Artist

Francis Bebey

With the sudden heart attack of songwriter, poet, and novelist, Francis Bebey, on May 28, 2001, Cameroon lost one of its most creative artists.

The recipient of the prestigious Grand Prix Litteraire De L'Afrique Moudio for his first novel, The Son of Agatha Moudio, in 1968, Bebey went on to scribe several additional novels and scores of poems and songs. Active until shortly before his death, Bebey released two albums of his songs -- Dibiye and Mbira Dance -- to celebrate his 70th birthday. His compositions were covered by John Williams and the Kronos Quartet. According to Stelio Farandjis, secretary general of the High Council of Francophonie, "(Bebey's) voice, his flute, his guitar, and especially his heart and his faith, enchanted the large ones of this world like the humblest among the humble ones." Born in the Cameroonian capital city of Douala, Bebey was educated in his homeland and in the United States. He earned a broadcasting license from Studi-ecola de la Radiodiffusion Outre-Mer in Paris. Although he began his career as a radio journalist in Africa and France and worked for the information service of UNESCO from 1961 until 1974, Bebey remained committed to the arts. He continued to perform guitar recitals throughout his years of employment. In 1974, he left his job as a journalist to devote himself to music and writing. Bebey's additional novels include Headstock Ashanti in 1973, King Albert d'Effidi in 1976, and The Minister And Griot in 1992. He published a well-researched examination of African music, Musique Du Afrique, in 1979. Accompanying his vocals on mbira, guitar, and percussion, Bebey was joined by his quartet, which featured Patrick Bebey on vocals, mbira, flute, and percussion; Toups Bebey on saxophone and percussion; and Papa Noel on bass. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi