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The Very Best of Manu Dibango: Afro Soul Jazz from the Original Makossa Man

Manu Dibango

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Album Review

The dates of only a few of these 11 songs are given in the liner notes. It's certain that the 69 minutes of music spans the early '70s to the mid-'80s at the least, but beyond that, the chronology isn't laid out, leaving neophytes to wonder how much of his career this best-of surveys. Leaving that consideration aside, it's a reasonable representation of this important African musician's style, kicking off with his most famous song, "Soul Makossa" — the first Afrobeat song to become an international smash (making the U.S. Top Forty in 1973), and one that was also important in launching disco as a popular style. "Ekedi" and "Africadelic" sound like they also date from around the early '70s, and are invigorating mixes of jazz, soul, and African music — the mixture, of course, that helped launch African contemporary music into the global consciousness. Later outings from the late '70s have more of a disco flavor and are inferior to those earlier productions, though the bubbly African rhythms and synergy between different styles is still present. For "Electric Africa" in the mid-'80s, he collaborated with Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell, which might have given him some cred with certain audiences, but the song has a stiff electro-funk feel that's dated. Although this anthology illustrates the importance of Dibango's contributions, one wishes there was a more in-depth scoop of early progressive work along the lines of "Africadelic," the best track here.

Customer Reviews

Not a bad place to start

First of all, Manu Dibango does not play "Afrobeat". "Afrobeat" was a style of music created by Fela Kuti, and it is ignorant to refer to other Afro-funk as "Afrobeat" unless it is based on Fela's model. Soul Makossa, then is not "Afrobeat" but, rather, Makossa. Dibango's musical output is staggering, and to reduce a "best of" compilation to eleven tracks is not doing the man justice. The trend over the past five years has been to focus on African artists' more funk-inspired works, and perhaps that is part of the reason that Dibango's more jazzy side is neglected on this disc. There are certainly better Dibango compilations out there (check "Africa Soul" or "Africadelic"), but this album is by no means a bad place to start (just don't call it Afrobeat!).

Biography

Born: February 10, 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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The Very Best of Manu Dibango: Afro Soul Jazz from the Original Makossa Man, Manu Dibango
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