Usually I am not a great fan of these 'topical' records. My father used to have several of these, with subjects ranging from the first moon landing to the pope's visit to Ireland (recently posted on the Lola Vandaag blog). He had a very special way of boring the pants of visitors...
I must stress that I don't include songs about topical subjects in this category. I am particularly excluding all those great calypsos (either from Trinidad or from West Africa) about the Queen's visit or a local scandal, songs about a strike of lorry drivers, shipping accidents and other assorted disasters. In fact, I wish they would reinstate this tradition. We could have songs about Italian politics ("Bunga Bunga Benga"), about hurricanes ("The Sandy Shuffle"), scandals ("The Zagreb Conspiracy") and footballing incidents ("Christiano's header").
This said, I would also like to add this lp. And not so much because of the subject, the eighth African Nations Cup (Cameroon, 1972). Football matches tend to have a very limited 'shelf life'. I have recorded countless 'historic' matches, thinking they would make for a great evening in front of the telly after a tiring day at work. But I must admit that it just doesn't work like this. Football ('soccer' to you Yanks) is very much an on the spot event. The fiery emotions 'while events unfold' just can't be warmed up to be consumed later...
What really makes this record special is not the music of Manu Dibango. While recognising his importance for music in general I have never been a fan of his music, to be very honest. In fact, the music in this record is of the kind that I would gladly do without.
What does make this record special is the inclusions of the 'live' commentaries from the different participating countries. The commentary styles are varied, from the staccato of Boevi Lawson (Radio Togo), via the very disciplined and rather eloquent Malians Boubacar Kante and Salif Diarra (who even sportingly congratulates the opponents after his country loses the final), to the controlled but outrageous Joseph Gabio (Congo-Brazza). Joseph does not shun insults, both of players of his own country's team - when they 'allow' their Zairean neighbours to score a goal - and of a "cursed" Cameroonian player (also called Joseph) who misses in front of the Congolese goal. And I just love the over-the-top enthousiasm of the two Cameroonian reporters, with one of them announcing: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Cameroon boys are doing it!".
Which brings me to what is perhaps a challenge in the enjoyment of this record: apart from these few exclamations it is all in french.
Watching the CAN 2013 I have often thought of this record, and of the enthousiasm of the commentators. Unfortunately the lukewarm and misplaced arrogance of the European reporters tends to act as a real turnoff, even with the most spectacular matches.