"'Bele Mama' means 'call Mother' in my Oroko language and some other languages from the Kumba area in the Southwest region of Cameroon. The rhythm too is definitely from this region. Sounds like songs I sang as a kid... It's also built on the popular song of my childhood: Everybody Loves Saturday Night. Singers added verses to this song, calling out groups who love Saturday Night. It is likely that somebody added the verse 'Bele Mama'." -Nyango

Notes

"'Bele Mama eh' - the eh is for emphasis. You know, some of our languages emphasize by stretching out the last syllable and another form of emphasis is repetition of the word. We transfer this to the English language and Pidgin English and say things like: 'it's far'. 'Very far' becomes: 'it's fa-a-a-r'. Or in Pidgin English: 'a far, far place'." -Nyango

Nyango agreed with us translating "eh" to "yeah" in this context.

I asked Nyango about "Bele Mama" being from Cameroon and she wrote: "Definitely from Cameroon - my region to be precise. As soon as I heard the singer pronounce the 'Bele Mama', it all made sense. That is how we say 'Call Mom/ Call Mother' in the Oroko language. There are a couple of other Cameroonian languages that use similar words - I think the Bafaw from the Kumba area say it the same way.

I found it on Youtube. Definitely Cameroon. Also built on the popular song of my childhood: 'Everybody likes Saturday Night'. Singers added verses to this song, calling out groups who love Saturday Night. It is likely that somebody added the verse 'Bele Mama'.

It is a dance song. We all sang it together, no lead singer. And we danced along while singing. In fact, when we kids sang it, we imitated the sound of the musical instruments too. There was a record and it was often played over the radio."

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Comments

Most people think "Bele Mama" comes from Torres Strait Islands.

According to Mila at Sing for Joy: "It turns out that someone from Cameroon travelled to the Torres Strait islands, and taught the song at a local gathering. An American who was there assumed that it was a local song from the islands, and took it back to share at home in the United States. From there, the song spread like wildfire with the wrong origin story, and alas… we have a tale of global song-spreading gone awry!"

"Bele Mama" is very popular with choruses.

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Here you can hear the song sung by a chorus group…
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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Nyango M. Nambangi of the Minnesota African Women's Association for commenting on this song. Thanks to Frances Turnbull from Musicaliti for pointing out its origin.