Sunday, June 24, 2012

Julius Essoka, Musician from Douala

Julius Essoka
After a couple of years on Twitter, I started following--or did he follow me? I don't remember!--@JuliusEssoka, who seemed to be living in Douala, Cameroon, and who was up at all hours, as he'd answer my tweets when it was late evening in New York, but in the wee hours of the night in Cameroon!
When I returned to Cameroon in January, I hoped to meet him. He braved the ridiculous traffic jams that are now a mainstay in Douala, to come visit us in our Deido neighborhood.
Julius Essoka works for MTN, in communications, by day. By night he is a talented musician. I brought back his CDs and mailed them to another African Twitter friend, Akenaata Hammagaadji, who has a weekly African music program: First World Music on .
Of course, first I listened to the CDs, and really liked some of the songs. I can't label them--some are Makossa-style, some reminiscent of African-jazzy House Music: it's quite a mix of styles.
I interviewed him via email to find out more about him.
Julius claims he has loved music since he was a baby. As per his bio, his dad would leave a Grundig tape recorder on when he was a kid, and he'd change the tapes to whatever caught his fancy. Later, he'd hang out at local "cabarets" and after a few years started playing in a band (one of the people he played with was Richard Bona, who now lives in the United States and got his U. S. start playing with Harry Belafonte, where my spouse and I first discovered him on a TV show). Between 1982 and 1994 he played with a variety of musicians, and went to Europe for the first time in 1994.  Since 1998, he produced two CDs: Jokin’at home (1998) and Epass'i n’Epassi (2008). The next one is anticipated for 2013.
At this point, he does not have musical influences per se, anymore, but he is inspired by those who remain wise and humble, despite having great career success. His collaborations are with old friends, who have become like family: the late Tom Yom's (in duet in Silane, he also wrote 2 songs for him; Lo dumea and Ebudu), Gino Sitson (also based in the U.S.) Fred Doumbe (who works with Les Nubians, amongst others), Xavier Mesa, and more.
Julius' musical style: African in general. His philosophy is to enjoy life and to make others happy; to lend a helping hand to those in need. His other passions in life are writing (he wrote novels, poems and children's tales) and... sleep: he doesn't go out much, so sleeping is his pleasure!
To hear some of Julius Essoka's music: http://juliusessoka.bandcamp.com/ (from Epass'i n’Epassi, my personal favorite).
Videoshttp://www.youtube.com/user/Juliusessoka (you can see scenes of the city of Douala)
Meet him on Twitter @JuliusEssoka and on Facebook at Julius Essoka.