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Afriçan Woodoo

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Album Review

There are dozens of compilations of music by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, one of the great globetrotters in world music, who brought the sound of his trademark “Soul Makossa“ (that had little actual makossa in it) to Europe, the United States, Asia, and beyond. He has recorded with everyone from Sly & Robbie to Fela Kuti to Don Cherry. He has been recording since the 1960s, and criss-crossing the globe since 1972. That said, of all the compilations out there, this one is unique. First of all, its 17 tracks are all previously unreleased. Secondly, recorded in both France and in New York, the music contained herein was written and recorded for soundtracks and library recordings; meaning, of course, that apart from cinema, this music appeared in television programs and in commercial radio and television advertising. The list of musicians and complete discographical information is unavailable, but the French Fremaux & Associes imprint that compiled these sides has done an admirable job of getting Dibango to go into his memory banks and offer at least partial details. All of these tracks were cut between 1971 and 1975. The French recordings were easier because they contained players from his Parisian band: Jacques Bolognesi, Ivan Julien, François Jeanneau, and Slim Pezinhere. The sides recorded in New York contained guest musicians that were all jazz superstars, including drummer Tony Williams, bassist Buster Williams, and pianist Cedar Walton. Not surprisingly, the sounds here are of a wide variety, they are not only appealing, but stellar. The styles range from the Afro-beat sounds in “Lagos Go Slow,” to the funky, African jazz of “Da Bush a Bush,” to the Gato Barbieri-influenced Afro-Cuban jazz funk in “Blowin’ Western Mind,” to straight-up exotica funk on “Aphrodite Shake.” This set offers the many sides of one of Africa’s and the world’s most diverse musicians at his very best. Anyone who’s ever been interested in Dibango’s music will want this set. There are liners by Benjamin Goldstein, Jacques Denis, and Patrick Fremaux, and though they hold less actual historical information than the music fanatic would necessarily desire, they are aesthetically and culturally informative. In true label fashion, this set is attractively packaged and competitively priced.


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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