“Never forget where we come from.

Remember the days

of the path they have plotted.

Never forget where we come from”

(Blick Bassy, Where We Go)



Writing a new history


In almost every song in the album, Bassy ends by looking forward as well as back. In each of these closing sentences his vision is very clear; whether it be in Where We Go when he mourns that ‘our stories we will not even know them, if we do not wake up my friend’, or in Ngui Yi where he calls for Cameroonian people to ‘rise and write our own history’. What Bassy desires is for the people of his country to shake themselves out of their collective malaise and reconnect with the history that is their own, and in particular that of the UPC which has been denied to them for so long by their own government. In particular, for Bassy it is not enough that they are told what their past is, but that they take ownership of it and investigate it themselves. Just as he did when he first discovered that Um Nyobè was not the terrorist that his textbooks had taught him about, Bassy wants his fellow Cameroonians to bring a more sceptical approach to what they think they know about their country. 




To what purpose


Bassy’s main purpose of resurrecting and rewriting the history of the UPC is to help his compatriots reconnect with their national, and even continental heritage. His desire is to look beyond the trauma created by imperial powers, and identify what their roots were before this time. This is emphasised in the description of his video Ngwa, whereby he writes, ‘Our young people do not even know where they come from, and many are trying to become avatars of what they see in the Western world’. This emphasis on a cultural heritage could be seen to stem from his and Um Nyobè’s shared Bassa culture, which imbues a ‘respect for the wisdom of traditional society’.1 Furthermore, one of the main purposes of pushing a shared past is that it avoids what Bassy fears is a growing concern in his country; tribalism. In an interview with RFI he has said that, ‘Tribalism is really coming back. In the last election in October we had a kind of dynamic coming back from tribalism; people just voting for the person who's coming from their tribe, it's not about the programme.’2 His song Bes Na We reinforces this point, as he sings about the danger of creating an enemy out of your neighbour:


“You and I are together,

we are confused,

It's our roots that we destroy

the village will die

You and I are together,

we provoke ourselves.

These are our children that we destroy”



Building on the issue of tribalism, Bassy’s desire to reconnect with the thinking of the UPC and its leaders stems from its applicability to the current situation of the Cameroonian state. Under President Biya, the economy seems to have stifled while corruption has flourished, so much so that in 1998 Cameron had the unfortunate accolade of being named the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.3 All of this has brought further divides to an already fractured country. With the current animosity between the former English and French Cameroon being a major point of contention, it is worth again noting that had Um Nyobè’s dream of reunification before independence been realised, this present may have turned out differently. This hammer home why Bassy is so keen for people to reconnect with the precepts of the UPC, as their ideas for the future of their country were not just applicable seventy years ago. In Woni he sings about how whilst the whole country and himself included are paralysed by fear, both Nyobè and Moumie were not afraid when they sacrificed themselves for their nation. The point Bassy is making is that his people today could learn from the courage showed by these men, and, when they find themselves suddenly loose from the fetters of fear, work towards creating a brighter tomorrow for their country. 






Critical Evaluation of his aims


In evaluating the aims of Bassy’s work, it is perhaps important to stop and consider why the artist has taken his album tour across Europe and North America, yet included no venues in Cameroon or even Africa. This appears somewhat at odds with his desire to educate his own people on their heritage. However, when you consider that he already has projects afoot in Cameroon to encourage promote both native languages and local musicians, it appears this is not the act of someone profiting of his country’s history in search of fame.4 Rather, we can view Bassy’s European album tour in a way akin to Um Nyobè himself travelling to the UN to make the international community aware of the plight of the Cameroonians. At a time when global history and ideas about questioning Eurocentric narratives are more popular than ever, it seems poignant that someone is spreading the history of Cameroon to, amongst others, the very nation that played such a role in silencing it in the first place.

[1] Walter Gam Nkwi, ‘Ruben Um Nyobe: Cameroonian Maquis, Radical, and Liberator, ca 1948-1958’, in Biographies of Radicalization, ed. by Mirjam de Bruijn (Berlin/Boston, 2019), pp. 65–85 (p. 70).

[2] ‘World Music Matters - Cameroon’s Blick Bassy Remembers 1958 and His Fallen Hero’, RFI, 2018 [accessed 29 January 2020].

[3] Francis B. Nyamnjoh and Jude Fokwang, ‘Entertaining Repression: Music and Politics in Postcolonial Cameroon’, African Affairs, 104.415 (2005), 251–274 (p. 267).

[4] Laura Barton, ‘Blick Bassy: “I Want to Expose the Dangers of the Immigration Dream”’, The Guardian, 9 September 2015, section Music [accessed 29 January 2020].