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Waka Juju

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Album Review

In 1982 Dibango was pretty far from both Cameroon's traditional music and his modern version of it, in which he used rock organs and a heavy beat. Waka Juju is a jazzy record with clear fusion tendencies (even if African fusion was usually less chromatic than its European or American counterparts during the '80s), more preserved soul elements, and, of course, more drums. This is a style that Dibango masters well, and the result is a record more suited for the lounge than for the dancefloor. As expected, the arrangements are elegant and the musicians highly competent, but at times the slick production comes in conflict with the rhythm, like when silly wave sounds and soft singing almost neutralize the beat of "Douala Serenade." The strongest tracks on this record, and the strongest records by Dibango, are the ones where the rhythm is the least obscured and where the horns work together with it, not against it. The title track starts off pretty intensely (though almost losing it in fusion harmonies), as do the tracks ending both sides. "Africa Boogie" reminds of Dibango's early-'70s records, but isn't as daring, and "Manga-Bolo" is joyful Afro-pop, with saxophone riffs over the light skipping rhythm. This is a good work of world fusion, with fusion seen as both a generic and a cultural term, but it is not one of Dibango's most interesting albums, or the album to buy if you're looking for dance tracks. ~ Lars Lovén, Rovi


Born: 10 February 1934 in Cameroon

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Dibango is Cameroon's, and perhaps Africa's, best-known jazz saxophonist. Starting in the 1950s, he became a globe-trotting musician, living and performing in France, Belgium, Jamaica, Zaire, and Cote d'Ivoire, as well as in Cameroon. In 1960, Dibango was one of the founding members of the Zairean band African Jazz, with whom he spent five years. World attention came to Dibango with the release in 1972 of Soul Makossa, a work that actually had precious little of the makossa sound in it, and scored...
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Waka Juju, Manu Dibango
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