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Fanga, the force of Afrobeat from France

By Alison Hird

One of France's leading Afrobeat bands, the Fanga collective is inspired by Nigeria's Fela Kuti but determined not to be a poor relation. Singer Korbo talks to RFI about giving their own electro-Mandekan twist to the genre on their new album Kaleidoscope.

Korbo was born in Burkina Faso and sings, and raps, in his native Dioula, French and English.

He discovered Afrobeat at his dad's nightclub, where he'd fall asleep to the sounds of  70s groove alongside the French pop of Jo Dassin.

"I preferred the groove, just for my body, just to move," he says.

The eight-piece band knows how to get audiences moving, with a strong brass section, drum and bass, and Korbo's vocals which bring together hip hop and the Mandinka melodies of West African stars like Salif Keita and Oumou Sangaré.

Kaleidoscope takes in a wide range of sounds and rhythms from the African continent, from the ethiojazz-inspired  An Kelen Ye to the Mandika-rich Compréhension

Korbo says he wanted the album to represent "every ethnic culture from Africa, from East to West". 

Fanga means strength in Dioula. But not just physical strength.

"I put it in my mind, the power of conviction, to do things," says the singer. "We have to have a mental power to live in this world."

The song [I want to be a] Modern Man asks how we can be truly modern "when people are dying from hunger" explains Korbo adding it's not about having flat screens or smart phones. "I can't say we're modern, I want us to be, but we're not."

An Kelen Ye is about the importance of collective action. "Every great thing on this earth is done by many people working together," says Korbo, "we're nothing alone".

Fanga, a collective that's changed shape several times since it formed in the late 90s,  embodies that philosophy to the full: the current formation is strong and so is the collective groove. 

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