If Cameroon is sometimes
called "the hinge of Africa," situated at the point where
the Atlantic coast of Africa takes an abrupt western turn towards
the new world, then the music of Henri Dikongué might be
considered the oil that keeps that hinge swinging freely between
Not your typical African musician,
Dikongué mutes the rhythm in his music, letting his songwriting
and composing take center stage, with a mini-orchestra creating
a rich backdrop. Contributing musicians include Manu Dibango on
saxophone and Dikongués cousin Catherine Renoir again
adding vocals, as on his previous two albums. The resulting music
is smooth, sometimes evoking more of France than West Africanot
surprising, since Dikongué resides in Paris. Elements of
jazz intertwine with accordian riffs and intricate bass work and
even an ocarina that sounds for all the world like Andean pan-pipes.
Underlying the sweet sounds, however,
lies a fiery social criticism. The CDs title, Mota Bobe,
translates as "Hypocrisy," and Dikongué denounces
this and other social and political woes in stinging lyrics, singing
alternately in French, Duala, and Lingala. In "Clone"
he takes on conformity: "Our differences are being wiped out/No
more individuality/No more questions asked/Alls well that
ends well/I am a clone and I am proud of it."
Like Zimbabwes Thomas Mapfumo
and Nigerias Fela Kuti, Dikongué cloaks his social
criticism in eminently listenable music. From the reggae influence
on "Non Retour" (no return), to the African groove of
"Buna Te" (each day), to the jazz piano on Ongele
(remember), these are social-studies lectures youll want to
hear over and over again.