Manu Dibango, Cameroonian Afro-jazz star celebrated for his mix of jazz, funk and traditional west African styles, has died aged 86 in a Paris hospital after incurring new coronavirus (Covid-19).
A message on Manu Dibango’s Facebook page reported the news with “deep sadness”, and included: “His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible.”
Manu Dibango was born in 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. He went to secondary school in France and started learning instruments: first the piano, then saxophone – for which he became to be most popular – and vibraphone. “The blacks that we saw [in France] were either boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson – or jazzmen,” he recollected in a 2018 interview. “So, we ended up going down to the cellars in Paris, where we could see the [Louis] Armstrongs and the Count Basies with whom we identified.”
Manu Dibango moved to Brussels and visited Europe with Africa Jazz under bandleader Joseph Kabasele, and spent time in Congo and Cameroon before coming back to Paris in 1965.
Manu Dibango mixed the cosmopolitan styles from Africa and Europe into his combination, bringing about his greatest hit, Soul Makossa, with a blazing saxophone line over a breakbeat and Dibango’s verbally expressed vocals, initially composed for the 1972 African Cup of Nations football competition.
The line “mama-say, mama-sa, ma-makossa” from Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ was lifted from Dibango’s chorus on Soul Makossa – Manu Dibango sued Jackson over the uncredited interpolation, winning an out of court settlement. In 2009, he prosecuted Jackson again alongside Rihanna, whose track Don’t Stop the Music likewise uses the chorus line, however, the complaint was esteemed unacceptable.
Manu Dibango proceeded to visit broadly off the rear of the track’s prosperity and worked together with Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and more. His tracks were additionally examined by artists including Busta Rhymes and the Chemical Brothers.
Musicians paying tribute include Angelique Kidjo, who said on Twitter: “You’re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being.”