Manu Dibango began with an announcement in broken English. "I'm still as in love with music as 50 years before," he proclaimed, and that ought to have marked the start of a classic concert. He is, after all, an undisputed legend for followers of anything from world music to jazz, funk and the whole host of other styles that have taken his fancy over the years. Now 73, he was back in London to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of his life as a professional musician and the launch of a new live CD and DVD, Lion of Africa, recorded in this same hall back in the autumn of 2004. The album of that last Barbican show, which featured special guests including Baaba Maal and Courtney Pine, showed that it was a patchy but often rousing occasion.
This latest concert, which featured no special guests, was merely patchy. It was a pleasant, breezy and thoroughly professional show that demonstrated Dibango's range of styles, but which switched constantly between the almost impressive and the gently soporific, often within the same song. It sounded at times as if a bunch of very classy musicians were having fun on stage, but weren't bothering too much about their audience. As for Manu Dibango himself, he clearly enjoyed himself, but never made this seem like a special occasion. A charming, cool, and (considering his age) remarkably sprightly figure with a bald pate and dark glasses, he swapped between saxophone, marimba and vocals almost as often as his music switched styles. He is famous for being unpredictable, so it was perhaps to be expected that only three of the songs he performed appear on the new album, and these of course included his signature tune, Soul Makossa. The variety was impressive - but he still acted like a great musician on autopilot. Read More
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