Afrobeat Culture Federator

MANU DIBANGO: 1960’s stepping into big time

Tuesday 15 November 2011 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

The ‘60’s on the African continent and the Diaspora Africa were years of hope for the fulfilment of the aspiration of a people subjected to more than five hundred years of slavery and colonialism. In the forefront of the struggle, were nationalist movements out to fern away years of ember with promises of a future full of light. However, only a few of the African leaders of this epoch realised the power of “music as a weapon” as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti did a decade after.

Patrice Lumunba, the assassinated father of Congo independence was one of the few African leaders aware as early as that time the power of music as a weapon. Arriving in Brussels for the famous round table conference for the independence of Congo, Lumunba brought in his “baggage” the maestros of Congolese Rumba music. At the head of these crème of Congolese musicians was Le Grand Kalle – Josef Kabasele.
Also part of the entourage was Brazzos who played the double-bass in all the famous hits of African Jazz. When one listens to the records of this period (45 rpm), indeed the sound was Marie-Jane (as the double-bas was called) and one can hear the sound of the wood which it was made of. Also in the group of versatile Congolese musicians of the famous OK Jazz and Africa Jazz respectively were: Dr. Nico, Dejo, Mujoss, Edo Clary and Brazzos.

For the first time in the colonial history of the Congo, these musicians had the opportunity to perform live in the Belgian capital in the famous Anges Noirs (Black Angels). The fruit, from the collaboration of these musicians was the all time popular hit record produced by Patrice Lumunba titled Independence Cha Cha - a song that would launch and eventually become an iron “spear head” for all Africa of the 60s. Unfortunately Lumunba never lived to witness the success of his initiative.

Lumunba’s initiative, also paved the way for Joseph Kabasele to record those hits that would later earn him the title Le Grand Kallé (the great Kabasele). Arriving in the Anges Noirs with a lot of musicians in his company, Kabasele was in search of a percussionist and a sax player. He was presented the club’s resident conga player – the Cuban percussionist Pepito Riesta who would later play in all those famous Congolese rumba hits of the ‘60s.

Another musician that would benefit from Le Grand Kallé’s musical exploits in the Belgian capital and step into big time was a young lad, who in his own words “a small handsome boy who effectively did not know how to knot his tie” but who composed and arranged the song titled Soma Loba and recorded with Kabasele and other Congo rumba maestros. The young lad in question is Manu Dibango, today one of the pioneers of the success of African music in the Western Hemisphere.

This is an extract from a live recording at the Paris Petit Journal Montparnasse, of Manu Dibango talking about his first “Step in-the-court of the greats” in a weekly radio program "Mara-boutique" with Robertito (Little Robert) broadcasted on Africa N°1.


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