Chasing freedom no matter what with Paris-based, Franco-Cameroonian artist Yamê


COLORS showcases exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on the most distinctive new artists and original sounds.


Chasing freedom no matter what with Paris-based, Franco-Cameroonian artist Yamê

During the global pandemic, self-taught Franco-Cameroonian artist Yamê decided to quit his dissatisfying day job and focus on music full-time. A year and a half later, he went viral on TikTok, and has since become known for his unique sound bringing together video-game inspired lyrics with influences from rap, jazz, and blues, the latter of which he was exposed to while attending jam sessions around Paris.

In line with his debut A COLORS SHOW, we spoke to Yamê about the spiritual meaning behind his artist name, how assimilating to life in France felt like being a double agent, and why, for him, motorbikes are the ultimate symbol of freedom.

Where does your artist name, Yamê, come from?

My dad’s a musician and he used the word ‘yamê’ a lot in his lyrics. When I decided to pursue a career in music and was trying to pick an artist name, I asked my dad to tell me what  ‘yamê’ means. It’s a word from the Cameroonian language and the Mbo tribe, which I’m descended from. To put it simply, yamê is like a spiritual energy or chakra that is shared by everyone. It connects us all despite our religious differences.

What is your first musical memory?

The first instrument I ever played was the piano. I was around 6-years-old, living in Douala—a coastal city in the southwest of Cameroon—and I thought it was easy: All I had to do to make a sound was press the keys! Soon after, I started taking proper piano classes. I can still remember the first song I tried to write when I was a kid. I even think I can still play it. My dad sang it, and I was so proud of what I’d created.

Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

I was really inspired by African artists like Meiway, Papa Wemba, Grace Decca, and Ben Decca, as well as some American artists like Usher, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Jackson. The way Cameroon was cut during colonization made the country the center of Africa. As a result, it is a cultural melting pot, where you can discover a lot of different styles coming from the west, east, and south of the continent. Two of the strongest features of African music are its complex rhythms—which people used to use to communicate—and its lyrics that often address deep subjects and harsh realities in funny and cool ways. Both of these things have really influenced my approach to music.

I was also exposed to a lot of French music through my mum, who played and sang along to it in the house. She passed away while we were living in Cameroon, and we moved back to France shortly afterwards.

You launched your professional music career during the global pandemic, right? 

During the first lockdown in Paris, I lived in a house with multiple other people. I would work from home and spend the rest of the day playing video games, enjoying the sun, or the company of my flatmates. I realized I didn’t enjoy my job, and that the effort  I was putting into it wasn’t being sufficiently remunerated. I decided that, even if my boss agreed to give me a raise, I wanted to quit and pursue music professionally. I was given two years of severance pay, which I used to fund my music and projects. A year and a half after I left the company I blew up on TikTok.

How would you describe your musical style?

I always struggle to define my music, because I feel like it’s split between two categories. Some of my tracks are really aligned with the French rap scene, whereas others draw on soul, blues, and jazz influences I’ve picked up by attending jam sessions in Paris. I think that creating and releasing more will help both me and my audience define what my style is.

“Yamê is a spiritual energy or chakra that is shared by everyone. It connects us all despite our differences.”

Tell us about your songwriting process. 

When I first started making music, my main goal was to learn how to write lyrics. I used to write to type beats—instrumentals that have been catered to a specific artist—on YouTube, but I recently learnt that it’s not the best thing to do when you’re trying to develop as an artist. It’s a narrow musical environment to write in, because the beats aren’t made with you in mind.

My process begins with writing the lyrics, usually for the hook on the piano. After that, I’ll team up with some friends I’m used to making music with to explore a few ideas. I like to do a lot of preparation so that, when I go into the studio, I know what I’m doing and I don’t waste anyone’s time.

Tell us about the ideas behind your 2020 mixtapes, ‘Bantu Mixtape Vol. 1’ and ‘Vol. 2’?

These were released at the very beginning of my career. At the time, my team and I were just trying to get used to the processes behind releasing music. A lot of my friends used to call me Bantu, which is one of the main ethnic groups in Cameroon. These mixtapes are a tribute to Bantu people.

What about your latest album, ‘Agent 237’, which came out in 2021? 

At first it was a tribute to Agent 007, aka James Bond, because I’ve always really loved those movies, and the gadgets in them in particular. When my family moved back to France, my dad told me that I would have to integrate and learn how to speak like the people around me. He told me that it was going to be difficult, that I would have to work hard to assimilate, and that people were going to be waiting for me to make a mistake due to the complex history between France and Cameroon. ‘Agent 237’ is a reference to how, at first, I felt like a spy in France. I was taking in intel and making my own path with the tools I had, the main one being music.

As well as James Bond gadgets, you’re really into video games and new technologies. How does this interest feed into your music? 

When I’m waiting for a game to load I play piano, or write. There are also a lot of gaming references in my music, especially in the metaphors I use. Eventually, I’d like to release a big gaming project in collaboration with some of my friends.

My techy, geeky side has really helped my music, particularly when it comes to things like learning about DAWs—digital audio workstations—and mixing. I do know how to mix, I’m just not very good at it! Just having a little bit of knowledge about these things means that when I go into a studio, there’s nothing that I don’t understand.

What do you enjoy doing outside of music?

I read a lot of articles about politics—mainly African—and geopolitics. African people living abroad are more related to geopolitics than any other cultural group. It touches us more than others, even though I think it affects everyone. My dad’s side of the family resisted colonization, and my mom’s father was a general from France sent to Africa to colonize. As a result, politics is very prevalent in my family.

“No matter what dangers lie ahead, you should always chase freedom, whatever that means for you.”

Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS. 

The song is called ‘Bécane’, which means motorbikes. I love riding and am currently on my eighth or ninth motorbike! I prefer traveling with them to cars, because Parisian streets are extremely crowded. To me, bikes are freedom on two wheels. They enable you to drive far away if you want to. When I take my motorbike out I feel free. No matter what dangers lie ahead, you should always chase freedom, whatever that means for you.

If you could send one message to your fans right now what would it be? 

The most important thing is to surround yourself with good people, and to remember that the human part of any project is so important. You need to have a strong team around you, because it’s going to be hard. There’s a lot of predators and obstacles out there, but the right people can stop you from going down the wrong path.

Yamê is a Paris-based Franco-Cameroonian artist whose debut A COLORS SHOW dropped on 2nd June 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Emily May and Maryam Tuggar
Photography: Megan Courtis
Videography: Lucas Sanou
Video Editing: Katia Fisenko


Open Player

This website uses cookies. By using this website and its content you accept these cookies.