signs of distress have not discouraged those pursuing a career in music. To see their dream  come to fruition A new generation of artists have arrived and they are redefining the music  industry in Cameroon. 

Indeed, since 2010, we have seen the birth of many independent local labels in Cameroon.  Recording studios have become increasingly accessible. It has not escaped anyone to notice the large number of artists of the new generation who are shifting the scene. The best known are  Tenor, Aveiro Djess, Ko-C, Kameni, Stanley Enow, Tzi Panchak, Mr Leo, Jovi, Salatiel, the list goes  on. 

Thanks to this, the profession of ‘artist’ is redefining itself in Cameroon, it is no longer a question  of releasing a record and waiting for a miracle. They understand today that an artist generates his income with partnerships, advertising contracts, sponsorship, paid services and more. Therefore, they are working to better control the circuit of discretion and income of an artist. There is a real  quest to understand the music business.  

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The new wave of artists are not only defined as musicians but also as entrepreneurs. They choose  to associate their image intentionally, with brands hailing similar values to theirs, which was as  common until now.  

Their common point is their desire for success, but above all the determination to mark  themselves in an environment not organised enough. Thanks to their determination and new communication channels, they manage to gain visibility and notoriety. They are followed by millions of followers across online platforms. They share their daily lives through this showcase  they announce their latest projects.. Thanks to this sympathy capital, they have a great capacity to  mobilize fans which turn them into brand’s ambassadors.  

Through these means they were able to develop and practice endorsement. Endorsement is an  exchange between an artist looking for additional income and an advertiser looking for a more  impactful message.  

The music industry, having suffered from the digital revolution, has proven to be a blessing for  local musicians. Record sales have declined in favor of rising digital technologies such as music  streaming. This is not the case in Cameroon, because thanks to these new technologies, talents  rise and a contract can be obtained quicker.  

Today, endorsement, a marketing practice based on image sharing between artist and brand, is  on the rise. For example, MIMIE has been able to associate her image with several local and international  brands. In her brand catalog we find cosmetic entities.  

They have definitely understood and they are establishing the foundations of a stable environment  for an artist. Despite a lack of structure for unprofitable copyrights, it is possible today for an artist  to live from his art differently.  

They shape the industry by earning themselves viable compensation as an artist. Local rhythms are brought up to date and this recipe seems to work as we can see with Le Mbolé. Le Mbolé is on the come up, but he is by no means new to the scene. Le Mbolé has always been in the Cameroonian scene.

In 2017, Petit Malo entered the studio to record its first title which will contribute to popularizing  the Mbolé. He became the first artist to bring Mbolé out of anonymity. In 2020, Le Mbolé became a phenomenal success. The movement is gaining momentum and is being marketed to the local  public as well as abroad. Since then, several artists such as Happy d’Effoulan, Petit Bozard, the  doctors of Medeline, Aveiro Djess and many others have perpetuated this joyful pace everywhere.  Thus, the musical democratization of this traditional cadence: Le Mbolé, also demonstrates the  desire of young people to value the old and work hand in hand with the previous generation.

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There has always been an unhealthy comparison between generations in the music industry. This  analogy creates a climate of mistrust. Most often encouraged by nostalgics of the first hour who  find that the current generation lacks ingenuity. For a long time this situation created distance  between the two generations. Over time, the parties bridged the gap. This is how we saw certain  artists of the older generation standing out by breaking the rivalry. They are no longer content to  popularize local musical habits and customs, but to work hand in hand with new generations. 

The relationship between the old and new generations of artists in Cameroon is far from being  unanimous. There is still a long way to go to make it homogeneous. It is a titanic task that requires the investment of both parties in order to reach a true understanding.  If the older generation reproaches their younger counterparts for a lack of creativity in the musical  content they propose, the latter in turn reproach the older generation for not passing on their know how. This difference of opinion, which was maintained for a long time by each party, gave rise to a delectable atmosphere, even though no one wanted to accept their share of responsibility. There was a period when Cameroonian music was at its peak, and a large majority of today’s artists were not yet born. Without a reference point, they were influenced by foreign music, which at one time was inspired by Cameroonian music. 

However, in order to lighten the atmosphere, several elders of music took it upon themselves to  accompany the young artists who were willing to learn, because talent alone is often not enough to be a  good artist. In this new state of mind, we saw an artist like Salatiel do a collaboration in 2022 with the local and living legend of Makossa, Petit Pays. Rabba Rabbi (Petit Pays) is one of the only Cameroonia artists to have experienced the glory era of Makossa. He not only knew it, but he also worked so that young artists could make themselves known. He is also one of the few to have been able to release hits regularly over a decade.  

Daphné also collaborated with Ben Decca in 2014. Since 2014, this monument of Cameroonian  music, Makossa in particular, has also continued to multiply collaborations with new artists like Sandrine Nnanga in 2018 and Cysoul in 2019. It was only legitimate for these young artists to turn  to these historical pillars to together create and break the taboos on the non-existence of work  between youth and old age in Cameroon.  

The multiple collaborations between the artists of the old and new generations have been  beneficial for both parties. On the side of the old artists, this return to the forefront allowed them to  replay certain classics that have rocked many generations and that very few of them did not know.  Some of them have been revisited and new sounds added. Collaboration with elders can also be a springboard for the career of a young artist. Many of them have benefited from the spin-offs of  their collaborations to gain notoriety.  

Despite these beautiful initiatives, collaborations between generations of artists will always remain  mixed for the simple reason that there is a lack of real organization in the music industry in Cameroon. With the success they have, some artists do not consider it useful to have to accept a  project with any elder. The latter must have a strong aura. 

The particularity of Cameroon has always been to shine in each musical register in the world.  Thus, unlike neighboring countries, the Cameroon Musical style is like the Country a Mosaic that  cannot be defined under a single generalist name.

What artists shape is not a style but a sustainable and viable ecosystem both for them and for  their audience.  

Discover more music from Cameroon with Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music Studios.

Written by: Catherine Assogo

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