The legendary Cameroonian Afro-jazz saxophonist, Manu Dibango died this week in a Paris hospital at 86 from complications after contracting the coronavirus while being treated for another illness.
Emmanuel N’Djoke Dibango was born in 1933 in Douala. He left Cameroon in 1949 for France in order to further his education, where he was also attending music lessons with the guitar, piano and later on the saxophone.
Manu Dibango first came to global prominence in 1973 when his Afro-jazz/funk record Soul Makossa quickly became a hot pick on New York black radio stations and clubs. It eventually made its way on to No.35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that yer. But Soul Makossa became one of the key break beats favored by DJs for the early days of the hip hop movement in mid to late 1970s.
The song then got revived as a sample famously Michael Jackson on his hit single Wanna Be Startin Something, from the 1982 Thriller album. That sample and a 2007 by pop star Rihanna on her song Don’t Stop the Music, both led to copyright lawsuits in 2009 which were later settled.
In 1967 he was bandleader on Pulsations, the first black music programme on French TV, and in the early 1990s he hosted his own prime-time French TV show, Salut Manu. In 1998 his achievements were celebrated by the rural community where he grew up, with the naming of a cultural centre after him. He reciprocated by donating the saxophone he had used on Soul Makossa.
In later years he was an ambassador for Unicef, received several honours from African countries and in 2010 was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. He was still working last year, on tour with Symphonic Safari, blending jazz with classical music.
Manu Dibango’s demise isn’t only a loss for Cameroon. It is a loss for the entire continent. Throughout his music career, he kept African music on the global stage and was fondly known by the nickname, “Papy Groove” at home.
“Papy Groove was a legend. He made us have hope that with your talent, everything is possible and that you can attain whatever level, and in any part of the world,” said Prince Mykel Enobi, chief executive of The Cliq Empire entertainment group in Cameroon.
Ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-makosa…