“Soul Makossa”, his career … His incredible life

Since the announcement of the death of Manu Dibango, saxophonist and singer known worldwide taken by the coronavirus, there are thousands to be moved by the disappearance of a music legend.

Manu Dibango is dead. Six days after the announcement of his hospitalization, the musician’s family announced on Wednesday March 24 the disappearance of the musician, the first world star to succumb to the coronavirus. The musician was allegedly contaminated at the hospital while he was being treated for another pathology, according to his manager and niece interviewed by Paris Match. Aged 86, this legendary musician, author of “Soul Makossa”, had been hospitalized in Melun according to La République, after having tested positive for Covid-19. Manu Dibango “died in the early morning, in a hospital in the Paris region”, announced Thierry Durepaire, manager of musical editions of the world music industry, at AFP.

“Dear parents, dear friends, dear fans, a voice rises in the distance… It is with deep sadness that we announce the disappearance of Manu Dibango, our Grandpa Groove, which occurred on March 24, 2020 at the age of 86 years, following the 19 “covid, can we read in the press release from the artist’s family which announces the sad news of the death of the saxophonist. Since then, on social networks or in the media, tributes to this legend of the world music number in the thousands. If the funeral will be in family intimacy, in this context of a coronavirus pandemic, a tribute gathering will have to wait several weeks.

A few days before his death, relatives of Manu Dibango had indicated that the singer was resting and recovering “in serenity”. “He looks forward to meeting you soon and asks you, in this troubled period that we are all going through, to take good care of you”, also said the statement then published, which was rather reassuring. With his death, all the music is crying for one of his most emblematic faces. By the 1950s, Manu Dibango had succeeded in establishing himself on the world scene, between soul, jazz and African music. In 1972, he composed the anthem of the African Cup of football, a piece entitled “Soul Makossa” and which will become one of his greatest successes. The song will also be taken up by big names in international music like Michael Jackson or, more recently, Rihanna. A huge career “led by passion”, as he explained to RFI recently. And until last October, Manu Dibango, tireless, celebrated his 60th career on the stage of the Grand Rex in Paris, accompanied by the Lamoureux Orchestra.

The Franco-Cameroonian musician and singer Manu Dibango leaves behind an immense career “led by passion”, as he explained on the microphone of RFI radio recently. And until October 17, Manu Dibango, tireless and saxophone in hand, celebrated his 60 years of career on the stage of the Grand Rex in Paris, accompanied by the Lamoureux Orchestra. This year, the saxophonist and singer was to go back on stage in Martinique from April 17. In addition to his life of music and concerts, Manu Dibango was committed in 2018 alongside Juliette Binoche by signing a forum against global warming, entitled “The greatest challenge in the history of mankind”, published in One of the World.

With “Soul Makossa”, Manu Dibango conquered the planet. It is indeed this tube, released in 1972, which allows the Franco-Cameroonian musician to make himself known internationally. Originally, this song was only the B side of a 45 lap, carried by a completely different title which should become the anthem of the African Cup of Nations of football. The artist had indeed asked the Minister of Sports of Cameroon to record a song in support of the national team. But it is not the planned song that we will remember: “Soul Makossa” will sell 50,000 copies in France and will explode the notoriety of Manu Dibango.

Up to the United States, where several artists seize the melody, notably Michael Jackson and his “Wanna Be Starting Something”, which the Cameroonian musician will accuse of plagiarism. In the 1980s, the dispute would have ended in a financial agreement between the two men. Several years later, in 2009, singer Rihanna sampled Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” for her title “Don’t Stop The Music”.

Born in 1933 in Cameroon, Manu Dibango was sent to France by his parents as a teenager to continue his studies, and he then began to learn the mandolin and the piano. The famous Cameroonian artist Francis Bebey, whom he met during a summer camp, also taught him the basics of jazz and the saxophone. They form a group together and give some representations. After his failure at the bac in 1956, and while his father dropped him, Manu Dibango went to Belgium to perform in cabarets, especially frequented by the Congolese community, so that his jazz evolved towards African sounds. At that time, he met the model Coco whom he married in 1957, and Le Grand Kalle who hired him in the African Jazz orchestra, which led him to record several successful records in Africa and to go on tour in Zaire. 1961. In 1962, Manu Dibango then took over the management of a club in Léopoldville and released “Twist à Léo”, before opening his own establishment in Cameroon in 1963, but this enterprise ended in failure.

After his return to France in 1965, Manu Dibango created his Big Band in 1967 and participated in the “Pulsations” programs where he met Dick Rivers and Nino Ferrer, for whom he will be a musician for some time, before releasing the album “Saxy party” in 1969 allowing him to reconnect with his African audience. In 1972, the song “Soul Makossa”, a worldwide success subsequently taken up by Michael Jackson then Rihanna, took Manu Dibango on an international tour. Recognized artist, Manu Dibango directs for several years the Ivorian Radio Television orchestra and releases different albums including “Home made” in 1978, “Waka Juju” in 1982 and “Afrijazzy” in 1986, while collaborating with many artists such as Gainsbourg and Paul Nobody. In 1988, he published his autobiography “Three kilos of coffee”.

Since the 1990s, Manu Dibango has successfully continued recording, including “WakafriKa” in 1992, “Négropolitaines” whose second volume earned him a Victoire de la musique, “Lamastabastani” in 1996 and “Kamer feeling” in 2001. In 2010 , Manu Dibango is awarded the Legion of Honor and in 2019, goes back on stage for an anniversary tour, celebrating his 60 years of career. Popular musician, known and recognized for his music but also for his humility, Manu Dibango leaves behind an immense career and a sample of legendary saxophone.

Manu Dibango, who died on Tuesday March 24 of the consequences of the coronavirus, leaves behind an immense musical career, a deep sadness for many fans, friends and professionals in the field, but also a family, who had the heavy task of announcing his disappearance at 86 years old via a press release posted on social networks. From his marriage to his wife Marie-Josée called “Coco”, model then photographer, the saxophonist and singer has two sons, Michel, James (artist and musician known as James BKS) and two daughters, Marva and Georgia.

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