Faya is the nickname her family gave little Valérie Ékoumè. It is also the first track on her second album, which creates vibration among the shimmering colours of the Cameroon of her childhood and gets people dancing to rumba, makossa, bikutsi, esséwé and other beats.
With an aunt who was a backup singer for Salif Keita, an uncle who was a band leader and another who was a bass player, Valérie Ékoumè fell into music at an early age, and singing became almost obvious.
A childhood split between France and Cameroon enabled her to draw upon various musical sources, with a variety of languages and moods that left their mark on her. As a teenager, she imitated Miriam Makeba and Whitney Houston, a headset glued to her ears. In her roots, makossa thus blended with American pop.
For many years a backup singer for saxophonist Manu Dibango, a Cameroonian compatriot, she also sought more formal training at a jazz school in Paris, to be even more in tune with her musicians.
Appearing on stage for a decade-and-a-half as a backup singer with a range of artists including Coco Mbassi, Youssou Ndour, MC Solaar, Maceo Parker, Kofi Olomide and Passi, she gradually built a team to launch her solo career.
In 2015, she issued her first album, Djaale (“Let’s go” in Duala, a language of the Cameroonian coast), with the collaboration of drummer-percussionist Guy Nwogang and the participation of renowned musicians including Mario Canonge, a pianist from Martinique, and Nate Watts, Stevie Wonder’s bass player.
Again on the theme of sharing and of love, Valérie Ékoumè was back soon with a second album, Kwin na Kinguè, a contraction of queen and king.
The album’s eponymous song describes feelings of both regret and frustration. Marked by great humanity, this Afro-pop disc narrates, in Lingala and Douala, tales of love, immigration and inclusion.