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Continental shift

Parisienne-Afro musician Bibi Tanga, who juxtaposes sounds of Africa with French jazz, performs in city today.

music Updated: Feb 16, 2011 14:58 IST
Sharin Bhatti

The formerly colonised continent of Africa, especially the Ivory Coast, screams of remnants of French culture. The language, literature and even the music are a fusion of the native sound of African and European culture. African-born musician Bibi Tanga brought that culture back to Paris. And now, he is performing in the city today and tomorrow.

Singer, bassist and bandleader Tanga bridges the divide between the arty South Bank of the Siene and the gritty suburbs, where he grew up as an immigrant from the Central African Republic. Tanga blames his upbringing for his style of music, which is marked by sinuous bass lines and a wicked falsetto.

“My father had a lot of records. I grew up listening to everything — Franco, TPOK Jazz, and Tabu Ley from Congo, Fela Kuti from Nigeria and Bembeya Jazz from Guinea among others. Then there was James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. I love disco, funk, soul, reggae and R&B. When I met my band mates, I knew it was the right time to get on stage,” explains Tanga.

Bibi Tanga and The Selenites, which includes Arthur Simonini on violin and keyboards, Rico Kerridge on guitar and Arnaud Biscay on drums, sing in English, French and the native language of Central African Republic — Sango.

While Tanga says that he tries to infuse as much of his being ‘Parisienne’ in his music, the band still sings about things that influence his native continent. Their debut album Dunya, which literally means existence, talks about immigration, malnutrition, AIDS, slavery and other such issues.

There are songs on the album like ‘Be Africa…’, which talks about how, in his country, people are poor, but still have fun. “So I wanted to make the contrast between all the suffering, but still show that people still have joy in their hearts. This is why the song sounds so happy. There are a lot of funky grooves in our music. The sound is happy, but the lyrics hard-hitting,” says Tanga.
After having recently breached the American market and appreciated in Europe, does Tanga plan to take his music to his native land now? “Of course. I am working on getting a gig there,” he says.

Catch Bibi Tanga live at Blue Frog, today and tomorrow, 10 pm onwards. Entry Rs 300.