...well worth seeking out.
Paul Sullivan 2007-11-23
Bangui-born Bibi Tanga is a self-proclaimed devotee of the everlasting spirit of black music luminaries such as Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Sly Stone and Fela Kuti. As a teenager growing up in France, he learned to play a range of instruments – guitar, sax, bass – and developed a vocal prowess that allows him to sing, chant and story-tell with great confidence and vivid charm. He can even turn his feet to tap-dancing, should the need arise.
This Renaissance man approach has served Tanga well on previous afro-funk projects with the Malka Family. But he has found an even closer kindred spirit in trail-blazing French DJ/producer, Le Professeur Inlassable (the untiring professor), the man behind 2004's genre-blending "Leçon Numéro Un (Lesson Number One)".
On "Yellow Gauze", Le Professeur, heavily interested in sound design and sonic textures, creates a shape-shifting backdrop of jazz, funk, afro, Gospel and cinematic soul that provides the perfect support for Biba's laid-back half-spoken, half-sung vocal style.
Unfolding less like a conventional album with hooks, bridges and verses, than a mellifluous, cinematic soundtrack, Le Professeur ensures his beats are throbbing, his grooves are slick and his strings and piano lines swell with filmic emotion. He then peppers the overall mix with subtle discordance and hypnotic repetition to create an impression of abstract cosmic psychedelia.
Tanga's confidence and versatility allows him to respond to this undulating soundtrack in creative ways, ad-libbing with understated chants and stream-of-consciousness lyrics (some in Sangho language), unleashing Mayfield-esque soul falsettos, and indulging in Lost Poets-style Afro-poetry - sometimes in English, occasionally in French.
While some of the tracks meander a little, songs like the hip hop led "Groovyland", (where Tanga name-checks heroes like James Brown and Cab Calloway), the funk-heavy "Wade In The Water", and the beautifully swirling title track, are all compellingly original and well-defined. The wealth of interesting sonic detail helps make the project the kind of vivid, 21st century 'afro-melange' well worth seeking out.