GABON: Patience Dabany - Patience Dabany
Updated: Mar 9
Once part of the elite in Gabonese society, Dabany proves it was worth breaking free from the shackles of her former life with the release of this disco epic
Here at 200worldalbums.com, it is fair to say that we are both suckers for quirky trivia about each nation. To let you into a trade secret, sometimes when we maybe feel we don’t have enough to say about an album, we try to flesh out our reviews with some extraneous knowledge about the country from which an album originates. Though Gabon is indeed a goldmine of fascinating trivia, one such piece of trivia I remember hearing back in the glory days of 2008, when isolationist populism hadn’t yet infected the Western world, naïve and buoyant with a sense of genuine optimism, relates rather directly to this album. After Cuba’s President Fidel Castro stepped down from his role, Gabon’s President Omar Bongo became the world's longest-ruling non-royal leader. Not only is this a fantastic tidbit, bound to enthuse pup quiz fans from across the land, but for world music fans, the fact can be spiced up when I reveal that Patience Dabany, arguably Gabon’s most successful music artist, was married to Bongo for close to thirty years before and during his tenure in the big seat.
“...there is a plotline for a rather entertaining music biopic somewhere within her life story. ”
Dabany’s story is not a rags to riches tale about how a poor singer ended up as First Lady, but rather a story of female empowerment, as despite her role as First Lady, she stepped out of the shadow of her husband, in a somewhat sexist society, divorcing the President in pursuit of a successful music career of her own. I am no film producer, but I am sure there is a plotline for a rather entertaining music biopic somewhere within her life story.
Hailing from a musical family, with her dad and brother playing the accordion and guitar respectively, it was in fact her son, the now President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, who first made the leap into the professional world of music. In 1977, over a decade before Dabany dived headfirst into the music industry, her son Bongo released a funk record, which is well-worth checking out. Though the album contained some bangers, namely the title-track Brand New Man, what the album lacks, comparatively to his mother, is the true vocal talent that Dabany honed in her church choir and by her mother who was also a traditional singer.
The 1994 self-titled album Patience Dabany is incredibly fun, there is no denying that. Her soulful voice, although not the greatest pipes I have ever heard, certainly adds to the quality of the record, however, the best thing about the album is definitely the immensely upbeat musical accompaniment. The record kicks off with the immensely enjoyable and memorable Dis Moi, and one would be forgiven for thinking that the album had peaked. However, soon after comes the epic dancefloor filler Samedi Soir. Though nowhere else quite reaches dizzying heights like this, That said, the other personal favourites of mine on the album are the energetic tracks such as Dancing, rather than the endearing ballads she features such as L’amour; most of the album can be danced to and despite its fairly long run-time these kind of upbeat tunes do not overstay its welcome.
If this description of Gabon’s former First Lady’s work doesn’t get you motivated to check out the album, then I suppose that I will have to revert to my old technique and tell you that Gabon has 80% of the world’s gorillas and is even home to surfing hippos. If that fails to pique your interest then you are a lost cause I am afraid.