Cameroon in the InterContinental

Last week, on Thursday, 20 May 2010, was Cameroon”s 50th anniversary of independence. In Geneva, a lavish celebration took place in the Hotel InterContinental. But why in the Hotel InterContinental?

If the answer doesn”t immediately spring to your mind, then it definitely is time for a refresher on some fun facts about Cameroon – so that you”re well prepared for the next Pub Quiz at Pickwick”s. (It”s easy – you already updated your knowledge about Cameroon”s Independence Day without even noticing it)

So, Question Nr. 1: Who has been continuously renting out all rooms of both the sixth and seventh floor of the Hotel InterContinental in Geneva for the past 27 years? Here”s a hint: the rent is being paid by tax-payers, and not by the person himself.

Correct! Paul Biya is the name of that mysterious Geneva-aficionado, the “democratically elected” president of Cameroon since 1982, who wins one 7-year-term after another despite spending extended periods of seclusion in one of his two InterContinental floors – because he “can work better there” than in Cameroon”s capital Yaoundé.

Question Nr. 2: Where did Michael Jackson get the “makossa” part from in his world-famous repetitive lines “Ma-ma-say ma-ma-sa ma-makossa” at the end of his 1983 song “Wanna Be Startin” Somethin”” (From minute 4.45 onwards in the this video)?:

Correct again! Manu Dibango came up with the idea of playing around with the word “kossa”, which means dance in the Cameroonian language Douala – “makossa” is a specific type of dance, and the accompanying music has become one of the most popular music styles of Cameroon. In the first 15 seconds of his 1972 world-wide hit “Soul Makossa”, he mumbles “Ma-mako, ma-ma-ssa, mako-makossa”, that 11 years later would inspire Michael Jackson to pep up the opening song of his Thriller album:

(From a legal perspective, for some strange reason Michael Jackson did not credit Mr. Dibango so they had a court case and out-of-court-settlement…something that would later on repeat itself with Rihanna”s 2007 “Don”t stop the music” and with Shakira”s 2010 World Cup song “Waka Waka” (which is a cover of the Cameroonian song “Zangalewa”)).

Just as Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, Petit Pays is the “King of Makossa” (at least that”s what he calls himself) with his 2007 album “Frotambo”: Here is the title track:

Note that 7.30 minutes is unusually long for a pop song – just like Michael Jackson”s Wanna be Startin” Somethin”s 6.05 minutes.

You may or may not want to skip the first 36 seconds of Petit Pays” Frotambo though – there is some strange talking trepidbonus that annoyingly distracts from the music. However – the café-atmosphere of the first part is a way of drawing your attention unconsciously. The magic of the piece lies its great power to seduce you, regardless of whether you were irritated or disinterested at first.

The first half of the song kind of flows along lightly in the back of your head, so that you don”t realize how your body and mind are slowly getting pulled into the melody and rhythm. In that condition, you”ll barely notice the musical shift that occurs between minutes 3.35 and 3.39 when an electric guitar is introduced and the drums pick up in intensity – and even though the beat is EXACTLY as fast as before, the increased liveliness in combination with the affirmative repetitiveness make you have to dance to the irresistible rhythm because you are already deeply immersed in a trance-like state of mind (even though the music is so very different from the Western versions of techno and trance), and you (and your office colleague who is giving you strange looks while you are reading, listening and dancing away) don”t even know what”s happening with your body and soul – that is how true seduction should work!

Petit Pays is well known in Cameroon for always attracting some of the best dancers for his videos – and the physical abilities of his dancers definitely are breathtaking – just try for yourself to swing your hips as fast as they do in the second part of the video, where they shake their bodies up to 16 times faster than in the first half – Hips don”t lie! (However, please be aware that the dancers are freestyling and that they NOT dancing the traditional Makossa choreography)

Have a hip-swinging week,

PS: Still envious of those hip-swinging capabilities that you just saw in the Frotambo video? Here some inspiration on how to practice those skills: Fatboy Slim – That Old Pair of Jeans: