By Yangange Martin Wose*.
A good number of Cameroonian Artists have died in recent times looking back about 15 – 20 years. Though the two score years may seem a long time, in respect of the life span of this endangered genus, when added to their lifespan as at the time of them passing on , it augurs that they did not live a full life. Going by the Biblical definition for a full life, for which I do not have an alternative, they probably would have lived to the age of 70 and mor
Other parameters suggest that good living and modern medicine are sustainable factors that could give longer and productive lives to our artists.
Could these artists be an endangered specie ?In this iconic domain of theirs as compared to other professionals like lawyers, doctors, politicians to mention a few who stand out in their respective endeavours, I am afraid artists seem to be dying too fast in these times. To mention a few who died recently, there was John Minang, Jacob Nguini, Guy Lobe, Lapiro de Mbanga, Mbella Njoh, Nelle Eyoum, Tom Yoms, Bebey Manga and Sammy Mafany.
The beloved audiences have lost Etub Anyang, Francis Ndom, Bebey Black, Beti Beti, Eboa Lottin, francis Bebey, Ali Baba, Koto Bass, Nico Mbarga and a host of others. On the whole some of these artists who are fairly successful with their art, still live poorly. The find it difficult to own decent houses or keep a family.
The business of music which they are conditioned to combine with the creative spirit is a peculiar art that is yet narrowed by time and lack of the enterprise also. This simply means insufficient promotion which is another nightmarish chapter and saga crowned by piracy.
There is no copyrights corporation for now. When it was there, It was plagued by litigation and administrative bottlenecks. When royalties are paid, the stipend is ridiculous such that the artist is not properly remuneration even when it comes it is available indeterminate intervals for amounts which are too small. It is best to say the future for surviving artists is amagedon.
When artists die at the peak of their careers it is an embarrassment to the cultural family not only in the homeland but in the world at large.
Most of our artists who have passed on met this fate because of illness that could have been averted whereas icons of their pedestal in better situations were sustained. In the contemporary situation of Africa some of them are still living. Around the world are some legends like Jimmy Cliff, Ebenezer Obey, Victor Uwaifor, Bongos Ikwe[NIG] , Boncana Maiga [Mali], The Oriental Brothers[NIG], Lionel Riechie[USA], Aisha Kone[IC], Shala Muana[RDC], Tala Andre Marie[CAM], Zao[SEN], and a host of others. While the life of a person is in the hands of the Almighty Creator, a healthy life could be attributed to proper life style , access to medical care and it might be an overstatement to see medical care as the medieval alchemist who spent enormous effort to find an elixir of life through alchemy. This said , in the Cameroonian situation the rapid demise of local artists is alarming and it is very apparent because hardship is more of a plague that is killing the artists. Lapiro de Mbanga died recently after his release from jail in exile , Guy Lobe , Jacob Nguini[50+] in the US and recently John Minang  in Bamenda. The death of many is not known because of other reasons related to their lifestyle and hardship. The problem of artists needs urgent attention and deep incisive overhaul which could give the minimum royalties for a livelihood. Icons like Anne Marie Nzie who have had the grace to live more than 70 need to receive from their bountiful investment over the years. There is provision for spouses of deceased artists to access this investment. While such dependants languish in poverty the several protagonists of the copyrights organizations have turned it into a sustainable mafia to the detriment of our artists who have worked so hard for the heritage of our country.
The lofty idea of Copyrights Corporations came alive during the era of Segat Kou , Minister of Information and Culture . It was SOCADRA , thereafter it changed to CMC, to SOCAM, to SOCINADA and to SOCACIM which has remained a dead letter.
The twin brother FECAFOOT is suffering the same epidemic, a quagmire of so many good ideas that are the deadly virus of the same body.
The churches of arts and culture , just as those of football pray to one god for salvation. If salvation is becoming instead an age long problem then it will be a long time before our artists get their deserved dues and the dire casualties will be with us for a long time.
FOR JOHN MINANG
You also went away fast
And your audience looked East
To the shades of the rising sun
Wondering in mesmerized lamentation
About your beautiful song
Fine fine woman…simulated
In the fashion of Nico Mbarga’s
And it could-should be that you
Must come back
And make a faint-heated exit
Like Rochereau Aka Tabu Ley
Who gave the world 2000 songs
Where do stars go
There must be melodrama of golden
Voices at their permanent abode
Where rejuvenation takes place
And we stay content imagining that home
A hibernation where artists never die.
YANGANGE M. WOSE* is a freelance journalist and fellow, London School of Journalism