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Review: Celtic Connections

Manu Dibango and Debademba

Manu Dibango and Debademba

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango is one of the pioneers of world music, having been the first African artist to have a single in the American Top 40, back in 1972. At the age of 80 he might have been expected to slow down, just a little, but here he was at Celtic Connections, with a steaming hot band, a recent album under his belt and looking and sounding in fine form.

First up, however, were West African band Debademba. These guys were a revelation. Centred on the outstanding talents of guitarist Abdoulaye Traoré and vocalist Mohamed Diaby, they absolutely tore the roof off of the Old Fruitmarket, with an incredible mix of afrobeat, blues and funk, that had the audience yelling for more.

Manu Dibango's six piece band preceded him on stage, setting up the sort of relaxed, jazz-funk groove which would characterise the first half of his set. The man himself, looking about half his actual age, strolled on presently, playing tasteful sax, every inch the elder statesman of African music. The set slipped by smoothly, the band producing the sort of laid-back, funky jazz, reminiscent of mid-period Crusaders. The pace picked up, though, as the band explored afrofunk, blues and latin-tinged dance beats, proving that they could rock out with the best of them.

His two singers had the crowd clapping, swaying and dancing to order and there was general bopping and grooving in all directions. Even your aged correspondent could not be prevented from joining in. The festival website described Dibango as a treat for heart, soul and feet and it was far from wrong.

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