An Afro-jazz saxophonist whose 40-year career has fluctuated with the times, Cameroon's Manu Dibango is still known primarily for "Soul Makossa," a funky bit of African pop that went top 10 in 1972. But while the makossa a folk dance from the Cameroon port city of Douala may have been Dibango's original bread and butter, an appetite for rhythmic diversity has informed his career.
The Paris-recorded Mboa' Su distills Dibango's influences and experiences an early apprenticeship in the Congo with Joseph "Le Grand Kalle" Kabasele's Africa Jazz ensemble, jam sessions with salsa's Fania All-Stars and Afro-dub riddim experiments with Jamaica's Sly and Robbie into a panglobal party of ecstatic proportions.
Whether infusing the giddy highlife exaltation of "Maya Ma Bobe" (RealAudido excerpt) with Mario Canonge's Cuban-esque piano runs, or leading his Fela Kuti Afro-beat tribute "Big Blow/Abele Mood" (RealAudio excerpt) into time-altering jazz breaks, Dibango effortlessly blends a planet's worth of musical colors into a fusion that begs for a better term to describe it.
His tenor saxophone floats rather than solos, mirroring Noel Ekwabi's bouncing bass and Jerry Malekani's sprightly rhythm guitar, particularly on the joyous makossa tune "Oh! Koh!" (RealAudio excerpt). Throughout the disc, Dibango maintains a firm, guiding hand over the proceedings via his basso profundo spoken singing.
When all is sung and done, Mboa' Su makes a convincing argument for one-world dance music.