Serge Maboma Cameroon: a pool of talents

Serge Maboma
Serge Maboma | Photo: Edith Kouekam

Today musicians of West Africa have succeeded in establishing a brand for their music such that when one says that an artist is coming from any of the countries of West Africa we know exactly what to expect.

From an artistic point of view, where do you place the Cameroonian music in relation to European productions today?

I must say that it is unfortunate that Cameroonian productions are not yet of the quality to be exported to Europe because, technically, we still have a lot to do about the Cameroonian music to bring it to standard, considering the requirements for music today. It is said that our studios are not always up-to-date even though it must be recognized that more and more people are making efforts to properly equip them with materials. Also, there is a type of music we need to try to produce because I am of the impression that our music is poorly exported and we still do not have the right elements that would allow us to be competitive internationally. Our music should not just be for home consumption.    We should produce music that people elsewhere can understand and appreciate.

Does Macase collaborate with European artists? If so, what kind of collaboration are you involved in?

We have quite a few collaborations with European artists. However we work a lot with the Cameroonian Diaspora artists who sometimes return to Cameroon. I cite among others Manu Dibango, Andre Manga, Vincent Nguini Jack Djieyim, and Kaïssa Doumbé.... So far we have collaborations with all the ambassadors of Cameroonian music that are based in Europe and the United States. When they come here, they enjoy working with Macase group because, as I said earlier, we are trying to bring ourselves to standards in order to meet the requirements of the international scene. We would like to work with more European artists; unfortunately, we have not yet been given the opportunity.

What is the difference between the Macase in its early years and the New look Macase?

The difference is that the Macase of today is a group of young people who started playing music together and received training together. We had a lot of enthusiasm and high hopes for the project that we had put in place. The Macase of today is made up of much more experienced musicians who come with an already very heavy baggage. I think the work we did with the old Macase served as a good foundation for work because, in addition, the musicians who are in Macase today were part of our group of friends. So these are people who also knew the work of Macase before joining the group. Their experiences in practicing other types of music in different platforms have come to enrich what Macase already had. I must say that today's Macase is a development of yesterday’s Macase.

Macase consists of seven members, and therefore different sensitivities. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having such a number?

I think if you have seven people who look in the same direction, that is a strength because there is an incredible energy working with people who have the same ambition for the group. These are seven very critical people targeting the best possible results. What this means is that the final product of a work of Macase would have already gone through the censorship of seven people who know each other very well. It is an advantage having seven people with so many different personalities and I have to tell you that these are very refined personalities and they are people who know exactly what they want. In the end, the compromise we come to is always quite rewarding because we try to learn from each other all the time.
 
Most experts agree that Cameroon is a pool of talents. In your opinion, what is missing from the Cameroonian music for it to become more active on the international scene?

I think there is a structural problem. At the technical level, musicians, instrumentalists, and singers work a lot and have a lot of ambition. However, in terms of management, supervision, advertising of our music abroad, and even the lobbying of Cameroonian music, the music business is not at its best. This is where our greatest weakness lies. And the greatest work we need to do now is to assemble all Cameroonian artists around a collective project that we have to present as a brand. Today musicians of West Africa have succeeded in establishing a brand for their music such that when one says that an artist is coming from any of the countries of West Africa we know exactly what to expect. On the contrary, Cameroonians are still developing in a dispersed way which makes us weaker and weaker. In as much as Cameroonian musicians work hard, it is even more urgent today to create structures to build the foundation for the professionalization of the Cameroonian music. It would enable us create a distribution network for our music, for our shows, in order for us to be at the same level of competition with all other nations of the world. That's what we really lack. These are the aspects of the music business that would allow the music to emerge. Here, people who call themselves managers or producers of artists use music to serve themselves rather than be at the service of music. And very often, it falls back on us because the manager you send to negotiate for the group thinks more about himself than about the group. He puts his interest before that of the artist. That's what poses as a problem today.