Francis Bebey (15 July 1929 in Douala, Cameroon – 28 May 2001 in Paris, France) was a Cameroonian artist, musician, poet and writer.
Francis Bebey was born in Douala, Cameroon, on 15 July 1929. Bebey attended a college in Douala, where he studied mathematics, before going to study broadcasting at the University of Paris. Moving to the United States, he continued to study broadcasting at New York University. In 1957, Bebey moved to Ghana at the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah, and took a job as a broadcaster.
In the early 1960s, Bebey moved to France and started work in the arts, establishing himself as a musician, sculptor, and writer. His most popular novel was Agatha Moudio's Son. He also worked as a consultant for UNESCO from 1972 onwards.
Bebey released his first album in 1969. His music was primarily guitar-based, but he integrated traditional African instruments and synthesizers as well. His style merged Cameroonian makossa with classical guitar, jazz, and pop, and was considered by critics to be groundbreaking, "intellectual, humorous, and profoundly sensual". He sang in Duala, English, and French.
Bebey helped launch the career of Manu Dibango. Bebey released more than 20 albums over his career, and was also known for his poetry, including Black tears (1963), a poem dedicated to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Bebey wrote novels, poetry, plays, tales, short stories, and nonfiction works. He began his literary career as a journalist in the 1950s and at one time worked as a journalist in Ghana and other African countries for the French radio network, Société de radiodiffusion de la France d'outre-mer (SORAFOM).
Bebey's first novel, Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio (Agatha Moudio's Son), was published in 1967 and awarded the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire in 1968; it remains his best-known work. His novel, L'Enfant pluie (The Child of Rain), published in 1994, was awarded the Prize Saint Exupéry.
In addition to exploring childhood and adult experiences in his works, Bebey also wrote tales drawn from the African oral tradition.
Death and legacy
Bebey died in Paris, France, on 28 May 2001. He left a son and two daughters, along with his wife.
John Williams' piece "Hello Francis" is written as a tribute to Bebey: "The piece is based on the Makossa, a popular dance rhythm from Cameroon often used by Francis, and includes a quote from his piece The Magic Box and a hidden bit of J.S. Bach."
Arcade Fire's song, "Everything Now," features a flute part from "The Coffee Cola Song" by Francis Bebey. The flute part was played by Patrick Bebey, Francis Bebey's son.
Francis Bebey has been awarded the Grand Prix de la Mémoire of the GPLA 2013, for his literary legacy.
- Concert Pour Un Vieux Masque, LP, Philips, 1968
- Savannah Georgia, LP, Fiesta Records, 1975
- Guitare D'Une Autre Rime, LP, Ozileka, 1975
- La Condition Masculine, LP, Ozileka, 1976
- Fleur Tropicale, LP, Ozileka, 1976
- Je Vous Aime Zaime Zaime, LP, Ozileka, 1977
- Ballades Africaines, LP, Ozileka, 1978
- Priere Aux Masques. LP, Ozileka, 1979
- Un Petit Ivoirien, LP, Ozileka, 1979
- Afrikanischer Frühling, LP, Marifon, 1980
- Haïti - Guitar Music Trio, LP, Ozileka, 1981
- Bia So Nika, LP, Ozileka, 1981
- Africa Sanza, Ozileka, 1982
- New Track, Ozileka, 1982
- Pygmy Love Song, LP, Editions Makossa, 1982
- Super Bebey - Vingt Plages Ensoleillées, 2xLP, Ozileka, 1983
- Sanza Nocturne, Ozileka, 1984
- Akwaaba: Music For Sanza, Original Music, 1984
- Le Solo De Bruxelles, LP, Ozileka, 1985
- Heavy Ghetto, Anti Apartheid Makossa, LP, Ozileka, 1985
- Si Les Gaulois Avaient Su!, LP, Blue Silver, 1986
- Baobab, LP, Volume, 1988
- African Woman, LP, Volume, 1988
- World Music Guitar, CD, Ozileka, 1992
- Sourire De Lune, CD, Ozileka, 1996
- Rire Africain, Ozileka, 1981
- Nadolo / With Love - Francis Bebey Works: 1963-1994, CD, Original Music, 1995
- African Electronic Music 1975-1982, LP/CD, Born Bad Records, 2011
- Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984, LP/CD, Born Bad Records, 2014
- La Condition Masculine, CD, Sonodisc
Works by Bebey
- La Radiodiffusion en Afrique noire, 1963 (English translation: Broadcasting in Black Africa)
- Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio, 1967 (English translation: Agatha Moudio's Son)
- Embarras de Cie: nouvelles et poèmes, 1968
- Trois petits cireurs, 1972 (English translation: Three Little Shoeshine Boys)
- La Poupée Ashanti, 1973 (English translation: The Ashanti Doll)
- Le Roi Albert d'Effidi, 197? (English translation: King Albert)
- Musique de l'Afrique, 1969 (English translation: African Music: A People's Art)
- Le Ministre et le griot, 1992 (English translation: The Minister and the Griot)
- L'Enfant pluie, 1994 (English translation: The Child of Rain)
- DeLancey, Mark W.; DeLancey, Mark Dike (2000). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (3rd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-585070-322.
- Hudgens, Jim; Trillo, Richard (1999). West Africa: The Rough Guide (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides Ltd. ISBN 978-1-858284-682.
- Mbaku, John Mukum (2005). Culture and Customs of Cameroon. Westpoint, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313332-319.
- Southern, Eileen (1982). Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. Westpoint, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313213-397.
- West, Ben (2004). Cameroon: The Bradt Travel Guide. Guilford, Conn: The Globe Pequot Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-841620-787.