By Socrates Mbamalu*
When two seasoned African jazz musicians come together to play music, what you end up getting is an unforgettable musical experience. Mozambican saxophonist, Moreira Chonguiça collaborated with Cameroonian jazz maestro Manu Dibango in a 10 track album that took five years of discussions. The album titled M & M was released at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival on the 31st of March. The songs are a remarkable mix of well known old jazz standards with an African twist.
South Africa hosted the 18th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which ran from the 31st of March to the 1st of April, graced by music legends such as Manu Dibango known as the ‘Lion of Africa’, Moreira Chonguica, Kamasi Washington, Judith Sephuma and a host of other jazz stars.
According to a press statement, the two African saxophonists began discussing a list of songs in February 2015. In March 2015, Moreira flew to Paris to rehearse with Dibango’s band comprising of – Cameroonians, Jacques Conti Bilong on drums, Guy Nwongang on percussion, Justin Bowen on piano-keyboards and Guy Nsangué Akwa on bass guitar and Valérie Belinga on vocals. From France, Patrick Marie-Magdelaine on guitar, Isabel Gonzalez on vocals and two-time Grammy award-winner – for his work on Zawinal Syndicate – Paco Séry on sanza (more commonly known as the mbira).
Commenting on the 10 track album, the 83 year-old Dibango said, “The idea and perseverance for this album came from Moreira! We have been friends and collaborating for about 15 years. It is a very nice album, for which I took great pleasure in writing the arrangements, an African re-reading of the music made in the USA: the return of the “boat” on African soil”.
“I hope that those who listen to it will take as much pleasure as we did when it was recorded in Paris. We had sought, Moreira and myself, an atmosphere of peace and serenity where only music is the Master. So we invite you to listen, dance and vibrate body and soul,” Dibango added.
Commenting on the latest project, Moreira said in a statement, “I am honoured and humbled by the opportunity and circumstance created by “Papa Manu” to express, experiment, sometimes in a very disruptive manner, the rhythms and grooves that I have never heard; the chords and melodies that I never thought I would record; the meals, talks and jokes that we shared whilst building this historical storm”.
The album was recorded at Ferber Studios in Paris, France under engineer Guillaume DuJardin and was mastered at Milestone Studios in Cape Town, South Africa by Murray Anderson.
Chonguiça produced the album, he performs on alto and soprano saxophone and the arrangements with the exception of Track 1 and 10 are by Dibango who performs on the vibraphone and saxophones.
The songs on the 10 track album include, “Blues for Africa”, “Tutu”- a tribute to Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, Desmond Tutu, “Unga Hlupheki Nkata” – a soft romantic ballad, “Night and Day”, and “Nonto Sangoma”.