Practice makes perfect for African jazz greats Manu Dibango and Hugh Masekela

Hugh Mesakela (left) and Manu Dibango (right) perform during the 13th Mawazine Rhythms of the World music festival in Rabat June 2, 2014. Photo by Saeed Saeed
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The show may begin in the evening, but for many musicians that precious performance time comes on the back of tough practice during the day.

The music world is full of artists renowned for explosive live shows, but not much media attention is given to their pre-gig ritual of the soundcheck.

Normally held a few hours before the gig, the soundcheck has the artist and technical crew arriving to the venue to test out its technical facilities (sounds and lights) to ensure the best possible live performance.

That time — sound-checks normally run for a couple of hours — is also used by artists to test out a new song or work on certain musical arrangements.

The latter is what the Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango and the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela did on Friday afternoon before their performance at Morocco’s Mawazine Festival in Rabat.

Despite both being pioneers and legends in their own right, their intense practice session revealed that a perfectionist streak is also responsible for their successful careers.

For more than an hour, the 80-year-old Dibango and Masekela, 75, jammed numerous numbers to be played that evening; even Dibango’s address to the crowd got a working over.

“This is the place where I will be talking,” Dibango shouted to the band as they got into a summery lounge groove.

“Here, it will be talk, talk, talk and then we go back to the other part.”

Since Dibango’s performance was a special joint session with Masekela, both worked hard on gelling together on numerous tracks.

It was Dibango’s 1972 single Soul Makossa receiving the most attention, particularly its vibrant bridge which required both jazz men and band to lock into a muscular funk groove.

Dibango was relentless, demanding at least a dozen takes of the bridge until he was satisfied.

At the session’s conclusion, Dibango and Masekela hugged and shared jokes, proving that no feelings were hurt or egos bruised.

Naturally, their performance that night went down without a hitch as the big crowd danced and sang along to their classics.

Both artists confirmed an enduring lesson: practice indeed makes perfect.

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