Edited by Azizi Powell
This post showcases seven examples of Cameroonian musician & vocalist Jean Bikoko Aladin, the king of Cameroonian Assiko music. Information about Jean Bikoko Aladin and Assiko music is also included in this post.
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Thanks to Jean Bikoko Aladin and all others who are featured in these examples. Thanks also to the producers of these videos and their publishers on YouTube and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
INFORMATION ABOUT JEAN BIKOKO ALADIN AND ASSIKO MUSIC
From http://blogs.voanews.com/music-time-in-africa/2009/09/16/jean-bikoko-aladin-the-king-of-assiko/ "Jean Bikoko Aladin The King of Assiko" by Matthew Lavoie, Posted September 16th, 2009
..."I know of a Senegalese percussion style called Assiko, that may have had its roots in Sierra Leone- where I have also heard of Assiko percussion- recently the Gangbe Brass Band from Benin named one of their albums ‘Assiko’, and in Cameroon there have been at least three different genres of Assiko, sung in different languages with different histories and different offshoots. About a month ago I started going through a set of reels that Radio Doula gave us back in 1974 and a large stack of Cameroonian vinyl, and the more I listened (especially to the recordings of one Jean Bikoko Aladin) the more I yearned for taxonomic clarity and a deeper knowledge of Assiko. Now, several weeks of phone calls and interviews later, here is what I learned about Cameroonian Assiko music and especially about the gifted Jean Bikoko Aladin.
Today, to speak of Assiko music in Cameroon is to speak of the music of the Bassa people from Southern Cameroon. The foundations of Bassa Assiko are the interconnected relationships between the glass bottle and the guitar, and between the earth and the feet; the name Assiko is derived from the Bassa words ‘Issi’ for earth and ‘Go’ for foot. Assiko, like so much of 20th century African music is a syncretic form; it developed, probably over one hundred years ago, when the acoustic guitar, first brought to Cameroon by Portuguese sailors, was married to the Ngola rhythm of the Bassa.
Over the first half of the 20th century Assiko music was the rhythm of celebrations throughout Bassa country, performed by guitar players who traveled the Assiko circuit that took them to Eséka, Mésondo and Edéa, and through all of the villages in between, with detours to the Bassa neighborhoods of Douala. These migrant guitar players, accompanied by a percussionist keeping the pulse on a glass bottle beat with two iron rods, kept Bassa audiences dancing late into the night. And it was on this circuit, performing his way through the villages of Bassa land, that Jean Bikoko Aladin cut his teeth.
Considered the father of modern Assiko music, Jean Bikoko Aladin is one of Central Africa’s great unsung guitar masters. He was born around 1939 (his actual date of birth is unknown) in a village not far from Eséka. After a few years of elementary school at the Catholic Mission in Eséka, Jean Bikoko left his family to find work, and while still in his mid-teens was hired as a cook and servant for a logger in the forest village of Bonepoupa, located 65 miles northwest of Eséka. It was in Bonepoupa that Jean Bikoko first tried his hand at the guitar, building his own rudimentary instrument out of bamboo and bark, and studying the techniques of local guitar players Albert Dikoumé and Hiag Henri….
The last half-dozen years have seen… the resurgence of Jean Bikoko Aladin (his fretboard wizardry earned him the Aladin nickname)....
This first set of four tracks was given to the Voice of America by Radio Douala back in 1974 and features some of Jean Bikoko’s earliest recordings. I haven’t been able to identify dates for any of these tracks; in the absence of written records, none of my interlocutors could recall when individual songs were recorded. These radio recordings could all have been made in the early 1970s, just as they could be archival recordings that Jean Bikoko made in the 1960s. Regardless, all of these tracks illustrate Bikoko’s effortless virtuosity and rhythmic punch….
First up is ‘Mawan Na Ndong Len’, which opens with Jean Bikoko saying, ‘these days there are no longer any real friends’. This theme, however, is not developed in the rest of the song. In between guitar riffs Jean Bikoko repeats the question, ‘what am I going to do since I’ve come to this meeting?’ Assiko has always been, first and foremost, dance music, and this track is a good example of how Jean Bikoko got his fans on their feet. Before Jean Bikoko came on the scene the Bassa danced the Assiko with their elbows and their torso, with individual dancers taking turns in front of the musicians. Jean Bikoko was the first Assiko musician to tour with a group of dancers who put on an ‘Assiko show’; a show that featured a new style of dancing that shifted the dancer’s center of gravity south to the hips and buttocks. Jean Bikoko’s dancers were also the first to wear the ‘pagne’-the wraparound skirt-with a rolled waistband, an innovation that accentuated the rocking of the hips....
Jean Bikoko Aladin’s music continues to influence a new generation of Assiko artists, from the Paris based Assiko player Kristo Numpuby and the Douala based Yvette Bassoga, to the successful ‘crossover’ Bassa singer Blick Bassy. But perhaps even more than his guitar playing it is his showmanship that has changed Assiko music. Today, Assiko dance performances are a mainstay of Cameroonian cultural festivals, and specialized Assiko clubs in Douala and Yaoundé feature very popular acrobatic Assiko dance troupes. (To get an idea of the modern Assiko dance show check out the videos of the Olivier de Clovis Assiko group on Youtube)."...
These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube with the oldest dated examples given first.
Example #1: Jean Bikoko Di Yana
C Hopson, Uploaded on Feb 16, 2009
Best African Dance Cameroon Basaa
Here are two comments from that video's discussion thread:
Didier J. MARY, 2014 • Shared to African Music Forum
"Assiko Godfather Jean Bikoko Aladin (R.I.P)
Music & dance from the Bassa people around Douala #cameroon
Note the way the guitar is played..."
"R.I.P Jean Bikoko Aladdin!!!
Un grand de la musique camerounaise.
Merci pour ton génie.
Google Translate from French to English:
R.I.P Jean Bikoko Aladin !!!
A great Cameroonian music [musician].
Thank you for your genius."
Example #2: JEAN BIKOKO ALADIN
MrBidjoo, Uploaded on Sep 28, 2010
Le pape de l'assiko, première vidéo extraite d'une longue serie. une production SUN CITY PRODUCTIONS BRUXELLES. email@example.com
Google Translate from French to English:
The Pope of assiko first video taken from a long series. production SUN CITY PRODUCTIONS BRUSSELS. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's one comment from that example's discussion thread:
"awesome genius, mastery, and grace of this most fascinating dance and music of the bassa people in cameroon. it leaves one speechless."
Example #3: Jean Bikoko Aladin - Concert le cinquantenaire de l'indépendance du Cameroun
moanang, Uploaded on May 21, 2010
Jean Bikoko Aladin, chanteur, guitariste du rythme assiko, Bikoko grand promoteur de la culture du pays bassa au Cameroun
Example #4: bikoko aladin
pol paolo, Uploaded on Oct 15, 2010
Here's one comment from that example's discussion thread (with an English translation from Google Translate):
Franklin Nyamsi, 2013
"Mon ami, le doyen Jean Bikoko Aladin, nous apprend ici en langue basaa que "masé ma nola béé", "la joie ne tue pas". L'Ancien vénérable distingue donc la joie, profonde communion avec l'absolu, du contentement, qui n'est que la crispation éphémère du plaisir dans l'instant présent. La joie, selon le Pape de l'Assiko, est un mode de vie, une connaissance adéquate de soi et du monde qui produit la plénitude, grâce à la fréquentation assidue de l'idéal. Près de la mort même, la joie triomphe!"
"My friend, Dean Jean Bikoko Aladdin tells us here that language Basaa "Masé my nola Bee", "joy does not kill." The Old venerable thus distinguishes joy, profound communion with the absolute contentment, which is only ephemeral clenching pleasure in the moment. Joy, according to the Pope the Assiko, is a way of life, an adequate knowledge of self and the world that produces fullness, through regular attendance of the ideal. Near death itself, the triumph joy!"
Example #5: JEAN BIKOKO en live
thoms903 Published on Sep 20, 2013
Jean Bikoko de cameroun
Example #6: Jean Bikoko Aladin - bayamblag (likalo - Productions lyde 1986)
RealC38 Published on Nov 22, 2013
Guitare, auteur, compositeur: Jean Bikoko Aladin
Bass: Abou Bass
from the screen shot of the album cover: Likalo =message
Example #7: Jean BIKOKO Aladin - Kena me Dokta
Camer-italie Diasporatv, Published on Dec 1, 2014
Né en 1939 à Eséka, une petite ville de la forêt équatoriale au Centre du Cameroun, Jean Bikoko Aladin tombe amoureux de la guitare en écoutant des virtuoses de la commune forestière de Bonepoupa comme Henri Hiag, Massing et surtout Albert Dikoumé considéré comme l’un des précurseurs de l’assiko contemporain.
Devenu la vedette de l’assiko, Jean Bikoko Aladin & ses Hetlers sont invités dans plusieurs pays d’Afrique et participent à nombre de manifestations officielles dont le Festival Culturel Panafricain d’Alger en 1969, l’année de la sortie de son 33T Wanda ntet, et le Festival des Arts Nègres de Lagos en 1977.
Google Translate from French to English:
Born in 1939 in Eséka, a small town in the equatorial forest in central Cameroon, Jean Bikoko Aladdin falls in love with the guitar by listening virtuoso forest town Bonepoupa as Henry Hiag, Massing and especially Albert Dikoume considered one precursors of contemporary assiko.
Became the star of the assiko, Jean Bikoko Aladdin & his Hetlers are invited in several African countries and participate in many official events including the Pan-African Cultural Festival of Algiers in 1969, the year of the release of his 33 rpm Wanda NTET and the Black Arts Festival in Lagos in 1977.
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