In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I would like to talk about one of Africa’s great love songs, ‘AMI O‘. Many songs have made the entire continent shake, but few have had the dimensions of ‘AMI O‘ of Ebanda Manfred. ‘AMI O‘ is to Cameroonian and African music what ‘Guantanamera‘ is to Cuban and Latin music: a world classic. But ‘AMI O‘, ‘AMIO‘, ‘AMIE OH’, or ‘AMI OH’, or ‘AMIYO‘ is first and foremost a love song. It is a declaration of love, a love anthem. It has been reprised by over 20 world class artists among which, Bébé Manga, Papa Wemba, Francis Bebey, Angelique Kidjo, Manu Dibango, Monique Séka, Bisso Na Bisso, Nayanka Bell, Jacky Biho, Naima, Henri Salvador, André Astasié, and so many more.
Where did it all start? In 1960, 24-years old Ebanda Manfred fell head over heels in love with a teenage single mother from Yaoundé, Cameroon. The girl, Amié Essomba Brigitte, had to quit school to take care of her child. Madly in love, Ebanda Manfred told her of his feelings, but she told him that she could not start a love relationship until her child was weaned. Finding the wait too long, especially since he had to return to Douala the following year, Ebanda Manfred sang his despair and asked: “Amié, njika bunya so mo, oa mo o ma dubè no, na mba na tondi oa?”. Translation: “Amié, when will you finally believe in my love?” Thus the song “Amié ” was born. It became an instant hit when it came out in 1962. A year later, it was reprised by Francis Bebey. In 1980, the great Bébé Manga made an adaptation which brought her to the international stage, as she won the “Golden Maracas.” The song will be reprised by artists around the world, from the Carribbean to Latin America, and Europe.
In celebration of Valentine’s day, I live you with this great African love song. In Bébé Manga’s English version, the song clearly states “Amie (friend) oh, you are all I ever hoped for, everything I ever dreamt of, …” So tomorrow, don’t forget to sing AMI O to that special one, that one you longed for, and dreamt of, that special one in your life.