Music Culture Wednesday Vol. 13

Kizomba music comes from all over the PALOP* community, not just Angola.  All mixes between zouk and Afro rhythms (not to be confused with Afro-house) are normally called kizomba, amongst PALOPS, regardless if the artists or bands are from Guiné-Bissau, Cabo-Verde, São Tomé and Prince, Mozambique or even the Congo (which is not a PALOP country).  

Our community has been influenced by rhythms and sounds from across the great continent of Africa and beyond. Every Wednesday I will be introducing great African artists that have been meaningful to the PALOP community.  Newer fans of kizomba will gain a richer understanding of culture and discover new artists and those of us who grew up in the community will enjoy trips down memory lane.  Let me introduce this weeks’ featured artist/band:

San Fam Thomas was one of the big names from my generation and his music definitely influenced many of today’s West African artists.  Thomas (born 1952, Bafoussam) is a Cameroonian musician associated with Makossa. He began in the late 1960s and had his first hit with “Rikiatou”. His African Typic Collection was an international hit in 1984 and is perhaps his best known album.

Thomas began his career in 1968 as a guitarist in the Cameroonian band Tigres Noires led by Andre Marie Tala. He stayed with Tala for eight years, recording several singles. The band also recorded in Paris and toured Senegal and other African countries. He stayed with that band until 1976, when he launched his solo career.

In 1976, Sam’s first solo LP was “Funky New Bell,” recorded in Benin on the Satel label. A second LP, on the same label, followed in 1977. On this album Sam was supported by the Black Santiagos from Benin. His third release came in 1982 in Nigeria, with the hit song “Rikiatou”, which established his reputation in Cameroon. In 1983 Thomas traveled to Paris to record Makassi. Makassi is the name of Sam’s own music style, a type of uptempo Makossa blended with a touch of Andre Marie Tala’s Tchamassi and other Bamilike influences.

The album contained the hit song “African Typic Collection”. This song built around the melody of the classic Franco song “Boma l’heure” and became an international dance floor hit, with sales across Africa, France and the West Indies where it was also released as a 12-inch single. Makassi brought Sam a Golden Disc in 1984 and was followed by his fifth album ‘Neng Makassi in 1985. The album retained the sophisticated production of Makassi, without matching his greatest hit. In 1986 he came with two albums, Funk Makassi and Makassi Plus. The latter became a hit. Together with African Typic Collection, two tracks off Makassi Plus were released in 1987 on a compilation by the British Earthworks record label. Makassi Plus was followed in 1988 by Makassi Again that was distributed internationally by the Celluloid record label. Thomas also toured with his band MBC (Makassi Band Corporation) in West and East Africa, Europe and the Americas.

From the early 90’s Thomas changed his focus from recording his own material, to promoting and guiding new talented Cameroonian singers and musicians. He gathered talented musicians, including the late Kotto Bass, Ebelle Jeannot, K.Godefroy, Fabo Claude, Guy Bilong and Tala Jeannot, at Makassi Plus Studio in Douala. He released a string of records from various artists during the 90’s. Thomas released new material in 1993’s Emotion and 1999’s No Satisfaction. None of these CD’s brought him the success of his earlier work.

He performed successful shows in Nairobi (2007), the US (2009) and Abidjan (2010).

Sam Fan Thomas is famous for a genre of music that captivated several parts of Africa including Kenya, Uganda, and the Congo. The music followed the unique but familiar flow of Bantu lingo that encompasses most of Africa. He is a true African musical legend.

These are my personal picks and not necessarily the most popular mainstream songs. I hope my post inspires you to continue researching and exploring more on your own!

Enjoy

Makossa (Makassi, Genre of the music named by San Fam Thomas): African Typic Collection

Makossa: Neng Makassi 

Makossa: Olga 

Makossa: Sabina

Makossa: Neu Tche Meu

Makossa: Poma

*PALOP – Portuguese-speaking African countries, also referred to as Lusophone Africa, consists of six African countries in which the Portuguese language is an official language: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe. Besides having a common language, the five former colonies of the Portuguese Empire share a strong “cultural identity, a similar system of governance and a long tradition of contacts and exchanges amongst themselves”. In 1992, the five Lusophone African countries formed an interstate organization called PALOP, a colloquial acronym that translates to African Countries of Portuguese Official Language (In Portuguese: Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa). The PALOP countries signed official agreements with Portugal, the European Union and the United Nations, and they work together to promote the development of culture and education and the preservation of the Portuguese language. Together with Portugal and Brazil in 1996, the Portuguese-speaking African countries established the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, abbreviated to CPLP).

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