The Guardian – Manu Dibango, pictured, the Cameroonian musician celebrated for his blend of jazz, funk and traditional west African styles, has died aged 86 in a Paris hospital after contracting Covid-19.
A message on his Facebook page announced the news with “deep sadness”, and added: “His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible.”
Dibango was born in 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. He attended high school in France and began learning instruments: first the piano, then saxophone — for which he became best known — and vibraphone.
“The blacks that we saw (in France) were either boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson — or jazzmen,” he remembered 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.”
He moved to Brussels and toured Europe with Africa Jazz under bandleader Joseph Kabasele, and spent time in Congo and Cameroon before returning to Paris in 1965.
He blended the cosmopolitan styles from Africa and Europe into his own fusion, resulting in his biggest hit, Soul Makossa, with a blazing saxophone line over a breakbeat and Dibango’s spoken vocals, originally written for the 1972 African Cup of Nations football tournament.
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 — Dibango sued Jackson over the uncredited interpolation, winning an out of court settlement.
In 2009, he took Jackson to court again along with Rihanna, whose track Don’t Stop the Music also uses the chorus line, but the complaint was deemed inadmissible.
Dibango went on to tour widely off the back of the track’s success, and collaborated with Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and more. His tracks were also sampled 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.”
— The Guardian