HIVEWIRE REPORT #01: Cameroon Music Opportunity

This report aims to provide a comprehensive reference for music industry stakeholders in Cameroon, facilitating informed decision-making and driving growth in both the industry and the economy.

HIVEWIRE REPORT #01: Cameroon Music Opportunity
Mr Leo photographed by Lokol Kye (Vibemouv)

A reflection of the past, Canvas for the Future

By Srishti Das, Edited by Mayuyuka Kaunda

This report was sponsored by Mutumbu.

In the landscape of the global music industry, a resounding transformation has occurred in recent years, characterised by the ascendancy of the African music market as various African nations amplify their distinctive musical offerings. The past few years have witnessed a remarkable metamorphosis of the African music business, propelled by technological innovations, evolving consumer preferences, and an escalating international appetite for diverse sonic experiences. From West Africa's infectious Afrobeats rhythms to the South African Amapiano groove, the melodies of the continent have transcended geographical confines, captivating audiences on a global scale.

In this growth story, Cameroon has stood out with its strong history in music but also through the recent success of  (Cameroonian-American singer) Libianca’s single ‘People’, which has topped charts worldwide. With its rich historical tapestry, diverse ethnic enclaves, and vibrant traditions, Cameroon's musical landscape offers a fertile ground for business innovation, creating an enticing fusion that resonates locally and globally. From the commercial prowess of Makossa beats to the strategic versatility of Bikutsi, Cameroon's musical identity is a testament to the business potential of cultural amalgamation.

Cameroon's Cultural Diversity and Musical Legacy

Cameroon's cultural diversity boasts over two hundred tribes and local languages, as well as English and French as official languages. This diversity has birthed distinct genres and styles of music. The nation also serves as the economic hub of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) region.

Cameroon has produced global stars like Manu Dibango, Richard Bona, Nico Mbarga and recently Libianca’s debut single ‘People’ that saw particular success in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, where it reached number two, and in the Netherlands and Suriname, where it topped the chart. It also peaked within the top five in Denmark, Lebanon, South Africa and India.

Cameroonian folk music has influenced global cultural moments and hits such as:

  • The 2010 official World Cup song ‘Waka Waka’, was a reproduction of an original Cameroonian song titled ‘Zangaléwa’ by Maskossa group Golden Sounds, 
  • Andre Marie Tala’s “Hot Koki” was sampled by James Brown in 1980 in his song ‘Hustle’, 
  • Michael Jackson sampled Manu Dibango’s ‘Soul Makossa’ ("mama-say mama-sa mama-ko-sa"), which has continued to be sampled by world-renowned names such as Rihanna, who used the same sample in ‘Don’t Stop The Music’
  • The iPhone 6 marketing campaign of 2015 that heavily used ‘Kiki’ by Blick Bassy 

Despite contributing to many global hits over the years, in some cases generations, the Cameroonian music industry continues to struggle in presenting itself as a professional and economic sector of the country’s economy. This is Sometimes because of the lack of industry development and sometimes because of a lack of information - a feature across the continent.

This report aims to provide a comprehensive reference for music industry stakeholders in Cameroon, facilitating informed decision-making and driving growth in both the industry and the economy. Through a qualitative exploration of Cameroon's role in the expanding African music market, this report delves into the strategies and innovations that can elevate Cameroon's music industry to prominence.


We created a questionnaire for different music industry executives and artists from the Cameroonian music industry to answer,  ranging from:

  • Challenges faced and how they work around them
  • What they need to grow in the music industry
  • The state of live music 
  • Government involvement and development of infrastructure
  • Role of funding, policy and diaspora support
  • Music rights and distribution access
  • Role of social media and streaming
  • Goal setting and management
  • Networking and education

We interviewed fifteen individuals online in 1:1 and written interviews. While trying to find data about the market, we learnt of the data gap that needed to be made available from Government sources or local players in the market. Platforms like Spotify have yet to dive into creating local playlists specific to the Cameroonian market to keep track of charts, and very few magazines or publications cater to the music industry in Cameroon. As a result, we decided to keep the report qualitative and begin the conversation on growing the Cameroonian music market.

Cameroon Colonial History and its impact on music

Cameroon's history, shaped by German, French, and British colonial rule, has given rise to a fusion of European and indigenous African influences in various aspects of entertainment, including music, film, dance, and literature. The colonial legacy introduced languages like French and English, impacting Cameroon's entertainment landscape. These languages, though unifying, also contribute to tensions between linguistically distinct regions. However, they can propel Cameroon's music onto a global scale, especially within the English and French-speaking worlds.

Music, deeply ingrained in Cameroon's culture, has absorbed elements from both traditions. This fusion has birthed genres like Makossa, Bikutsi, and Afrobeat, often addressing social and political issues. The tensions arising from colonial history have spurred a desire to preserve cultural heritage through entertainment, influencing how Cameroonians perceive their identity and artistic expression. The various transformations arising from the colonial legacy have led to a desire to assert and preserve cultural heritage through various forms of entertainment.

(With increased globalisation through the internet and travel, the youth are increasingly incorporating other genres, such as Hip-hop and Afrobeats, into their music and artist personas.

Cameroon Local Music Overview

Before the era of colonisation, the musical landscape of Cameroon was vibrant with unique threads of various tribes and their distinctive traditions. This pre-colonial "Cameroonian" music was a communal expression, brought to life by groups and individuals with their acoustic instruments, creating an immersive experience through spirited singing and chanting. The songs themselves reflected topical issues, steeped in the context of the time, and often embraced an antiphonal structure that echoed across the tribes’ language boundaries.

Each tribe had its linguistic nuances, tonalities, and melodic cadences, contributing to various sounds and styles. While enriching the cultural fabric, this diversity also challenged the music to transcend tribal borders due to linguistic differences— the musical ecosystem developed around the commonalities shared amongst tribes. Music wasn't merely an art form but an integral part of daily life, finding its place in agricultural activities, spiritual rituals, and social gatherings.

The craft of creating musical instruments became a cornerstone of this musical economy, potentially holding substantial profitability for musicians. In this pre-colonial era, Cameroonian folk music transcended mere entertainment; it was a living reflection of cultural identity, a testament to the interconnectedness of tribes, and a celebration of life's varied aspects. As we delve into the evolution of this musical heritage, it becomes evident that the roots of contemporary Cameroonian music are firmly grounded in these early traditions, which continue to influence and inspire the modern musical landscape.

Evolution of Recorded Music in Cameroon

The first recorded music in Cameroon came in the 1930s, and the first adio broadcast was in 1941 when the French government opened the first radio station in Douala called “Radio Douala”. It is also, sadly, known as “the Child of War”. Other (state-owned) radio stations opened in Yaounde, Garoua, etc. These radio stations did not only serve to broadcast the music but were the first who could afford recording equipment, making them the creative hub for music production from which the modern Cameroonian music industry arose.

In the 1980s-90s, Western popular music gained popularity through radio, and the cassette industry gained significant market share within Cameroon, driving a lot of Cameroonian content from that generation to influence global cultural moments, such as Michael Jackson’s sampling of Manu Dibango. Local records labels like Haisam Records and JPS Productions helped nurture Makossa acts such as Petit Pays, André Marie Tala, Grâce Deca, Ben Deca, Sam Fan Thomas and enabled international collaborations in an attempt to take Makossa global.

For a brief while between the late 90s and early 2000s, the youth had picked up the buzzing Hip-Hop influence from America. Like other parts of the world, it quickly integrated local languages and cultures, driving a new era of Cameroonian Hip-Hop led by artists such as Bantou Possi and Krotal. However, it was not until around 2005 that African urban music scenes adopted an Afrocentric yet global approach. Nigeria, for example, pioneered acts like D’banj, P-Square, 2Face Idibia and many more, shaping how young musicians across Africa wrote and delivered music.

The present-day music industry in Cameroon began here. This period saw the creation of record labels like AlphaBetter Records, Stephen’s Music, Newbell Music, BigDreams Ent, Bahood Records, WarMachine, etc., that groomed talent and served as opportunities for collaboration. Another local record label, this time with its promoter coming from the diaspora and fronted by artist and producer Pit Bacardi, Empire Company, came in as a disruptor with the promise of exporting the vibrant national scene into the global marketplace. Besides producing artists from home, the company organised large-scale concerts across the metros in the world, such as X Malaya, which headlined in major venues like Olympia in Paris. The success of the Empire Company eventually led to the set up of the first major label in Cameroon - Universal Music. 

Fast-forward to 2022, top acts from Cameroon like Locko and Mimie dropped off from their labels without the international breakthroughs Cameroonians hoped for. The promoter Pit Bacardi found himself amidst a list of bad press, and Universal Music Cameroon declared bankruptcy and shut down its offices in Cameroon. Even record labels like AlphaBetter, Big Dreams, and WarMachine have lost the place they used to hold, and the industry is trying to make sense of what the future holds.

Main Challenges in the Cameroon Music Industry Today 

For this report, we interviewed fifteen industry professionals and artists who work in the Cameroonian or Francophone African market. Some of the roles represented through these interviews include:

  • CMO representation
  • Artist managers
  • Music distribution executives
  • Journalists and Media executives
  • Label and Publisher executives
  • Festival promoters and organisers
  • Conference organisers
  • A&Rs

Here are some of the main challenges we came across:

Language and Culture Barriers

The primary challenge posed by the bilingual divide is the fragmentation of the music market along linguistic lines. Musicians who create content in one language need help to reach and engage audiences in other linguistic communities effectively. This division limits the potential audience size and opportunities for artists, particularly those who are not bilingual or lack collaborative resources. The linguistic divide further hinders collaboration between artists from different linguistic backgrounds, making it an “us vs. them” situation. Language barriers in Cameroon impede effective communication and creative collaboration, limiting the potential for innovative fusions of musical styles and genres and curtailing the growth of a more diverse and inclusive music scene. 

The linguistic divide can lead to cultural identities and preferences within each community. Audiences may feel more connected to the music created in their language, which can result in a more substantial fan base for artists who sing in the audience's preferred language. However, with genres such as Reggaeton and K-pop taking over the world and new African genres such as Amapiano still catering to their local audiences through language while moving to global markets, this challenge in Cameroon must be challenged with an open mind.  This dynamic can shape artists' popularity and commercial success, potentially leading to different trends and genres in each linguistic community. 

Education gap

Amidst the challenges faced by the Cameroon music industry, a shared perspective emerges among industry executives regarding a crucial requirement for progression—namely, enhanced information dissemination and professional training avenues. This collective demand is rooted in the experiences and reflections of the fifteen individuals interviewed for this report. Their collective sentiment converges around a critical concern: the music sector's lack of educational and skill-development opportunities. This sentiment is shared unanimously, echoing the resounding call for a transformative shift in the industry's education and professional development approach. Many of these industry stakeholders actively seek avenues to bridge the gap, connect with peers, and acquire insights to elevate their artistic and business prowess. However, at the heart of the matter lies a fundamental challenge: within the evolving landscape of developing markets, educational pathways have historically emerged from the immersive learning experiences gained during the gradual maturation of the industry itself. As the sector endeavours to chart a more robust and sustainable path forward, recognising this educational gap becomes an imperative step towards fostering the growth and vibrancy of the Cameroonian music industry.

Amidst the challenges faced by the Cameroonian music industry, artist managers struggle with multifaceted obstacles when setting, measuring, and executing goals for their artists. This struggle is particularly evident in their attempts to navigate the complex terrain of digital platforms, including social media and distribution channels. The pervasive issue of comprehending and quantifying an artist's value across these diverse platforms only adds to the managers' woes. Artist managers, integral to an artist's success, need professional training to navigate the rapidly evolving music landscape effectively. Lack of education in the market has also resulted in challenges around setting up proper systems that permit regular business due to the lack of business development skills, experience, tools, investment and leadership.

As the music industry shifts towards a digital-centric model, understanding how to leverage social media, streaming services, and online distribution networks becomes pivotal. To propel the industry into a prosperous future, it is imperative to provide robust and relevant educational avenues that address the specific needs of artist managers in a digitally driven era.

Funding and Infrastructure Gap

A palpable frustration marks the sentiments among music executives as the lack of government support and infrastructural growth continues to cast a shadow over the music industry in Cameroon. The interviews with these executives underscore a collective yearning for increased funding to cultivate a robust ecosystem and fortified infrastructure surrounding the country's music sector. Within this realm, the potential for a harmonious interplay of cultural influences, drawing from the rich tapestry of both linguistic communities, stands as a beacon of hope for birthing a novel and unparalleled Cameroonian sound on the global stage. The tethering of communities to their linguistic heritage introduces a complex dynamic wherein governmental policies and assistance mechanisms take on divergent forms for artists. 

Regrettably, such discrepancies have the potential to yield unequal access to funding, resources, and promotional avenues, thereby exerting a discernible influence on the developmental trajectories of artists hailing from contrasting backgrounds. Amidst these challenges, the prevailing trend towards musical fusion that embraces a melange of cultures possesses the capability to recalibrate this narrative within the backdrop of current separatist sentiments. Remarkably, despite these obstacles, the bilingual schism emerges as a wellspring of cultural amalgamation, enabling artists to harness both languages in their musical expressions. This fusion, in turn, engenders an artistic hybridity that resonates with audiences spanning both linguistic realms, culminating in the emergence of innovative and distinctive musical genres that encapsulate the heart and soul of Cameroon's evolution as a prominent industry.

An opportunity to strengthen local players

Navigating the future, the imperative of sustainability becomes increasingly apparent. This section delves into the strategic measures and transformative shifts required to establish a resilient and enduring music ecosystem. From embracing innovative business models to prioritising artist development and fostering equitable collaborations, these proactive steps hold the potential to reshape the industry's landscape for generations to come. Here are some of the solutions local players in the market would like to see implemented:

Emergence of New Media Platforms in Cameroon

The emergence of new media platforms in Cameroon holds the potential to revolutionise the music industry while fostering enhanced artist-fan engagement. As media outlets, radio stations, and streaming platforms seek fresh content and diverse artists, an opportunity arises to establish a dynamic media channel reminiscent of the iconic influence that MTV and Channel V (later VH1) wielded during the music market's golden era in the US of the late 20th to early 21st centuries. Notably, local broadcaster Trace TV has played a pivotal role in propelling homegrown Cameroonian talents into the limelight, nurturing the urban culture that defines the nation. In parallel, channels like DBM and Boom TV have championed Cameroonian music around the clock. Yet, a more profound cultural resonance remains within reach, capable of sparking a vibrant fan base and cultural movement. The synergy between online and offline magazines can bridge divides, celebrating the unity of communities and championing collaboration. Amidst the linguistic duality, a unique space emerges for bilingual creativity, enriching artistic expression and innovation. By embracing both languages, artists transcend barriers, captivating a wider audience and kindling shared musical experiences.

Magazines and new media opportunities can significantly contribute to the advancement of the Cameroonian music industry and the enhancement of artist-fan engagement in several impactful ways:

  1. Cultural Celebration and Collaboration: Magazines, both online and offline, can serve as powerful platforms to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Cameroon. They can showcase the fusion of various musical styles, genres, and languages, highlighting the collaborative efforts between artists from different backgrounds. 
  2. Artist Profiles and Features: These pieces offer an insight into an artist's journey, inspirations, and creative process, fostering a deeper connection between fans and musicians. By shedding light on artists' stories, magazines humanise them, making them more relatable to their audience.
  3. Promotion of Emerging Talent: New media platforms, including digital magazines and blogs, can spotlight emerging and lesser-known artists. This exposure can be instrumental in giving a platform to young talent that might have yet to gain widespread recognition. Such features can help unearth hidden gems and contribute to the continuous growth of the music industry. As these platforms rise, they enable fans to create their own ways to communicate their fandom and pride in their local music scenes. This could lead to a rise of Instagram and TikTok pages that promote local Cameroonian music scenes (while giving the rest of the world a reliable lens to look through).
  4. Event Coverage and Promotion: This coverage generates excitement and encourages greater participation from fans and potential collaborators.
  5. Language Inclusivity: Given Cameroon's linguistic diversity, magazines can cater to both English and French-speaking audiences. Bilingual content ensures more people can engage with and appreciate the shared music and stories.
  6. Trends and Analysis: Magazines can analyse trends within the music industry, shedding light on shifts in musical preferences, emerging genres, and innovative production techniques. This information can be invaluable for artists and fans in staying current and informed and help with the need for more education and knowledge about the industry.
  7. Interactive Fan Engagement: Online platforms can enable direct interaction between artists and fans through comments, forums, and social media. This fosters a sense of community, where fans can discuss their favourite music, provide feedback, and suggest collaboration ideas.
  8. Cross-Promotion with Other Industries: Magazines can explore cross-promotion with other creative industries such as fashion, film, and visual arts. This interdisciplinary approach can amplify the music's reach while offering audiences a holistic cultural experience.
  9. Documenting Music History: Magazines can play a vital role in documenting the evolution of Cameroon's music industry over time. They create a historical record that future generations can refer to, understanding various artists' contexts, milestones, and contributions.

New media opportunities serve as dynamic bridges between artists and their fans. They amplify voices, celebrate diversity, and create a shared space where music enthusiasts can come together to appreciate, celebrate, and contribute to the vibrant music ecosystem of Cameroon.

Need for a local shared learning space

In the Cameroonian music market context, there is a palpable need for a dedicated space that facilitates experience sharing and learning within the local industry. In light of this, what emerges as a potent solution for empowering local professionals within the Cameroonian music market is the cultivation of a robust framework centred around setting and achieving substantial goals. This is achieved through the strategic alignment of diverse stakeholders and the pooling of shared resources. As the industry endeavours to evolve and expand, collaborative partnerships become paramount in driving collective progress.

To this end, establishing local industry conferences or meetups is significant. These gatherings provide a focal point for knowledge exchange, fostering a sense of community and collaboration. Music professionals across the spectrum can convene through these events, transcending boundaries and hierarchies to collectively learn from one another's experiences. Such platforms would fill the vacuum of formalised education and serve as continuous learning ecosystems, perpetuating industry-wide growth.

The resonance of such experience-sharing spaces lies in their ability to imbue local music professionals with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. By consolidating their efforts, industry players can navigate challenges more effectively, capitalise on emerging opportunities, and collectively elevate the standard of the Cameroonian music market. As participants immerse themselves in these collaborative spaces, they tap into a wellspring of collective wisdom, each experience contributing to the greater narrative of industry advancement.

In this vein, creating a localised experience-sharing space transcends being a mere solution; it becomes a pivotal catalyst for transformative change. By fostering an environment where professionals can coalesce around shared goals, these spaces empower individuals to steer their trajectories toward sustainable success. To address the funding deficit within the Cameroonian music industry, stakeholders can also unite and form advocacy groups. These groups can leverage their influence to engage with government bodies, private investors, and international organisations:

Lobbying for Funding Opportunities and Foreign Investment:

  • Promote Industry Value: Lobbying efforts should emphasise the intrinsic value of the music industry as a driver of cultural enrichment, economic growth, and job creation. Highlighting these aspects can garner support from both local and international stakeholders.
  • Engaging Foreign Investors: Collaborating with foreign investors can infuse much-needed capital into the industry. To attract such investment, stakeholders should present a clear roadmap outlining how foreign funds would be utilised to develop infrastructure, talent, and export potential.

Creating Case Stories and Data Sources for Industry Quantification:

Showcasing Success Stories: Developing case studies that spotlight success stories within the Cameroon music industry can provide tangible examples of the sector's potential. These stories can inspire aspiring artists and provide evidence of the industry's viability.

  • Quantifying Industry Impact: Establishing comprehensive data sources that quantify the industry's economic, social, and cultural contributions is crucial. This data can illustrate the industry's importance to policymakers, investors, and the public, making a compelling case for increased funding and support.
  • Collaborative Research: Collaborating with universities, research institutions, and industry experts can facilitate robust data collection. The resulting insights can be used to advocate for funding, inform policy decisions, and attract investment. An example of this is MBA for Africa. The MBA is developed by iManage Africa in partnership with Music Ally and Dr. Carlos Chirinos of the Music Business Department at New York University and is led by the MBA’s newly hired Programme Director Elizabeth Sobowale; this year’s edition is backed by YouTube Music.

The Cameroon music industry's challenges extend beyond infrastructure and government support to encompass the vital aspects of education, networking, and quantifiable data. By unifying stakeholders, fostering advocacy, attracting foreign investment, and quantifying the industry's impact, the sector can pave the way for sustainable growth, artistic excellence, and global recognition.


As Cameroon's music industry embarks on a journey of growth and transformation, a vision for the future emerges—one characterised by unity, innovation, and global recognition. By addressing the challenges of language barriers, fostering artist development, harnessing digital platforms, embracing cultural fusion, and building a sustainable ecosystem, Cameroon's music industry has the potential to reach unprecedented heights.

This journey requires the collective efforts of artists, managers, industry professionals, policymakers, and audiences. By fostering collaboration, investing in education, and championing the value of music as a cultural and economic asset, Cameroon can position itself as a vibrant hub of musical creativity.

The Cameroon music industry is not merely a reflection of its past but a canvas for its future—a future where diverse voices intertwine, innovation flourishes, and the melodies of Cameroon resonate with the world. Through strategic initiatives, creative endeavours, and a steadfast commitment to excellence, Cameroon's music industry can pave the way for its music industry to echo across borders and generations.

Despite their diversity, Cameroon’s music and movements have come and gone over the years because those involved cannot build the internal and external business structures that host and sustain the scenes. Hence, the hour needs talent business incubation and mentorship to build a durable and sustainable music ecosystem. 

About Mutumbu

Mutumbu is a leading independent music agency in Cameroon with the mission to promote arts and culture and the well-being of actors in the sector by building value and providing professional, affordable, and sustainable solutions for stakeholders. Our areas of intervention include artist & label services, management, marketing and promotion, consultancy, advocacy, licensing and project management.

Listen to our Makossa Revival playlist in partnership with Mutumbu

Hivewire is an independent music industry publication launched in June 2023 by Srishti Das. This dynamic newsletter offers a unique perspective on the music industry, focusing on emerging markets and the burgeoning music cultures gradually making their mark globally.