Anger at Cameroon dance ban

By Francis Ngwa-Niba in Cameroon, BBC News, Tuesday, 25 July 2000, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK

A ban on an indecent dance which has been performed naked in public places is prompting an angry reaction in south-west Cameroon.

South-West Governor Acham Peter Cho banned Mapouka dance music, which hails from neighbouring Ivory Coast, on the grounds that it was causing public immorality.

But fans of the popular dance rhythm have been buying up Mapouka cassettes on sale in music shops, and in defiance continue to listen and dance away in bars and nightclubs.

Some in Cameroon have welcomed the ban, saying the dance was corrupting young people and a ban was overdue as it will help control public immorality.

But Mbianyor Tanyi, a Mapouka fan, told the BBC: The ban order cannot work.

The governor should have been decent enough to know that nightclubs pay taxes to operate at night and it is difficult to control things that happen at night.

Another fan was even more contemptuous: The governor cannot send troops to bars and nightclubs to stop us from dancing Mapouka.

Even if he does, we will still sing and dance Mapouka in our cars and in our houses.


The crisis started when a group of three girls from Littoral Province did a controversial tour of the South West province dancing half naked to the Mapouka rhythm.

Many turned out in large numbers to watch them, prompting a great deal of publicity—and after complaints a ban was the result.

On the question of whether Mapouka music is indecent, music editor of The Post Newspaper, Nana Walters, says that it depends on how it is looked at.

The lyrics are not indecent ... what I know is that some Cameroonian youths are overdoing it and dancing naked to Mapouka music.

He says he is convinced that the supposed immorality of some Mapouka dancers is a reflection of immorality in wider Cameroonian society.

Sexual dance

The dance entails a woman bending almost double while a man supports her waist from behind.

The dance is usually executed in circles.

The debate about the immorality of the dance is linked to the overtly sexual nature of the dance style and the scanty clothes usually worn by the dancers—particularly by women.

Cameroonian officials appear to have failed to have learnt from past errors as far as regulating music is concerned.

When Petit Pays, a popular Cameroonian musician appeared naked on the cover of one of his cassettes, it was immediately banned all over the country.

A boom in sales of the tape resulted because of the ban.

Ndombolo, a highly danceable rhythm from the Democratic Republic of Congo, also became very popular when it was banned on state radio and television.

The reactions of fans after the dance ban suggests that the Mapouka music of Ivorian artists like the Tchabazou boys, Magic System and Espoir 2000 will remain popular for some time.