Bassist, percussionist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, Ivory Coast-born Manou Gallo, was born to music. Or, more likely, music found her in the womb. She was also born to go her own way and buck her culture’s conventional female role.
As a child Gallo was free to work fields, bring water, climb mango trees and learn tribal values. She sauntered from backyard to backyard, sharing songs with families around cooking fires, beating out rhythms with her feet and heart.
No wonder when she picked up a drum, reserved for men, and pounded out jubilant cadences at a community celebration, she was accepted, not scolded. That bursting sense of joy in her music has expanded through four decades. By 12, she was touring Africa, then fell in love with the bass, joined world music band Zap Mama in 1997, later moved to Brussels. By 2004, she released her first solo album, that thread of bliss unabated whether she sang in Dida, French, or English, with the blues, jazz, funk and soul of that wider world her great grandmother had promised sweetly embraced within her music’s indelible African spirit.
In 2016, Parliament’s Bootsy Collins, who calls her the African Queen of the Bass, saw Gallo perform on social media, and co-produced her next album. Her music now runs as free as she was as a child.
Biography by Mary-Lynn Wardle