Official Biography (courtesy of Bibi Tanga)
Born in Paris in 1969, Bienvenu (Bibi) Tanga didn't 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 father's diplomatic postings.
After a coup d'etat in the Central African Republic , his father turned from diplomat to refugee, and Bibi's 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 a 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 C Congo , Fela Kuti from Nigeria , Bembeya Jazz from Guinea ... I grew up on a 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. It's all like a big library to me. I feel like there's this heritage of black music from around the world, and I'm the heir to it."
But Bibi's musical education didn't 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. "It's like having drums on your feet".
All those influences came together in 2000, with Bibi's debut. Taking its name from one of his short stories (did we mention he wrote fiction, too?), Le vent qui soufflé was a collaboration with legendary French funk collective Malka Family that marked Bibi for bigger things.
Bibi Tanga's 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 Tanga's sound, recreating lost musical sound scapes that invoke echoes of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. For Dunya, Le Professeur even pulls samples from National Geographic Emerging Explorer Josh Ponte's 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 it's both a vivid snapshot of the present moment in global music and a roadmap to the future. Together with Bibi's 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 cosmo- politan trans-Atlantic grooves. "We call the band The Selenites because that's 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 big inspiration for
me, I'm definitely a romantic that way - but my music is also rooted firmly on the ground."