The Country That Made Africa Dance In The 1980s and 1990s

Updated: Jun 15

Cameroon is often considered as Africa in miniature or citadel of African music. The country with 250 ethnicities and languages, which involves a lot of dancing rhythms and subsequently various types of traditional music.

However, one unique sound was enjoyed and loved in Africa and beyond Africa. The genre was called Makossa. It is Cameroon's best-known music, which means "Dance" in Douala – a native language of Cameroon.

Makossa was so embraced that it had won millions of fans beyond Cameroon, especially in the 80s and 90s when Cameroon was a gold mine of talented artists with music hits one after another. Cameroon music was loved and danced all over Africa. It was the golden age of Cameroonian music as it made an entire continent dance on its rhythm.

From North Africa to Austral Africa and from West to East Africa. Every African could tell you the name of a Cameroonian artist or a song from that era that they grow up with or listen to.

Other Cameroonian genres were also popular during that era, such as Ben-skin and Mangambeu; however, Makossa took over the world.

In the 1960s, Modern Makossa developed, and it became very popular - the most popular in the country. Cameroon has produced lively dance music. The best-known artist in the international scene is legendary saxophone player Manu Dibango, with his 1970s hit song “Soul Makossa,” which became the first African song to reach the US top 40.

Africa’s best-known jazz saxophonist Manu Dibango popularized Cameroon Makossa outside Africa. His hit single, “Soul Makossa” (1972) became an international hit.

Or the art to inspire the biggest artist of all time, Michael Jackson, with “Wanna Be Starting Something (1983). As a result, it helped to produce several Pan African Superstars through the 70s, 80s, and even 90s.

Following Dibango, several musicians electrified Makossa in an attempt at making it more popular and accessible outside Cameroon. Makossa has also become popular in Europe.

Dibango also inspired Rihanna with “please don’t stop the music” (2009) as well as his re-recording of that song with Akon, the Fugees “Cowboys.”

Without much stress, we compiled a list of favorite Cameroonian artists and songs of that era. Enjoy the list.

Click on the title of the song to play the music video

  1. Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa, 1972