There are so many anthologies and best of albums featuring Manu Dibango that it is hard to see why the world needs another one but I think Rough Guides may have just found a way to slip in one more.
The unique selling point of The Rough Guide To Manu Dibango is that this is a selection of tracks chosen by Manu himself to illustrate his progression as a jazz musician as much as anything else. Interestingly, his most famous track Soul Makossa is here only in the ghost form of part of a medley called Makossa Blow — was that deliberate or is it about the licensing?
“People who are curious search for sounds… Your curiosity can be limited by your environment or you can expand it to take in things from outside; a bigger curiosity for a bigger world… The musician moves in these circles, but he moves to break out of his limits.”
Manu has chosen tracks that range in time from 1966’s easy charmer Ngolowak to a clutch from 1992 (representing one of his many renaissances in the form of Négropolitaines).
He has also chosen songs representing his abilities as a multi instrumentalist (he is a talented vibes and marimba player as well as a sax man). Unsurprisingly for an inveterate traveler who has lived on several continents, there is a dazzling array of stylistic influences in Manu’s work but whatever he plays there are two key themes an ‘afrocentrism’ in approach and a jazz sensibility in execution. For me the highlight of the album is the wonderfully urbane jazz number Baobab Sunset — it captures Manu’s jazz heart with dashes of Africa thrown in for good measure. On a similar tip but separated by almost two decades, is the densely layered Négropolitaines.
This is an album that grows on you after repeated listening and if you already have some of Manu’s more trademark funky sax stuff, this is an ideal companion to illustrate the range and complexity of Cameroon’s most famous son.
1 Ngolowake (1966) 3:56
2 Miango Ma Tumba (1983) 6:06
3 Miss Cavacha (1977) 6:06
4 Nature Boy (1980) 4:21
5 Mi Niya (1977) 5:12
6 Oa Na Mba (1966) 3:46
7 Mouna Pola (1982) 5:11
8 Baobab Sunset (1976) 6:56
9 Super Kumba (1974) 8:00
10 Bayam Sellam (1976) 5:41
11 Camp Yabassi Echoes (1983) 4:13
12 Négropolitaines (1992) 7:18
13 Makossa Blow (1992) 10:10
Link: World Music Network