Les Têtes Brûlées is a group that has popularised
bikutsi music in the second half of the 1980s. Their success in Cameroon started after their
appearance at the, then still young, national TV station CRTV in 1987. The band was created by
Jean-Marie Ahanda, joined by talented and charismatic guitarist
Théodore Epémé, better known as Zanzibar.
Les Têtes Brûlées transformed the regional, and quite earthy, music style of bikutsi into
something new, using elements of punk and rock, and by using electric guitars. Zanzibar innovated by using rubber foam
to alter the sound of his guitar in order to imitate the wooden balafons from the central
and southern part of Cameroon. This, and the outrageous outfits of the band members (body paint, partly shaven heads)
contributed to their success, and the band was highly visible, also beyond Cameroon's boundaries.
French film maker Claire Denis followed the band during their French tour and made the movie
« Man No Run », of which the original sound track was released. The tour
brought them as far as Japan and the United States.
Late 1988, Cameroon was shocked to hear about the sudden death of Zanzibar. Little is precise about the conditions
of his death, suicide is often claimed. It left the band in despair, but eventually, the band reformed and continued
to perform and record. They accompanied the national football team to the world championship in Italy, which
further enhanced their exposure.
A few more albums were recorded until the mid-1990s, but the success and recognition were not as overwhelming as expected
and hoped for. But on the other hand, the fascination for the band, and of course for Zanzibar, remains, and the
publication of a new book in 2013 (Zanzibar et les Têtes Brûlées du Cameroun : La Passion Bikutsi,
by Joseph Fumtim et Anne Cillon Perri) is just one of the symptoms.
• Members of Les Têtes Brûlées, and supporting musicians
having played in the band at some point in time:
Théodore Epémé 'Zanzibar' (b. 1962, † 22-10-1988) vocals, guitar
Jean-Marie Ahanda lead vocals, trumpet
Azeme Afata André 'Nylon' drums, vocals
Roger Bekongo guitar, vocals
Albert Ateba Mvondo 'Atebass' bass, backing vocals
Martin Maah 'Cool Bass' (†) bass, vocals
Nago Michael 'Apache Ango' rhythm guitar
Effa Paul Tumba
Sala Bekono (b.1956, † 16 May 1999) backing vocals
Kon Mbogol Martin backing vocals
Abanda Kys Kys backing vocals
Formed: 1980s in Yaoundé, by Jean-Marie Ahanda
Les Têtes Brûlées