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PAM Rewind: Cheetah's world in 10 tracks

Every month Cortega picks a DJ or producer who puts Africa and its diaspora in the spotlight. Featuring an exclusive playlist of the 10 sounds that have shaped their musical universe. Today we start with Cameroonian producer and DJ Cheetah.

Founder of the Black Square online media and organizer of the Trap Africa parties, Cheetah is a DJ/producer whose inspirations range from hip-hop, afrobeats, future beats, all the way to baile funk. She is also a digger of the digital age, who builds her crates of unreleased tracks, obscure remixes and dope releases that may not necessarily have caught mainstream attention, by spending sleepless nights getting lost into the SoundCloud vortex. I’d actually say that this one of her greatest skills : delivering both excitement and discovery together on the dancefloor – a balancing act that she masters with her eyes closed. Growing up in Douala, Cameroon, she moved to the Paris region in her twenties and entered the creative world to fill a void in the representation of Afro-descendant communities. Music, fashion, art and culture, she is interested in all forms of Afro-urban creativity in the broadest sense. This passion, coupled with the fact that she is a serial entrepreneur, makes her one of the most dynamic people in Paris’ cultural scene. She’s got so much to share, you have to get up early to catch up! And indeed, as you know, cheetahs are the fastest animal in the world, so I guess her moniker fits her perfectly. Anyways, enough introduction, let’s get to know her better with these 10 tracks that have shaped her musical universe.

Kaysha – On dit quoi ft. Teeyah, Anofela & Top One Frisson

This song is really a cornerstone defining the musical direction of my career. In fact, it allowed me to bridge the gap between where I come from (Douala, Cameroon), and where I live (Paris). When I just moved to France, somehow, I thought that songs like this were only popular in Africa, but I quickly realized that this was not the case… and seeing an audience that does not come from where I grew up enjoying this music inspired me so much. It’s very powerful to share such a connection. As a DJ, it really encouraged me to offer a musical selection that creates links with the African continent and its diaspora.

Petit Yodé & L’Enfant Siro – Victoire

Ah, for me this song symbolizes the period when music from Cote d’Ivoire started invading the whole of Africa… It takes me back to the end of elementary school, beginning of my middle school years (laughs). It’s a zouglou song with a pretty fast tempo. At home, it had become a kind of anthem that marked the beginning of Ivorian domination, even before the coupe décalé era! The first time I played it in a DJ set was at Paris’ Wanderlust… I looked at the crowd and thought to myself “these guys seem to listen to trap music all day long” (laughs). But then I thought that nothing should impede me from doing this, so I took my courage in both hands and played this song, and watched people’s reaction. It was insane, I couldn’t believe how they were so into it! In fact, they knew the track, they’d heard it back at family gatherings and such. It’s part of the culture. That was a freeing moment for me, because I’d always wanted to play zouglou, but for a long time I super hesitant. Since that day, I stopped curbing my enthusiasm (laughs).

Iman Omari – Energy

Yeah really, this track, it did something to my brain (laughs)… It was in 2015 when I was starting Black Square – the online media I created to promote the Afro-diasporic creative scene – which was the main starting point for so many things in my career, including the definition of my artistic identity. At that time, I was also wondering a lot about spirituality and I love the vibe of the track that takes you deep into your thoughts. The music is soft, too, and one of things I am still dreaming of accomplishing is to organize events where I only play this kind of music… Where people are just in total relaxation mode. You know, yoga type of vibes, where everyone is releasing their chakra and all (laughs), just enjoying the music, chilling and that’s it. 

Chronixx – Loneliness

I discovered him kind of randomly, like many finds on the internet. I was looking for subjects for Black Square and really liked his voice and his vibe and since then he’s always been in the picture for me, musically. This particular song really touched me because I was in a period of transition. I had just lost my mother, I had left my old job, I was asking myself a lot of questions about what to do next. I had been DJing for some time, but it was also at that time that I decided to get into it more seriously. Basically, I realized that it was going to be DJing or nothing, no other choice but to throw myself entirely into the water, no turning back. At that time, this song was playing on repeat mode in my headphones and this album is one of my favorite albums of all times, so it had to be featured here somehow. 

Kanye West – Champion

That’s the Kanye I love. Graduation is his best album, and in fact it’s the last Kanye album I can say I listened to in its entirety, without batting an eye. And well, I choose this sound – Champion – for its positive message, for the soul of the track, for the way Kanye sampled and produced it as only he can do it so well… I wouldn’t say it’s a track I play in my sets, because in reality, it’s not at all obvious to play. For me, it’s really a connoisseur piece. The sound is melodic and even soft, but ego trip at the same time, it’s a pretty unique combo in real life. It’s out of step with the codes of hip-hop today which is very hard hitting. In fact, I could play it in nostalgia mode, but it’s one of those tracks that I would be a little afraid to play, wondering if people will get the reference… 

KAYTRANADA ft. GoldLink, Eight9FLY, Ari PenSmith – Vex Oh 

Bubba, this is definitely my most listened-to album of 2020. And on this track, I really admired how KAYTRANADA managed to make the rhythms and codes of afrobeats his own, while still keeping true to his super unique touch. It is simply incredible. Even Goldlink’s verse on it, it’s so good. You can definitely feel that KAYTRANADA’s Haitian origins have an influence here. Anyway, this album, for me, it’s 20 out of 20, except maybe the last track, Midsection, with Pharell… well, I don’t think he’s ever going to admit it, but he probably doesn’t like that song so much. That’s why he put it last on the album (laughs). I mean, when you have Pharell featured on your album, you don’t put him last, unless you have some kind of doubts on the track… well, anyways, that’s my little analysis here (laughs).

Sango – Agorinha

Yoooo ! This marks the beginning of my baile funk period. I discovered this genre with Sango and began to dig and dig deeper into it. Since then, baile funk has never left me… Agorinha is a pivotal track for me too, because it’s connected to my heavy useage of the SoundCloud platform, where I discovered Sango, of course, but also KAYTRANADA and so many other artists… in fact, I got to know the whole future beats scene that way actually. Anyways, every project that Sango’s released in this vibe has always been a little baile funk crush that makes me happy.

Koffi Olomide – Loi

Well, this is the base… This is just home for me! This is the song I drop when I definitely want to turn my DJ set into a family party. With this track, I know that – as they say – either you know or you know… That is to say that even if you don’t know, you will see the attitude of the others and you will understand that something heavy is happening. Even just the song’s intro is a bit like a call to prayer in fact. I’m not exaggerating, but when this plays, everyone knows that we’re all done! You can’t do anything else, you have no choice but to move your body! And again on this piece, the afro-diasporic link is so strong. We live it together, we share it together, it’s a classic. I call it kind of an “end of the world” classic (laughs). I think if you ask a lot of people, what is the last song they want to hear before the planet explodes, it could be this one (laughs). It’s so catchy. 

Meiway – Babayèrè

Meiway is an icon. Same as Koffi Olomide… If I saw him tomorrow, I’d still be such a groupie! In fact I met him once a while ago and ran straight to ask for a picture. Anyways, I chose Babayèrè, even though it’s not his most famous song, because this track allowed me to understand the musical connection between Africa and the Antilles. In fact, the song starts in carnival mode, and only then goes into more of an afro mode. I like to play it because it makes the connection. People don’t necessarily know it, but because of the way it’s composed, it’s a bridge between the two worlds. Meiway is such a boss… if you put him side by side with Koffi Olomide, I don’t know you’d win that fight… they are such legends. Actually, they have released a song together – KK Mou Prudencia – which is insane. I can’t even imagine if it had been released now, the noise it would have made, with social media and all the effervescence around African cultures today, it would gone viral right away! I would have gone crazy on social media, I mean, Beyonce level, honestly!

Monique Seka – Missounwa

Missounwa, is such a sweet song, it makes people melt and cry. For me it’s a song that’s always kind of nostalgic, and I still remember the first time I played it at a party. A DJ friend of mine was next to me, she said “Girl, why are you doing this? You’re going to make me cry! It brings back too many stories with my mother“. It’s really an emotional song, which reminds me of the carefree and blissful days of youth, when you didn’t ask yourself questions about life. You were just there and you enjoyed life. That was easy. And by the way, Monique Seka is a super talented artist who deserves much more recognition. She really marked her time. She is such an inspiration, I’d love to meet her one day. This song is really calm, compared to the rest of my selection but it makes you get into some kind of intense nostalgia. If I have to play a zouk set, I will inevitably add this song… Both because I love it, but also to share it with the younger generation. I feel it’s important to share knowledge and play timeless gems like this.