Bibi Tanga: Where Afropop Meets Walt Whitman | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Bibi Tanga: Where Afropop Meets Walt Whitman

Play associated audio

Bibi Tanga is a true musical globe-trotter. Born in the Central African Republic to a family of diplomats, he spent most of his life following his father around the world. But Tanga says his journey has helped him to incorporate diverse genres into funky, multilingual songs that tackle themes well-hidden behind groovy hooks. Together with his band the Selenites, he is now touring the U.S. in support of his new album 40 Degrees of Sunshine.

Tanga says the tour is a bit of a homecoming for him. He lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a brief period at the end of the 1970s, but perhaps more importantly, he says, American music has always been a source of inspiration for his own.

"My parents both, when we were young, they both [played] a record of Ella Jenkins'," Tanga says. "She's an American singer — she [was] doing all those Negro songs, spiritual songs and gospel. I was raised in it because my parents used to play this record every day, every morning before we would go to school."

The Cosmic Poet

But American folk music is far from the only influence on 40 Degrees of Sunshine. Tanga says the record also draws from Afrobeat, funk, French pop and transcendentalist poetry.

"My friend, Mr. Professeur Inlassable, got a lot of books in his studio, so when we're just playing music together, we have those books — if we want to sing we just take the book," Tanga says. "I just opened a book of poems [by] Walt Whitman and [when] I was reading it, it was like I was talking. They call him the cosmic poet, because the way he writes things, it's like when you were talking — like he was inside you."

Tanga says that jam session turned into "Poet of The Soul," a slinky, funky track whose lyrics borrow from Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

"Poet of The Soul" is one of a few songs on the album that Tanga sings in English. Others are in French and some, like "Banda A Gui Koua," are in Tanga's native Sangho.

"I express myself in Sangho when I'm talking with my mother, with my brothers and sisters — it comes naturally," he says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Jon Stewart's Replacement Is Unlikely Choice For 'The Daily Show'

"The Daily Show" replaces departing host Jon Stewart with South African comedian Trevor Noah. He is a relatively unknown comedian and an unlikely choice for the program.
NPR

Our Food-Safety System Is A Patchwork With Big Holes, Critics Say

More than a dozen federal agencies play a part in keeping food from making Americans sick. Critics say the system has gaps, and we'd all be safer if federal food safety efforts were under one roof.
WAMU 88.5

Q&A: Maryland State Sen. John Astle On 'Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day'

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill into law Monday evening declaring every March 30 "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day." WAMU spoke with Astle at his office in Annapolis.
NPR

Bringing Internet To The Far Corners Of The Earth

About 5 billion people are mostly or entirely disconnected from the Internet. So to capitalize on this opportunity, Google and Facebook have begun high-profile campaigns to connect the unconnected.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.