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Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Soul Makossa"

Manu Dibango - "Soul Makossa" (1972)

/ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa/  Yeah, you know that lyric? It's from this track.

Disco, and therefore a lot of dance music since then owes much to this track's beat. As the story goes, a DJ named David Mancuso (now credited as the founder of the modern concept of the non-commercial house party) found this single in a small Brooklyn record shop and began spinning it at his parties in 1972. Word spread quickly.

Every beat a hit on the high hat with perfect almost mechanical timing and a heavy funk bass beat behind it was new. James Brown had started it and by the early 70s, George Clinton and Sly and the Family Stone had been bringing the funky bass driven music into the mainstream for a few years, but the high hat driving every beat relentlessly pushed the music into a new genre. The other thing this track did was continue the trend of live musicians playing over dance style beats. This lead to acts like KC and the Sunshine Band and Chic having huge popularity in the disco era.

Manu Dibango is a saxophone player from Cameroon. He played the wildly popular style of music known as Makossa. Rooted in the Soukous dance tradition found in Belgian Congo and French Congo, Makossa added bass and horns to the traditional "shake music" Makossa means twisting dance and Dibango was such a huge fan that he wanted everyone to hear it. He recorded "Soul Makossa" in 1972 hoping people would hear it, but never realizing that he was creating a classic that is it's own "Rock around the Clock" popularizing the style, and the name of the genre in one go.

As for the lyrics in the famous refrain, it's like his saying "rock rock r-r-r-rock rock" but it's Makossa. That line was picked up by Michael Jackson in his 1982 hit "Wanna Be Startin' Something" off of mega platinum album Thriller. Because of his enormous popularity, and the popularity of the original track as well, the line has found its way into man other hits including songs by Kool Mo Dee, A Tribe Called Quest, Bloodhound Gang, Fugees, Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Childish Gambino.

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