Cameroon born and raised saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Ribouem launched his musical career in the 80s, playing in nightclubs in the city of Douala, where he also worked as a sound engineer. He later performed concerts all around his home country and for more than two years shared the stage of the “Ebony Dream” with renowned jazz bassist Richard Bona. In the early 90s, Ribouem moved to Benin, West Africa, where he became involved in the local music scene and played with, among others, Lionel Loueké, who later worked with Herbie Hancock. Later, a Lebanese musician named Youssef Fares took him on a tour of neighboring countries, where Ribouem learned more about Arabian music, rhythms and harmonies; he subsequently moved to Lomé, the capital of the Togolese Republic (Togo), where he still lives.
Upon moving there, Ribouem befriended a popular Togolese singer named Julie Akofa Akoussa and the two performed together and planned to record songs; he even took over the musical arrangements of her band. Julie passed away in 2007 in Paris before any significant recording could be done, although a few analogic recordings were left behind. In the meantime, “Ribs” met an Australian producer, Kate Jenkins, who convinced him to record his own project. He had done a few recordings earlier but the work on them was partial, improvised and fragmented—not ready for professional presentation. Bridge, the album he recorded in 2001 in Ghana, represents a giant step in his professional career; its vibe was a synthesis of jazz and African traditional influences. While only 2,000 physical units were pressed and there was no digital distribution, Bridge received a strong buzz in West Africa and earned him an invitation to “Jazz a Ouaga”, Burkina’s jazz festival, in 2002.
In 2008, Ribouem became friends with Valery Renault, who came to Lomé to teach French. Their friendship blossomed into a creative musical relationship and early in 2011 they began working on a project that became Ribouem’s Tribute to Julie Akofa Akoussa, re-recording the older material digitally and mastering it. Renault has since convinced Ribouem that he had to record another album of his own, which is currently in production. Just before Renault moved back to New York (the two work back and forth with digital files), “Ribs” set up a new band with local musicians. The “New Ribs Jazz Band” played three venues in June 2011: the French Cultural center (CCF) in Lomé, Togo, (CCF) in Cotonou, Benin and at the “Alliance Francaise” in Accra, Ghana.