Music has no boundaries and I am beginning to think the limit to every musical piece should lie in the artist’s inability to imagine. The crazy thought you have about something which you aren’t executing could probably be what will work for you why not try it out. Every artist will tell you there’s no mistake in music, even mistakes will be justified as part of the creation process.
Taken unawares MBOLÉ seems to be that sound that has gained wide admiration in Cameroon and is predominantly loved by the French-speaking community with a minority in the English-speaking community. It appears to be the sound of the moment and is gradually becoming the country’s contemporary music. If you are keen on the sound you can easily liken it to the famous music genre BIKUTSI.
One can say Mbolé is a defacto genre or break away from Bikutsi, it has almost every characteristic and is heavily influenced by the musical instruments which give the genre its rhythm, melodies, tone, and most especially the STORYTELLING technique. Mbolé is putting together your musical instruments noticeably the balafon, Meet, drums, and maybe shakers, two unique beat patterns that could practically serve as the main rhythm for the song’s existence and then narrate a story.
In as much as it’s gradually gaining nationwide admiration and acceptance, not everyone relates to the sound as it rather appears noisier than the familiar Bikutsi. Mbolé falls under folk indigenous music based on its cultural connotation valorizing the preferred native languages, traditional dances, and cultural beat patterns.
There’s the fear that Mbolé might tend to reduce the love of good music in Cameroon based on the fact youths are gradually drifting and switching attention to its consumption, they are moved by the energetic, electrifying, and danceable tunes that accompany it and relate more to it because it’s lyrics mostly re telling a story almost every youth who grew up in a common neighborhood relates to and understands. It makes use of creole – Francanglais, or some self-styled patois that makes up the common communication style of youths because they are familiar with it.
The fear that everyone is picking interest in it not only as a fan but equally as a creator is what makes the whole takeover scary. Since you don’t stress much on the vocals, pitch, or tones and kind of goes against the base or norms of music creation. It suffices for anyone to have a mastery of a coherent story jump on a beat and start narrating, was Mbolé supposed to remain a freestyle art or transformed into a music genre? Because it’s outdoor animation for cultural events, public joints, informal events like wake keeps, and community events.
If you ask me that’s basically how the music looks like, a storytelling freestyle, just like DJs in snack bars who give “Atalakus”, Mbolé doesn’t contrast much from that. It’s even easier for it to dominate in Live music for the sole purpose that most of its instruments are played live and the singing doesn’t need much vocal training. A shocking revelation I listened to a gospel chant in a Cameroonian church evolving on the mbolé pattern, exact style of delivery, and melodies but with Christian lyrics and religious connotation.
Can this sound be accepted as a genre outside Cameroon? There’s always an audience to every music and for sure there are groups of people other than Cameroonians who will be moved by it. We have seen Happy d’Effoulan tour Europe meaning the sound is gradually being exported, however more to the French zones. How big is the French market in terms of music consumption?
With the right marketing and promotion, it’s possible, it’s already well branded and easily identifiable: the unique dance steps, the beats, and then the dress style is gradually giving it an identity. That’s why you can easily identify a song as Mbolé, however, there’s the danger that over time it might lose value since every artist venturing into it sounds the same and more déjà vu: repetition of concepts. For it to continue breaking boundaries and giving people a reason to believe in its success it will need something new and fresh added to what we have.
Shout out to every artist in Cameroon who represents this music style.