Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Ça Va Chouia - Manu Dibango

Legbamel Not-Pop

It always surprises me how little attention jazz master Manu Dibango’s 1994 album “Wakafrika” gets. I adore the thing and listen to it often. For a man credited with inventing makossa his reimagining of his own Soul Makossa seems to have gone under the radar for years. He’s got a beautiful version of Paul Simon’s Homeless on it, too, and Wimoweh with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Biko with Peter Gabriel.

But you know my weakness for French lyrics even when, as is the case here, the title of the song comprises 80% of the words. And so today I’m sharing with you Ça Va Chouia which means…I have no freaking idea. I know if I say “Comment ça va?” I'm asking, “How are you?” and "Ça va?" is a more casual, "How's it going?" but that's about it. Apparently chouia means "a little bit" so "A little bit of how's it going?" I dunno.

The whole song sounds vaguely Middle Eastern, but you can hear a lot of other influences as well. Dibango himself hails from Cameroon originally. His family moved to France when he was 15 and he’s traveled the world for decades incorporating the sounds he finds into his own music.

To me, this is the most accessible of his albums, the one non-jazz fans and people not wild about “world music” are most likely to enjoy. It’s also filled with great work and Manu Dibango’s deep, buttery voice as well as the work of other great musicians. Plus it’s got a really great album cover. How could it go wrong?

2 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    The literal translation of Chouia...is probably something like 'little bit' or 'morcel' . However, in French, Chou literally means cabbage, but is also used commonly to mean dear or darling, when referring to a person. So Chouia, is likely meant as an endearing term for his someone he refers to as 'little bit'.
    That's my two bit on little bit.

  2. Wow, thanks for that! From now on I'll imagine him calling his beloved "my little cabbage". :D

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