“Souffrance d’Amour” / “Love Suffering” by Ben Decca

Ben Decca (Source: KamerLyrics.net)

For this year’s Valentine, we will introduce you to “Souffrance d’Amour” by the Cameroonian singer Ben Decca. The song, “Souffrance d’Amour” translated as “Love suffering” tells of a love so deep, so strong between two people, but which does not work. So it is, in the words of Ben Decca himself, “proof that two people can go their separate ways and remain in love despite everything. “Souffrance d’Amour” is a shout-out to people who give themselves entirely to the other with sincerity and loyalty, but unfortunately, in general they receive the opposite of what they put in… sad reality…” [“Souffrance d’Amour” est la preuve que deux personnes peuvent se quitter et demeurer amoureuses l’une de l’autre malgré tout. Souffrance d’Amour” est une dédicace aux personnes qui se donnent à l’autre entièrement avec sincérité et loyauté, hélas en général ils reçoivent l’opposé de ce qu’ils ont misé… triste réalité…]. “To love is to forget oneself and to think only of the one we love” [Aimer c’est s’oublier soi-meme, et ne penser qu’a celui qu’on aime…”]

For those who do not know him, Ben Decca, he is the ultimate crooner of Cameroon… You could think of a Luther Vandross type… His career spans over 40 years of constantly amazing music. He is a pure talent, and hails from a family of musicians, with 3 younger siblings who are also renowned singers  Grâce Decca, Dora Decca, and Isaac Decca, and nephew to the great Cameroonian legend Eboa Lotin, and great grandson to Lobe Lobe Rameau one of the pioneers of Makossa in Cameroon. His work has been the legendary, and he has lightened to lives of so many of us lovers of life, given life to our feelings of joy, pain, grace, hurt,…. Kudos to the great, and only Ben Decca.

‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

Today, as states and countries are slowly reopening after the shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic, many have been left jobless, and are looking for a job now or in the near future. I think the poem ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail / I came to look for work‘ by the great Cameroonian writer and musician Francis Bebey is very appropriate. The poem below is the story of many immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of a job, a better life, leaving all behind: families, friends, and country. This poem is very simple, yet so deep as it details the losses taken today, in hope for a better tomorrow. As you think about the immigrants dying in the Mediterranean sea, or those crossing the Mexico-US border, or all the countless faces in the world, take a moment to imagine families torn apart, lives in peril, and possibly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Francis Bebey_Agatha Moudio Son
‘Agatha Moudio’s Son’ by Francis Bebey (Amazon)

Francis Bebey was sort of a genius: in his early years, he studied mathematics, before going into broadcasting. He was called to Ghana by President Kwame Nkrumah, where he served as a journalist. He began his literary career as a journalist in the 1950s and worked in Ghana and other African countries for the French radio network, Société de radiodiffusion de la France d’outre-mer (SORAFOM) and Radio France International. Later, he wrote novels, poetry, plays, tales, short stories, nonfiction works, and established himself as a musician, sculptor, and writer.  His first novel, Le Fils d’Agatha Moudio (Agatha Moudio’s Son), was published in 1967 and awarded the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire in 1968; it remains his best-known work to this day. He also headed the music department at the UNESCO‘s office in Paris, where he focused on researching and documenting African traditional music.

Enjoy Je suis venu chercher du travail‘ by Francis Bebey, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

Je suis venu chercher du travail

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

J’ai tout laissé, ma femme, mes amis

Au pays tout là-bas

J’espère les retrouver tous en vie

Le jour de mon retour

Ma pauvre mère était bien désolée

En me voyant partir

Je lui ai dit qu’un jour je reviendrai

Mettre fin à sa misère

J’ai parcouru de longs jours de voyage

Pour venir jusqu’ici

Ne m’a-t-on pas assuré d’un accueil

Qui vaudrait bien cette peine

Regardez-moi, je suis fatigué

D’aller par les chemins

Voici des jours que je n’ai rien mangé

Auriez-vous un peu de pain?

Mon pantalon est tout déchiré

Mais je n’en ai pas d’autre

Ne criez pas, ce n’est pas un scandale

Je suis seulement pauvre

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

I came to look for work

I came to look for work

I hope that there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

I left everything, my wife, my kids

In my country over there

I hope to find them all alive

On the day of my return

My poor mother was very sorry

To see me go

I told her that I will come back one day

To put an end to her misery

I had long days of travel

To get here

Was I not assured of a welcome

Which will be worth all this trouble

Look at me, I am tired

To go by the ways

It has been days since I ate anything

Do you have some bread?

My trouser is all ripped

But I don’t have another

Do not scream, it is not a scandal

I am just poor

I came to look for work

I hope there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

Inédit

Andre Marie Tala: Cameroon’s Blind Musical Virtuoso

André Marie Tala
André Marie Tala

Most people have heard of Stevie Wonder, the American blind R&B virtuoso, who was discovered at the tender age of 11. Most people versed in classical music have probably heard of the Italian classical tenor Andrea Bocelli, who was born with poor eyesight, and turned blind by the age of 12. But how many of you have heard of the Cameroonian blind singer André Marie Tala who influenced an entire generation of Cameroonian and African artists? the singer who was even plagiarized by the mighty James Brown

Andre Marie Tala and Sam Fan Thomas (Source: RfI)
Andre Marie Tala and Sam Fan Thomas (Source: Rfi)

To those who visit my blog, you have probably listened to two of his classic songs, which are odes to some of Africa’s beautiful capitals: Yaoundé, and N’Djamena, the capitals of Cameroon and Chad respectively. Only after I wrote about N’Djamena did I realize that André Marie Tala had performed at the Olympia (with Sam Fan Thomas, another giant of Cameroonian music) on May 17th to celebrate his 45 year anniversary in the music industry.

André Marie Tala
André Marie Tala

Unlike all the singers cited earlier, Tala plays the guitar. Born in the mountains of the Western province of Cameroon in 1950, Tala loses his mother at the tender age of 4, and then his father at 16. He totally loses sight at the age of 15, and will be taken in by his grandmother. He builds his very first guitar with threads made out of nylon, and bamboo, and works on reproducing sounds from his favorite musicians. He starts his first group, the Rock Boys, with which he goes on to have immediate success. The Rock Boys later morphed into the Black Tigers in 1967 with his friend, guitar player, Sam Fan Thomas. At the age of 20, he moves to Paris and collaborates with the great Cameroonian saxophone player Manu Dibango; he lands his first big musical contract. Thus were born the titles Sikati, Po tak Si nan (laissez Dieu tranquille ! – leave God in peace), and Namala Ébolo. Big success! Po tak Si nan is a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm n’ blues, blend in with a mix of Cameroonian musical styles such as Makossa and Bikutsi. Tala calls his style “Tchamassi”.

The album "Hot Koki" by André Marie Tala
The album “Hot Koki” by André Marie Tala

In 1973, his album “Hot Koki” knows international success, and his single “Hot Koki” is even plagiarized by the great James Brown under the new title “The Hustle”. In 1978, after 4 years of judiciary struggles, Tala is awarded justice, and James Brown is condemned to pay him back all his rights.

The big themes of Tala’s music are peace, love, and harmony. In the 90s, he brings Bend Skin to the forefront of Cameroonian music, a folkloric fusion of styles from the grasslands of Cameroon. It is often associated with the moto-taxis which are called by the same name Bend-Skin.

Album of André Marie Tala
Album of André Marie Tala

By choosing the Olympia (the quintessential stage for music in France), for his musical jubilee, André Marie Tala wants to launch a new beginning for the Cameroonian music which has always been rich and influenced millions, but for the past decade has stagnated. Happy 45th-anniversary to Andre Marie Tala, and to many more albums of great music. I live you here with one of my favorite Tala’s song, Nomtema. Do not forget to check out “HOT KOKI” and check out the similitude with James Brown’s “THE HUSTLE“; it is the same, just in English!