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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Manu Dibango Parties at House of Blues

August 26, 1994|ELENA OUMANO

"A bit fatigue ," commented an audience member after Manu Dibango strolled onstage at the House of Blues Wednesday, blowing his saxophone over his band's laid-back, jazzy noodlings. But the funkmeister from Cameroon was just pacing himself. By the third number, an up-tempo Senegalese reggae tune, Dibango and his Pan-African band had built up a solid head of steam, and the dance floor was packed.

It's been 22 years since Dibango's Afro-disco single "Soul Makossa" was a U.S. hit. Wednesday's benefit concert for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital--also featuring a lackluster performance from South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and his new band from Cape Town--proved that while the Paris-based Dibango may no longer be the intrepid musical adventurer he once was, he still throws a great party.

Without the constellation of African stars (Youssou N'Dour, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, et al.) whose vocals and songs receive the Dibango treatment in his latest album, "Wakafrika," Dibango drew mostly on his own wealth of material to deliver in full on his stated promise to take the audience on a musical tour of Africa. His deep bass rap-chants seemed, as always, to bubble up from the Earth's core, and his two singers contributed sweet, if not soaring, harmonies, particularly on the evening's set-pieces--a rollicking interpretation of Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata" and an enthusiastically received reinvention of "Soul Makossa."

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