manu dibango

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manu dibango

manu dibango






ith deep sadness we announce the death of Manu Dibango, our Grandpa Groove, on March 24, 2020 at the age of 86 years, as a result of covid 19", we read in the message from his relatives.

The contamination of this world music legend was announced on his Facebook page on March 18. "The funeral will take place in strict family privacy and a tribute will be paid to him later as soon as possible," the family said in its statement.

"Bridge Builder"

"The saxophonist, the world's leading saxophonist who died at the age of 86 from a coronavirus infection, was the first person in the world to die at the age of 86, a figure of Afro-jazz who became a star with his hit "Soul Makossa".

Emmanuel N'Djoké Dibango was born on 12 December 1933 in Douala, Cameroon, into a strict Protestant family. After 21 days on the boat, Manu Dibango went on to Marseilles in 1949, then to Saint-Calais in the Sarthe region. He then studied in Chartres, where he took his first musical steps on mandolin and piano.

In this white universe, the teenager, who, in his own words, "didn't know African culture", identified with the Afro-American stars of the time. Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker became his "heroes".


Brussels tour

"Papa Manu" discovered the saxophone at a summer camp, hung out in Boris Vian's Saint-Germain-des-Près and ended up failing the second part of his baccalauréat. His father, dissatisfied, cut him off in 1956. He then left for Brussels, where he ran away to play variety.

His stay in Belgium was marked by two founding encounters: the blonde Marie-Josée, known as "Coco", who became his wife, and Joseph Kabasélé, conductor of the African Jazz orchestra.


In the turmoil of independence, the Congolese musician opened the doors of Africa to him. Manu Dibango followed him to Leopoldville (the former name of Kinshasa, editor's note) where he launched the twist fashion in 1962, then opened a club in Cameroon.

Another life

Three years later, he's back in France, penniless. He became a rock pianist for Dick Rivers, organist and then conductor for Nino Ferrer.

In 1972, he was asked to compose the anthem for the African Cup of Nations football tournament to be held in Cameroon. He recorded "Soul Makossa" on the B side of the single. New York DJs became infatuated with this syncopated rhythm. Another life begins.

The saxophonist left to play at the Apollo Theater, the temple of Afro-American music in Harlem, and became even more mixed when he toured South America.

Trial of Michael Jackson

In 1982, another form of consecration came. "Soul Makossa" is sampled by Michael Jackson in his album "Thriller"... without his permission. Manu Dibango brought the first of a long series of lawsuits for plagiarism, which resulted in a financial settlement. But the victory is elsewhere: the musician has become a world reference in world music.



"Afro-European", "Negro-European", as he liked to call himself, the 86-year-old Cameroonian artist was still on tour last year for his 60th anniversary career, with his "Symphonic Safari" mixing jazz and classical music.

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