Electric Africa

Manu Dibango

Tidal Waves Music, 2018


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


A Cameroon artist who plays both saxophone and vibraphone, Manu Dibango has released albums in every decade since the '60s, and he often combines jazz and funk with his traditional African music roots. Always unpredictable, Dibango brings instruments as seemingly incompatible as synth and kora and ngoni alongside guitars to this classic recording. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Out of print for years now and back on vinyl for the first time since its release date in 1985, Electric Africa is reborn here. It documents a thriving time of Dibango's esteemed career when he was one of the world's most influential African musicians. Together with Herbie Hancock, Mory Kante, and Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic, Talking Heads), among others, lending a hand on instruments,  producer extraordinaire Bill Laswell guides the party that is Dibango's inventive vision.

“Pata Piya” gets the listen off to a beat and dance friendly setting, where brass and unique percussion complement the very worldly affair, and the dueling synth from three of the players adds greatly to the equation. “Electric Africa” follows with an easy going vibe of acute melodies and funk-filled ideas as female backing vocals leave a big impression, as does the electric piano solo from Hancock. At over 10 minutes, the highlight track never out welcomes its stay, keeping the listener enthralled from beginning to end.

Side B keeps the creativity high, as “Echos Beti” gets the party started with multiple voices and strategic trumpets, while “L'arbre A Palabres” exits the record soft and dreamy, where a jazz-like quality invades the cultured, tropical atmosphere.

An extremely limited reissue at just 500 copies and even on blue wax, this Afro-funk classic sounds just as stylish, relevant, and necessary as it did in 1985. While casual fans may cite Dibango's 1972 pop hit “Soul Makossa” as his peak, among diehard fans, it's certainly no surprise that Electric Avenue is largely considered Dibango's best work. After spinning this LP a couple of times, it's hard to disagree with that.

Rating: A-

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