Afro-Cuban: that term which set the world on fire, from rumba to boléro, mambo to cha-cha-cha, before salsa, that 70’s spicy sauce, took over from the others. But to speak truly, since the mists of times (of slavery), both Africa and Cuba aim to vamp that umbilical cord. The most recent example, CubAfrica, a record born from the reunion of a master from Africa and this very living institution from Cuba, during a show around Albi (in the south of France) where they were both headlining in spring 1996. Manu Dibango’s sax melted perfectly with the rural music of Eliadès Ochoa and his Cuarteto Patria, here’s the beginning of an idea.
Talking about Latino music, Manu Dibango has a history with it. First, during the early ’60s, from Douala to Abidjan and Paris, he was surrounded by as many Cuban tempos as afro, and a lot of descargas, this typical afro-Cuban jam sessions with a spicy jazzy touch, which were back in the circumstances back in the days. Later on, in the ’70s, invited in Puerto Rico by the Fania All-Stars, this dreamy salsa big band at its highest, Manu dressed his anthemic hit “Soul Makossa”, for a show (and then a record) of the anthology.
There was nothing more natural for him than diving again in the Cuban bath. This time, he crossed the sound barrier with this Cuarteto Patria, a standard combo in Cuban music, founded 60 years ago and handled by Eliadès Ochoa, this master of très the ancestral Cuban guitar, in 1978. He just achieved another magic meeting, the one of Buena Vista Social Club’s record, next to Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzalez and Ry Cooder.
In Paris, back from Albi, an idea started to tickle Manu, Eliadès and… Gilbert Castro, boss of Celluloïd-Mélodie. They high-fived each other, be agree on the repertoire and then get to Davout studio the day after. They tweak the arrangements right at the studio with the help of Ernesto “Tito” Puentes and Hughes de Courson, Lambarena’s producer.
In two days, everything’s almost ready. Jerry Malekani, Manu’s guitar player will add a few things on it.
CubAfrica is a seductive guided tour around the garden of Latino classics, with that Creole smell. Latinos but not only Cuban, but this record is also a walk toward Mexican Cielito Lindo or Cerezo Rosa, this french sweet made by André Claveau and spiced by Perez Prado.
A repertoire that even newcomers are able to hum, due to such a patrimonial status, spread by Cubans and their African partner in crime, round-shaping sounds for a spontaneous result: the black continent and the Caribbean island aren’t on the edge of losing the bond between them.