Bibi Tanga and The Selenites
(Nat Geo Music)
Dunya, the new album from Bibi Tanga and The Selenites, is a multifaceted collection of songs that touch on a variety of influences and worlds. Jazz, funk, broken beat, and African musics all appear throughout the album filtered through an intellectual Parisian sensibility. Singing in French, English and Sango (his mother tongue) Bibi Tanga puts his stamp on the future of funk and its global presence.
Born in Paris in 1969, bassist and vocalist Bibi Tanga traveled extensively throughout his childhood due to his father’s career as a diplomat. After a coup d’etat in his parents homeland, Central African Republic, ended his father’s international career, he settled in the suburbs of Paris at the age of ten. It was there that his musical education took shape.
“My father had a lot of records. I grew up listening to everything. Franco and Tabu Ley from Congo, Fela Kuti from Nigeria, Bembeya Jazz from Guinea, I grew up on all of that,” Bibi describes the music to which he was exposed during his youth, “American music, too – James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and of course Bob Marley. I love disco, funk, soul, reggae, R&B. It’s all like a big library to me. I feel like there’s this heritage of black music from around the world, and I’m the heir to it.”
Listening to Dunya, one can hear all of that and more. I feel a strong Prince presence throughout, both in Bibi’s voice, as well as in the general attitude and vibe. Certain tracks are more funk and less African, like “Swing Swing,” while some are a page ripped right out of Fela Kuti’s song book, like “Shine.”
My personal favorite track off the album is “Be Africa,” the album’s signature track in my opinion. It’s distinctly African while at the same time maintaining a signature Parisian attitude. The lyrics are in Sango with a hard driving bass line laid down over an electronic drum beat. Similar to the way Tony Allen incorporates electronic drums into his music, “Be Africa” forges a uniquely contemporary African identity.