Good day to all. Today I bring you a selection of tunes that reflects the cross-pollination of Africa and Cuba. Music that injects Afro into Cuban and Cuba into Africa. Danzón, Son, Cuban jazz, Rumba, Boogaloo, Salsa, Mambo;  those rhythms came from the African continent in the first place. Large numbers of African slaves and European (mostly Spanish) immigrants came to Cuba and brought their own forms of music to the island.

In the 50’s and 60’s New York was the birthplace of Boogaloo (or Bugalu) and Mambo  and other Afro-Cuban inspired rhythms like Salsa. Latin youth culture flourished during those days and the trends and styles of the barrios of  downtown Bronx and Spanish Harlem were eagerly copied by African musicians on the other side of the ocean. Sort of a global village in fact. Africa dissolved Latin rhythms within it’s own music,  so the circle was round.

I start this selection with a rare album, released originally in France on African Records in 1970, that features the talents of Le Grand Kalle, Don Gonzalo and Manu Dibango as L’ African Team.


‘Africa Boogaloo’ and ‘Boogaloo la Fontaine’ are two tracks from this album that could easily have been recorded for Fania or Tico but were made in Africa. On both tracks Manu Dibango & Kalle sing and play, the groove is tight and mesmerizing.

L’African Team -African Boogaloo

L’African Team -Boogaloo La Fontaine

Of all African musicians Manu Dibango surely must have been one of the most succesful and busiest working showman around the globe. He can be heard with the Fania All Stars on an album that was recorded in New York’s Yankee Stadium on August 24th, 1973. The event was a concert, organised by Fania Records under the title Nuestra Cosa -best translated as ‘Our Latin Thing’. Forty thousand souls, mostly from the barrios of Manhattan and the Bronx, turned to welcome Mongo Santamaria’s Septet, El Gran Combo from Puerto Rico and the Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango. Although the New York concert ended prematurely due to chaos and riots caused by the public’s enthousiasm, the track ‘Soul Makossa’ was re-recorded during another concert by the same line-up in San Juan. Hear Manu Dibango introducing his big hit ‘Soul Makossa’ to an ecstatic crowd….

Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango -Soul Makossa

Ray Barretto needs no further introduction. His musical career spans many decades and he was without a doubt one of the great Latin musicians who is widely credited as the godfather of Latin Jazz. In 1960, Barretto was a house musician for the Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside labels. New York had become the center of Latin music in the United States and a style called “Charanga” was the Latin music craze of the time. He never forgot the African roots of his music as ‘Abidjan Revisited’ proves, a slice of uptempo conga madness and flute while Manu Dibango is namechecked in the lyrics.

Ray Barretto -Abidjan Revisited

In the year 2009 African Boogaloo was being re-discovered by Europeans and Africans alike. The excellent compilation ‘Africa Boogaloo’, with stunning artwork proves just that. This package presents a range of tracks from the 50s through the 70s – some of the earliest African interpretations of Latin styles that blend with grooves like Congolese Rumba; AFRO & F.U.N.K.Y. Latin Jazz.

Titles include “A Moins Que Namikosa” by Orchestra OK Jazz, “Rampa Rampa” by Orchestre Yaya Mas, “Quiero Wapacha” by Charles Lembe, “Ven Y Ven Y Ven” by Orchestre OK Jazz, “Vamos A Bailar” by Rio Band, “Guantanamo” by Laba Sosseh, “On Verra Ca” by Orchestre Baobab, “Mi Guajeo” by Orchestre N’Guewel, “N’Niyo” by Amara Toure, “Il N’Est Jamais Trop Tard” by Pierre Tchana & Orchestre Poly Rhythmo, “Africa Boogaloo” by Le Grande Kalle with Don Gonzalo & Manu Dibango and “Adigbedoto” by Gnonnas Pedro.

The best news is that most of the selections come from albums or CD’s that are still available! Or have been re-issued with new packages and liner notes. Click the titles to see where you can purchase this great music. Caliente!

Recommended Listening

Africa Boogaloo – The Latinization Of West Africa-Various Artists HJRCD41 (Honest John’s 2009)

Le Grand Kalle and l’African Team (Sonod 1999)

Fania All Stars -Latin Soul Rock (Fania SLP 00470)

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