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chapter 1 The Afro-kinetic Passages of Madam Zajj Driving Jazz “Home” with Manu Dibango and Duke Ellington One of the many conflicts raging in postcolonial Africa was the war between Libya and Chad. After Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s coup in 1967, Libya aspired to expand its influence in central Africa, and the military occupation in 1973 of the desolate but mineral-rich Aouzou Strip just beyond the border with its southern neighbor was a first move in escalating a long-simmering territorial dispute. Taking advantage of Chad’s intensifying civil war that pitted the predominantly Muslim North against the Christian South, Gaddafi established an airbase and extended citizenship to the area’s few inhabitants, resulting in the de facto annexation of the barren strip. Over the next few years, there were several attempts to expand the influence of the Gaddafi regime or to expel the Libyan garrisons from the Aouzou, prompting two military interventions by France, which succeeded only in consolidating the status quo, dissatisfactory to both sides. The last phase of the conflict began in January 1987, after most of Gaddafi’s Chadian allies in the North, fed up with the dictator’s meddling and suspicious of his motives, switched sides and joined the troops of president Hissène Habré. The Libyan units were heavily mechanized, but the defection of their allies deprived them of a nimble ground option. Perhaps the most effective weapon in the arsenal of the ragtag Chadian forces, on the 30 chapter one other hand, was the Toyota pickup truck: its speed and dependability proved a decisive tactical advantage in the desert terrain of the Aouzou and helped deal the Libyans a series of humiliating defeats, culminating eventually in their expulsion and the restoration of the region to Chad. The sight of these technicals was so ubiquitous that the 1987 conflict was dubbed the Toyota War.1 The somewhat flippant moniker also pointed to the strong presence of the Japanese car manufacturer in the global economy. A major supplier of trucks to the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, the company’s postwar resurgence was also fueled by expansion into third world markets. From its hub in apartheid South Africa, where the company had built its first assembly line in 1962, Toyota targeted the newly independent nations to the north. Toyota’s marketing juggernaut proclaimed, “La musique est un monde sans frontières. Toyota aussi.” Ironically, it managed to enlist even the voice of Mama Africa herself, Miriam Makeba, on the promotional single “Toyota Fantaisie / Can’t Stop Myself,” a bouncy bit of Afro-funk in which Makeba praises the cars’ unstoppable kinesis in French on the A-side, in English on the B-side. Toyota also approached the other superstar of Afropop, Manu Dibango, who delivered with “Toyota Makossa” another catchy promotional jingle. Toyota sponsored a tour through much of the continent, during which copies of the single were given away gratis by the thousands, making it a hugely popular song that everybody soon knew: Dibango remembers that through much of the 1980s, taxi drivers in Douala and Yaoundé would heckle him if they spotted him climbing into a different make of car. To maximize on Dibango’s stardom, the title referenced the biggest record of Dibango’s career, “Soul Makossa.” While the global megahit is actually much closer musically to James Brown than to Douala, the Toyota jingle is indeed a prime example of makossa, the dance music popularized at midcentury in the urban areas of Cameroon that is characterized by a prominent bass line and horn section: here, a punchy yet spry electric bass, bubbly percussion, and Bokilo “Jerry” Malekani’s filigreed guitar work create an irresistible groove over which both Dibango and the horns effusively approve of the female vocalists’ claim that “Ma Toyota Corolla est fantastique, oh oui!”2 And like the genre to which it claims allegiance, “Toyota Makossa” is very much a musical hybrid, with its only overtly “jazzy” element Dibango’s extended solo on tenor saxophone. The jingle bears the fingerprints also of longtime musical director Malekani, who grew up with soukous, the Congo’s guitar-centric equivalent of makossa, but achieved success as leader of Rico Jazz, a band comprised of fellow West African expats that became a sensa- The Afro-kinetic Passages of Madam Zajj 31 tion in the French Antilles in the early 1970s. Finally, “Toyota Makossa” also prominently features the synthesized pinging sample...


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