Tsamina or Zangaléwa is a 1986 hit song, originally sung by a makossa group from Cameroon called Golden Sounds who were beloved throughout the continent for the dances and costumes.
The song was such a hit for Golden Sounds that they eventually changed their name to Zangaléwa, too.
The song pays tribute to African skirmishers (a.k.a tirailleurs) during World War II. Most of the band members were in the Cameroonian Army themselves and used make up, fake bellies, and fake butts for comic relief.
The song was used extensively in the frontlines by the Nigerian Army during the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970). It was also popular in some Nigerian schools as a marching song in the 1970s and 1980s. The Nigerian Army Band, The Mercuries, based in Kaduna also did a cover of this song in the 1970s on live television appearances.
The song is still used today almost everywhere in Africa by soldiers, policemen, boy scouts, sportsmen, and their supporters, usually during training or for rallying. It is also widely used in schools throughout the continent especially in Cameroon as a marching song and almost everyone in the country knows the chorus of the song by heart. The song was also popular in Colombia where it was known as “The Military” and brought to the country by West African DJs in Cartagena.
The men in the group often dressed in military uniforms, wearing pith helmets and stuffing their clothes with pillows to appear like they had swollen butts from riding the train and fat stomachs from eating too much. The song, music historianssay, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. The rest is Cameroonian slang and jargon from the soldiers during the war.
According to Jean Paul Zé Bella, the lead singer of Golden Sounds, the chorus came from Cameroonian “sharpshooters who had created a slang for better communication between them during the Second World War”. They copied this fast pace in the first arrangements of the song. They sang the song together for freedom in Africa.
The lyrics, which are in a Central African language called Fang, read like this:
Tsa mina mina eh eh, Waka waka eh eh, Tsa mina mina zangalewa Ana wam ah ah
Zambo eh eh, Zambo eh eh
Tsa mina mina zangalewa
Wana wa ah ah