Manu has recorded more than 40 albums and 800 songs in his career and still keeps up an extraordinary schedule touring worldwide. He will be joining Moreira’s band. Moreira is founder of the Morejazz festival and patron of the Eduardo Mondlane Music school in Maputo.
He has played the Cape Town International Jazz Festival three times before. He has also played as a guest artist for Najee, Manu Dibango and Allou April and in Jimmy Dludlu’s band.
Moreira said: “I am very happy that we are presenting this project in Africa first, at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the fourth biggest festival in the world and a home to me as well.”
Moreira and Manu met on Robben Island in 2000.
“Nelson Mandela was still alive. All the top artists were performing and that is where I met Manu in person. I knew him from his craft He is a person who speaks to me,” Moreira said.
Manu played on Moreira’s second album Citizen of the World, on a collaboration titled West South Side. It was the meeting of Mozambican and Cameroonian music seen through the lens of African jazz.
Moreira said: “In Africa, we did not have borders. People moved freely. If there were floods, people moved to places without floods. Look at jazz in the United States or the rhythms of Brazil and Cuba. All these things were brought by other people who moved and travelled around.”
In February 2015, Manu and Moreira began discussing a list of songs which were to be rehearsed and recorded in Paris the following month for a new release titled M & M. The re-recording of Manu’s 1973 hit Soul Makossa and Unga Hlupeki, composed by Fany Pfumo, highlight the two popular dance rhythms of the regions, Cameroonian Makossa and Mozambican Marrabenta.
American standards, like Night and Day, Take 5 and In a Sentimental Mood, were re-recorded as reference to the exchange jazz has facilitated between Africa and America.
Moreira said: “I am crying inside; I am a very blessed guy.
We are talking about Manu Dibango saxophone player. I am a young saxophone player. He is double my age and he has seen everything.”
Conversations in Maputo
The M & M collaboration is more than a performance and album launch, it is also a presentation. On April 3, Manu and Moreira travel to Maputo to host conversations.
“There is something that is missing in Africa. It is important to show the men behind the artists. You go to the show, fantastic – but who is the man?
“What is music? Music is the reflection of everything else you have been through. It doesn’t matter if you live in London, if you live in Istanbul, if you live in Accra, Lagos – art is the refection of everything,” Moreira said.
Reinforcing the relationship between education and culture is an approach Manu and Moreira have in common.
Manu has a radio show in Paris which promotes African musicians.
He is a humble and generous man. Born in Douala, Cameroon, he moved to Paris with his family at the age of 15. There he discovered jazz and the saxophone.
He created his own style of African jazz and has played on the biggest stages in the world.
He has lived all over the world, including Western and Central Africa, Jamaica and New York.
Moreira’s manager Lesley Wells said: “His work ethic is unbelievable and he is still touring and performing with the energy of a 30-year-old. “When you talk about Fela, Manu, Baaba Maal, Papa Noel, Papa Wemba, Mahotella Queens, the impact they caused continues to this day.
“We are only going to be people if we respect people. We are only going to respect people if we respect heritage. We are only going to respect heritage if we embrace culture. It is our responsibility to say to the world Africa matters, not with words, but with actions.
“The African continent hasn’t started yet. We’re starting. This is like those big planes the A380s that are taking off but it is not enough. We have to do it, we have to deliver, we have to take risks. And to take risks we have to know how to fail. And to fail we have to learn it’s a mistake and when we learn it’s a mistake we won’t do it again,” Moreira said.
“This is a process. One must not be negative. Constructive criticism is important. I am very patient; this thing does not happen overnight. It takes time. That is the message we take to the youth.”
7pm Friday, March 31 at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival Kippies stage: The Moreira Project, with Mark Fransman on keys, Angelo Syster on guitar, Tlale Makhene on percussion, Ronan Skillen on tablas, Helder Gonzaga on bass and Kevin Gibson on drums; featuring Manu Dibango and Moreira Chonguiça.
Maputo, April 3, press conference and an exclusive dinner – meet and greet with Manu and Moreira.
M & M album includes Cameroonians Jacques Conti Bilong on drums, Guy Nwongang on percussion, Justin Bowen on piano-keyboards, 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 Paco Séry on the mbira.
Morestar Entertainment have made three copies available to African Independent readers as a give-away. E-mail Lesley Wells [email protected]