It was only last Tuesday that the Afro/World Jazz loving and Cameroonian communities in London were buzzing with a certain high energy of expectation and anxiety as legendary "Soul Makossa" king and proud Team 237 hero Manu Dibango was due to perform at the Barbican.
We were unable to attend but don't fret, say, have we got news for you?! Yes we have!! We asked a few attendees to give us their impression of the show and here is our first review below by writer, culture enthusiast Ngum Ngafor.
AN EVENING WITH A NATIONAL TREASURE
Not even the madness of Transport For London could come between me and my date of the year! After unnerving negotiations around delayed train lines, I got to London's Barbican concert hall in time for Muntu Valdo's amazing opening performance for the legendary Manu Dibango's 80 birthday gig.
If you haven't seen Muntu yet, think one man bad with the command of a wicked ensemble. Some have even compared him to Bob Dylan! I can see how. He was bringing down that harmonica folkiness down with a unique Duala quintessence and the audience drenched in it! There was even time for a humorous demo on real time loop recording.
Muntu offered several delights from albums “Gods and Devils” and “The One and the Many” but 'Dimala' (we will go) remains the most lingering. And what do you know? It's the track that first caught Manu Dibango's attention.
For a mega star, Papa Manu seems hardly hot on airs. In fact, with a 9-piece- band in tow, he stepped onto the stage with the cool of a man walking into his living room.
Opening salvo "Douala Serenade" was clearly a statement of intent and we fell for it. "Soir Au Village" may have opened magic doors into the simple delights of rural life. But this wasn't going to be just another groovy, sit down affair!
From makossa to funk, jazz, bendskin, reggae and classic rhumba, Manu had his audience rump shaking and foot stumping. There was even some outright crazy dancing too lol! But the highlight of the night for me had to be Manu's performance of 70's mega hit "Big Blow" with British Jazz great Courteney Pine. L-a-w-d! The sax talk between them was an exquisite assault on every single sense!
Deciding the setlist for a Manu concert must be a nightmare so while I'd have liked to hear favourites like “Kango” and “Okoh”, I won't hold their absence against anyone and what's more? With its unmistakable stutter and evergreen sound, another wicked arrangement of "Soul Makossa" was just the closing high we needed.
Energetic, playful and way beyond seasoned, one gets a feeling Manu Dibango has not just mellowed with age but that he also stopped thinking of music as work decades ago. And did I mention he looks F-I-T!
Yes you just did!! Pheewww...what a review!! Takes us back to centre stage doesn't it?
Many thanks to Ngum for her thoughts. Follow her on Twitter @NgumNgafor