The earliest recorded music from Cameroon comes from the 1930s, when the most popular styles were imported rock music and French-style chanson. In Douala, the most-developed city in Cameroon, accordions and ambasse bey music were common, with performers like Lobe Lobe, Ebanda Manfred and Nelle Eyoum finding a local audience. Ekambi Brillant and the first major Cameroonian hit, "N'Gon Abo", set the stage for the development of makossa. Post-independence in 1960, a local variant on palm wine music called assiko was popular, especially Jean Bikoko and Dikoume Bernard.
The middle of the 20th century saw the popularization of a native folk music called bikutsi. Bikutsi is based on a war rhythm played with various rattles and drums and xylophone. Sung by women, bikutsi featured sexually explicit lyrics and songs about everyday problems. In a popularized form, bikutsi gained mainstream success in the 1950s. Anne-Marie Nzie was perhaps the most important of the early innovators The next bikutsi performer of legendary stature was Messi Me Nkonda Martin and his band, Los Camaroes, who added electric guitars and other new elements.
Later in the 1960s, modern makossa developed and became the most popular genre in Cameroon. Makossa is a type of funky dance music, best-known outside Africa for Manu Dibango, whose 1972 single "Soul Makossa" was an international hit. Outside of Africa, Dibango and makossa were only briefly popular, but the genre has produced several pan-African superstars through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Following Dibango, a wave of musicians electrified makossa in an attempt at making it more accessible outside of Cameroon. By the 1980s, makossa had moved to Paris and a new pop-makossa that fused elements of Antillean zouk. Prominent musicians from this period included Moni Bilé, Doleur, Bébé Manga, Ben Decca and Esa.
By the 1970s, bikutsi performers like Maurice Elanga, Les Veterans and Mbarga Soukous added brass instruments and found controversy over pornographic lyrics. Mama Ohandja also brought bikutsi to new audiences, especially in Europe. The following decade, however, saw Les Tetes Brulées surpass previous artists in international popularity, though their reaction at home was mixed. Many listeners did not like their mellow, almost easy listening-styled bikutsi. Cameroonian audiences preferred more roots-based performers like Jimmy Mvondo Mvelé and Uta Bella, both from Yaoundé. Vincent Nguini contributed to American superstar Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints, an influential world music album.
In the 1990s, both makossa and bikutsi declined in popularity as a new wave of genres entered mainstream audiences. These included Congolese-influenced new rumba and makossa-soukous, as well as more native forms like bantowbol, northern Cameroonian nganja (which had gained some popularity in the United Kingdom in the mid-80s) and an urban street music called bend-skin.