By Etienne Mainimo Mengnjo
His real name is Leonard Fonyuy Nsobunrika, but in the Cameroon Music Industry, he is popularly known as Mr. Leo. Born in Buea, Southwest Region of Cameroon, the native of Nso has read and applied the formula of what gives a Cameroonian artist wide appeal.
The artist is as gentle, as he is talented. Behind the microphone, he is a god. His fans describe him as a warrior in the music industry. His unique voice and style of singing as well as dancing has captured the minds of lovers of music.
On how he joined the music world, Mr Leo recounts, “I found myself in music back in 2007 in my secondary school days when l joined the choir. From then, I developed a love for music and decided to take it as a profession”. He said.
He furthered, “I got inspiration from artists like Richard Bona, Tiken Jah Fakoli, Budju Bangton, Demian Marley, and rock bands like Albas and the Cranberries.
In the studio, Mr. Leo says, “it goes very spiritual because the inspiration comes from within. It is the freest moment of my life.”
His hard work and steadfastness stood out in 2015 when he signed his first recording contract with Alpha Better Records. The same year, he released his first single, ‘E go Beta’ which was widely appreciated. In November 2015 rounding the year, he released his second single titled ‘On Va Gérer,’ a great success that catapulted him into prominence.
The success of these two singles opened doors in 2016 when Mr Leo received three prizes at the Balafon Music Awards, namely song of the year, revelation of the year and best male artist.
These prizes motivated him and a year later, he was nominated for the 2017 edition of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in Lagos, Nigeria, in the category of Best Male Artist from Central Africa.
Besides his nomination at the African Entertainment Awards in the United States in the category of best French-speaking artist and best male single category, for his hit song “Jamais Jamais’ released in 2017. He was designated Cameroon Ambassador of Itel Mobile brand the same year. Mr Leo has remained one of Cameroon’s most visible artists.
Mr Leo, in his career, has been accompanied by the likes of Wax Dey, Salatiel, X-Maleya, Locko, Magasco, Hiro, Fanicko and many others. He has released tracts like ‘Marry You’, ‘Je Suis Moi Comme Ça’, ‘Partout’. He also released a hit song titled ‘Je t’aime’, featuring Congolese singer, Hiro, among others.
Despite bagging home 15 awards from within and out of the country, the award-winning artist says he also encounters problems.
“My journey in the music world has not been smooth. My colleagues and I have faced so many challenges and we are still going through some. The Industry is poorly structured and low level of profiling of the artists with their arts by communicators are some of the challenges,” Mr. Leo said.
“The issue of fans embracing foreign music than ours is greatly affecting us. The simple reason why fans are doing that is because; the government hasn’t enacted laws to protect the sector.” He added.
Regardless of the challenges, Leonard Fonyuy Nsobunrika says, “We are working hard to create a better path for the next generation to continue because we can’t do it all. Cameroon has what it takes to be the best, but for it to happen, it has to be implemented in a good structure before you can see clear results.
“A good structure and a better orientation of the younger generation about the music for a start will be good,” he maintained.
With 62 tracks out and one album (Love Original), Mr. Leo says he is working on another album titled “The Lion of Africa” to be released soon. According to him, “The album is aimed at giving a picture of the African history and culture for the next generations to understand some untold stories.”
The 30-year-old Mr Leo is not only an artist, but he is also a computer engineer. He is a good footballer at the defensive position, a dancer and a painter. Mr. Leo sings in French, English, Pidgin, Francanglais and his mother tongue, Lamnso.