Live review: Celtic Connections: Manu Dibango, Debandemba at The Old Fruitmarket, 26/1/14

manu-dibangoDebandemba (it means “The Big Family”) is a five-piece with members from Burkino Faso, Cameroon and Mali based in Paris, for whom musical boundaries seem to hold no meaning.

They move from blues to flamenco guitar with jazzy keys and a high-worn bass knocking out solos, all with a natural afro-beat twist.


Malian singer Mohamed Diab spins around and beckons the crowd, asking us to mimic his moves, wave and clap along.

Guitarist Abdoulaye Traoré, responsible for writing their songs, knows how to reprise an ending and their boundless enthusiasm gets the crowd suitably warmed up for the main event.

Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, is exceedingly sprightly for his 80 years.

An important figure in African music since the 1970s, he has played with Fela Kuti, Sly & Robbie and Herbie Hancock to name but a few.

Tonight he starts playing from the wings as his band assemble on stage.

After an unfashionable start – too much electric piano and bass face, the sort of thing ruined forever by bad acid jazz clubs – the band loosen up and produce the best sort of rump shaking funky afro-beat.

There’s not really anything like this in Scottish music and that is the beauty of Celtic Connections.

There comes a time when even a cynical critic has to let the groove take over and stop worrying about how to describe the music.

A room full of locals let their hips do the talking, and watching skinny Scotsmen trying to emulate the fabulous moves of the backing singers provides added entertainment.

The concrete floor of the Fruitmarket takes its toll on the knees but ‘Soul Makossa’, Dibango’s biggest and most emulated hit, could keep going all night.

For all his 80 years, Dibango looks like he’s barely broken a sweat.

Jazz is clearly good for you!

Words: Lucy Brouwer


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