Compiled by Doris Fankem. Douala Cameroon
For the best part of 30 years, he raged against a system he considered unjust, inhumane and that was totally disconnected from the masses and the downtrodden. He stood up for those government authorities only remember when they want to force them pay taxes or to use them to further their political goals. Pierre Roger Lambo Sanjo aka Lapiro de Mbanga who has died was the critical voice of the voiceless. In his seminal song “mimba wi”, he called on the high and mighty to always remember the poor and dispossessed of the society who had no bed to sleep, no food to eat and sometimes, no water to drink.
He became the epitome of the struggle for change in Cameroon and was considered such a treat that government authorities in Cameroon needed to reduce him and the huge influence he had over national conscienceless. In a well orchestrated plan, he was made to look like a traitor when he was accused of siding with the government to cal off the damaging ghost town operations.
Lapiro meant many things to many people. Even the language he used in his music ( a mixture of street parlance, French, English and creole) was deliberately chosen to appeal to the downtrodden he fought so hard for.
On September 24th 2008, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on trumped up charges of supporting the destruction of property following nationwide riots to protest against food price hikes. The protest were also fuelled by attempts to introduce constitutional changes that will make Cameroon’s long serving president Paul Biya eligible for the 2011 presidential elections. He almost died in prison from multiple health complications and the prostrate cancer that eventually killed him was diagnosed at the New Bell prison and prison authorities were reportedly told not to treat him. “Demissioner”, one of the last songs he released before his tragic death was the most critical song he ever wrote and in it, he called on 81 year old long serving Cameroonian president Paul Biya to resign after failing to raise the standards of living of Cameroonians and meddling with the constitution to remain in power.
Following his death in a hospital in Buffalo New York on March 16 2014, tributes have been pouring in from his fans and critics around the globe. Writing on social media site twitter, Kathleen Ndongmo said “Lapiro de mbanga was the musician considered for 3 decades the voice of Cameroon’s voiceless. “RIP Lapiro de mbanga…I shall close my dirty mouth only after death”, Alfons Karabuda wrote in his tribute.
Global association of writers, PEN International also noted the group was “deeply saddened by the death of Cameroonian singer, songwriter”. The various tributes are a testimony of the international acclaim the musician enjoyed during his three decades in music.
He eventually fled for refuge in the USA following threats on his life after his release from prison. In his last act of protest, he decided against a home burial and will be cremated on March 28 2014. He however leaves behind a legacy that nobody, including Cameroonian authorities who thought they could silence him by imprisonment, cannot disregard. “Lapiro is bigger in death than he was alive”, close friend and fellow musician Jacob Nguni said in his tribute to a very musical hero.
Herewith some more tributes to the one and irreplaceable “Ndinga Man”.
Chi Mbangsi. Leeds, UK
“Rest well Ndinga Man”
Think what you like about Lapiro, he remains one of the most illustrious Cameroonian artists of all time. His skillful and versatile use of pidgin, the street language of Cameroon, made him a strong favourite with the youth in particular. Well, that combined with a knack for keeping his finger on the pulse of issues relevant to a disenfranchised young population and for echoing their frustrations in memorable tunes that often mocked and challenged convention and political authority.
Personally, I admired him for his ability to continually reinvent himself, thereby remaining relevant and in the limelight throughout his career – from his younger daredevil “mboko” days, to his charm offensive “toss tara” era and leading on to his political “watchdog” days of ‘Overdone’ and beyond.
“Ndinga man, all your country people them for side by side, them go continue for mimba you. No matter how long the night will be , the sun will finally rise.”
Honore Fon. Bamenda, Cameroon
Wake up and sing for us again:
Sing us “Erreur for mbutuku”,
Tell us about bia bia bank,
Tell us not to make “ereur”,
Remind us that “Overdone na mbout”
Wherever you are going, “mimba we”
As we shall be celebrating your life with sad melodies of yours like “fogo” and funky ones like
Tomorrow, i will tie my shirt in knots like a rebelous little child as i used to do when i was 8;
Just to remember you
Vitalis Nji Tanteh. London, UK
Lapiro happened to have been one of my childhood role models. Back in the late 80s, he inspired me with his genre of music…more of education on societal/national issues plaguing the country than the mainstream music, which is usually just for entertainment. Lapiro entertained in a humorous but breathtaking manner, which left the listener with the urge to take action. His interest in advocating for political uprightness and positive change captured my love, though he had a few limitations…just like every human being. His passing away has created a big gap in his genre of music and outspokenness towards a regime that is not living up to expectations. Lapiro was a true educator and his musical albums remain a legacy for the nation and the world. May his soul rest in peace and may he enjoy the pleasure of occupying one of the many rooms in the kingdom of our heavenly Father
Ngong Kenneth – Bonaberi Age 34
Pierre Roger Lambo commonly called Lapiro de Mbanga was not really a man of my generation. I grew up to meet his famous track “Mimba we – Tarra tos tos, tarra tos” which won the music market at the time.
His main music objectives on the majority of his tracks was to fight against human rights “share the national cake equally” up to the point where he went politically to sing the worst “Demisioner”.
What also impacted me most in his tracks and messages was the advance level pigin language he used “bukuru bukuru sofri sofri we go come reach”. After this album he became a wanted man. ……… May your soul rest in peace Ndinga Man.
Jean Kotto, Commercial agent, Bassa, Douala, Age 30
Lapiro impacted my life in that he used both the pidgin and the French languages in a particular style that was good for dancing. In fact ¸he had a unique way. He made me had an interest in learning and understanding English. His music will leave on.
Henry Ndoumbe, Teacher, Deido, age 30
He was a revolutionary. He became popular or a celebrity in the 90s in defending the rights of the underprivileged and this had an impact on the lives of most Cameroonians of my age. As a great man he braved the odds in his life. He is one of the famous in this generation.
Ebu Doris. Bamenda Cameroon.
Roger made his entry into the world of music in 1985 with his first album “pas d’argent no love”. He had his unique way. He sang both in Pidgin English and the French language respectively. He marked me in this song titled “MIMBA WI”. A song for the down trodden, bike riders, taxi men, the unemployed and the market women in fact all walks of life. He had a moral integrity, brilliant and passionate man. He wanted everybody to benefit from the proceeds of the country. He was a radical propagator of equal rights and this he achieved. He stood out amongst his peers to shun corruption, bribery and injustice through music in a country where everything seemed stagnant. He leaves an indelible mark. His music will never die. Farewell NDIGA MAN.