Bibi Tanga and the Selenites: Dunya

RIYL: Massive Attack, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown

Red flags go up whenever musical artists describe their music as having “no rules” – as Bibi Tanga does on his MySpace page. Tanga must know there are rules when recording music. If there weren’t, he would certainly have produced an anarchic stew of disparate noises like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. No, Tanga is a much more structured musician than that, and he and his sidekick (Professeur Inlassable – “Professor Tireless”) have put together a record that has “world traveler” stamped all over it – and having it on National Geographic’s record label reinforces that fact.

Dunya is trippy, funky, lyrics are sung in English, French, and Sango (the native language of the Central African Republic where Tanga’s family comes from), and there are loops the Professor weaves into the mix that give the songs modern flourishes. In short, Dunya isn’t only a mixture of funk, African rhythms, jazz and hip-hop, it’s also an album that takes us into space age chants about the moon – a recurring theme throughout the album.

One of strongest tracks is “Gospel Singers,” which starts off with a dissonant toy xylophone loop coupled with a kind of “Ah-Ah-Ah” sound reminiscent of the “Friday the 13th” opening title sequence. But all that dissonance gives way to Tanga’s high pitched, yet soulful vocals and some Sarah McLachlan-esque co-vocals that round out the song in a harmonious and passionate way.

Curiously, the least imaginative song on the album is the lead single “Red Wine” – with its laconic rhythm and equally listless vocal delivery that makes for a poor introduction to Tanga’s music. Songs that really show Tanga in top form are the ultra-funky “Swing Swing” and “Shine” – both channeling a kind of James Brown/Prince vibe. Also, I thought “Bonjour Monsieur Jean” was a gem with its neo-jazz/trip-hop pastiche of Parisian sounds nicely reflecting the years Tanga spent growing up in France.

Overall, Dunya is an album that will take a few listens to really “get” what Tanga is doing with the musical influences that have inspired him. Knowing that he was the son of a Central African Republic diplomat who lived in a number of countries, and he grew up on the steady diet of funk, new wave, hip-hop, indigenous African sounds and jazz, will give you an insight into where he’s trying to take the listener. He doesn’t always succeed in his endeavors at bringing parts of the world to the listener’s ear, but when he does, it’s as sublime as a full moon rising in the evening sky. (National Geographic 2010)

Bibi Tanga MySpace page_Click to Buy Dunya from Amazon


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