No review of a Manu Dibango album is complete without the now clichéd reference to "Soul Makossa." Dibango fused jazz and African rhythms, with his funky saxophone to produce a single that launched his career worldwide. The record climbed global charts, including American popular music-in 1973 no less-serving as another milestone for African music. To some "Soul Makossa" defined the concept of world music. It also serves as a benchmark for Dibango's later works. Even the tepid remake of the song on his Wakafrica CD cannot compare to the original in its raw energy.
On Mboa' Su, the 67-year-old Manu Dibango returns to his musical roots, back to the night clubs of Cameroon, returning to the youthful energy that lives timelessly on his older recordings. Part of his success is due in part to a studio full of young African musicians, that give his direction a fresh interpretation. Although Dibango crosses nicely to Afro-Cuban style, as on "Maya Ma Bobe," or American gospel, like "Sango Yesu Cristo," he feels right at home with Franklin Boukaka's "Aye Africa," or "Weya Mouna." His tribute to the late Fela Kuti, "Big Blow," is respectful, accurate, and fun.
While Dibango could easily rest on the success of his past works, he continues to earn respect by re-launching his career in new directions. This voyage home shows that the old master never lost his way. - Wayne Whitwam
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