Cameroon: Musicians are silent after Lapiro’s imprisonment



Musicians are silent after Lapiro’s imprisonment

The fact that Lapiro is in prison for his music has discouraged other artists in the country to create any kind of innovative projects or critical song lyrics, writes a reporter from Cameroon about the ‘delicate situation’ in the country’s music industry

“The situation of music in Camerooon is not that great,” begins a letter which Freemuse received recently from a correspondent in Cameroon who wishes to be anonymous. The letter continues:

“The political powers in the country have banned all forces that potentially could have stood up against their agenda. The strategy of President Paul Biya’s regime is to buy everyone out, or marginalize them in other ways. All opposition, even journalistic or from human rights activists, appears to have been effectively silenced in the country.

Neither in the radio, tv or music shops do we hear anything of Lapiro de Mbanga or Joe la Conscience. We don’t see any video clips, we don’t hear their music. Putting Lapiro in prison has proved to be an effective way to send a signal to subversive minds that may be thinking of trying to do the same as Lapiro did.

In Cameroon today, people comment the imprisonment of Lapiro by pretending that his case is not political. “He tried to disturb Public Order, that’s why he got sentenced,” people say.”

The powers in the music industry
“Some journalists who host radio programmes told me that they cannot do any statement on Lapiro’s case because “it’s a delicate situation”.

They also said that Joe la Conscience will face difficulties getting another album out because of lack of sponsorship. No one will sponsor or support political music against the government.

There only few companies in Cameroon that has the economic size to be able to sponsor a CD album, a concert or a video clip for independent artists.

One of them is Orange (British), another is NTM (South African). Both of them cell phone companies. Then there is the beer brewing companies, such as Braseries du Cameroun, (French) and Guiness Cameroon. Sometimes PMUC, Pari Mutuel Urbain Camerounais (French), a booking company which takes bets on horses racing, also steps in as a sponsor in the music business. And several cigarette companies regularly use music for their campaigns to promote their products all over the country.

All these companies are carefully following every little move the government makes, in order not to make a wrong move. So I don’t see how they could ever be interested in sponsoring a musicians who would be singing about creating change in the Cameroonian society. And the regime itself would never support any type of creative expression.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Independence of 17 African French-speaking countries. At one of the main Cameroonian celebrations, the only artists invited were mainstream and commercially successful musicians, and they had nothing political on their agenda.”

Lapiro de Mbanga

Go to top
Related reading on

Cat Stevens sparks US plane alert and is denied access “on national security grounds”
A security alert involving the singer, whose name is now Yusuf Islam, has forced a London-to-Washington flight to be diverted to another US airport. The plane was already in the air when US officials identified that the singer was on one of their “watch lists”.
United Airlines Flight 919 was diverted 600 miles (1000km), landing in Maine.
After an interview, the singer – who converted to Islam in 1977 – was denied entry into the US.

Story from BBC

See also our 9/11 section