Bibi Tanga & The Selenites
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Bibi Tanga & The Selenites

Paris, Île-de-France, France

Paris, Île-de-France, France
Band World Funk


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2007 / Album Yellow Gauze (L'inlassable disque)
2010 / Album Dunya (National Geographic)



Born in Paris in 1969, Bienvenu (Bibi) Tanga didnt see his homeland until the age of two, when his parents brought him home to Bangui, the dusty capital of the Central African Republic. Growing up, Bibi was one of ten children and spent his earliest years shuttling from Paris to Africa to Moscow to Washington, D.C. to Brooklyn, thanks to his fathers diplomatic postings.

After a coup detat in the Central African Republic, his father turned from diplomat to refugee, and Bibis family ended up living in the suburbs of Paris. I always felt like an outsider until I was 10 years old and my parents returned to Paris, Bibi explains. My mother supported us then, she worked as a nurse. It was hard, but I was happy to be in Paris, because it felt like home to me, I knew I could make real friends here.

And it was in France that his musical education began in earnest. My parents used to go to a lot of parties, he recalls, and my father had a lot of records. I grew up listening to everything. Franco and Tabu Ley from Congo, Fela Kuti from Nigeria, Bembeya Jazz from Guinea I grew up on all of that. American music, too James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix. And of course Bob Marley I love disco, funk, soul, reggae, R&B. Its all like a big library to me. I feel like theres this heritage of black music from around the world, and Im the heir to it.

But Bibis musical education didnt stop there. As a teenager growing up in Paris in the 80s, punk rock and new wave were inescapable from the French bands like Telephone to the British bands like The English Beat, The Specials and The Cure and they left an indelible impact on his music. As a teenager, Bibi learned guitar, bass and saxophone, and even took up tap dancing. The first instrument is your body, he says. Its like having drums on your feet.

All those influences came together in 2000, with Bibis debut. Taking its name from one of his short stories (did we mention he wrote fiction, too?), Le vent qui souffl was a collaboration with legendary French funk collective Malka Family that marked Bibi for bigger things.

Bibi Tangas first meeting with Professeur Inlassable came in 2003, and the duo found that they shared a passion for much of the same music. Three years later, Bibi Tanga recorded his second album, Yellow Gauze, under the supervision of Le Professeur in his Paris studio. It was like magic, remembers Bibi. He knew exactly what we wanted and exactly what he wanted and knew how to bring it out of us but also how to get out of the way!

Professeur Inlassable also brings his superb crate-diving skills to the table. A student of early decades of French popular music, Le Professeur adds a whole new dimension to Bibi Tangas sound, recreating lost musical soundscapes that invoke echoes of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. For Dunya, Le Professeur even pulls samples from National Geographic Emerging Explorer Josh Pontes Gabon: The Last Dance soundtrack.

The album takes its name from the word for existence in Sango, the language of the Central African Republic, and its both a vivid snapshot of the present moment in global music and a roadmap to the future. Together with Bibis band The Selenites Arthur Simonini on violin and keyboards, Rico Kerridge on guitar and Arnaud Biscay on drums Bibi and Le Professeur craft an otherworldly sound. Deftly juggling English, French and Sango lyrics, Bibi embeds hyper-literate, socially conscious messages about immigration, malnutrition, AIDs, slavery and more in some of the most danceable grooves this side of Gnarls Barkley. Dunya takes listeners on a wild, eclectic tour through the history and pre-history of funk, layering Afrobeat rhythms over electro-tinged soul and cosmopolitan trans-Atlantic grooves. We call the band The Selenites because thats the name of the people who lived on the dark side of the moon, from a story by H.G. Wells, Bibi explains. The moon is a bi