Manu Dibango

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Manu Dibango
Dibango in 2019
Dibango in 2019
Background information
Birth nameEmmanuel N'Djoké Dibango
Born(1933-12-12)12 December 1933
Douala, French Cameroon
Died24 March 2020(2020-03-24) (aged 86)
Melun, France
GenresMakossa, African rumba, afrofunk/afrobeat, jazz,[1] traditional
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Saxophone and vibraphone
Years active1961–2020

Emmanuel N'Djoké "Manu" Dibango (12 December 1933 – 24 March 2020)[2] was a Cameroonian musician and songwriter who played saxophone and vibraphone. He developed a musical style fusing jazz, funk, and traditional Cameroonian music. His father was a member of the Yabassi ethnic group, while his mother was a Duala. He was best known for his 1972 single "Soul Makossa". He died from COVID-19 on 24 March 2020.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Emmanuel "Manu" Dibango was born in Douala, Cameroon in 1933. His father, Michel Manfred N'Djoké Dibango,[5] was a civil servant. Son of a farmer, he met his wife travelling by pirogue to her residence, Douala.[6] Emmanuel's mother was a fashion designer, running her own small business.[7] Both her ethnic group, the Douala, and his, the Yabassi, viewed this union of different ethnic groups with some disdain.[6] Dibango had only a stepbrother from his father's previous marriage,[8] who was four years older than him.[9] In Cameroon, one's ethnicity is dictated by one's father, though Dibango wrote in his autobiography, Three Kilos of Coffee, that he had "never been able to identify completely with either of [his] parents".[8]

Dibango's uncle was the leader of his extended family. Upon his death, Dibango's father refused to take over, as he never fully initiated his son into Yabassi customs. Throughout his childhood, Dibango slowly forgot the Yabassi language in favour of the Douala. However, his family did live in the Yabassi encampment on the Yabassi plateau, close to the Wouri River in central Douala.[8] While a child, Dibango attended Protestant church every night for religious education, or nkouaida. He enjoyed studying music there, and reportedly was a fast learner.[7]

In 1941, after being educated at his village school,[10] Dibango was accepted into a colonial school, near his home, where he learned French. He admired the teacher, whom he described as "an extraordinary draftsman and painter".[11] In 1944, French president Charles de Gaulle chose this school to perform the welcoming ceremonies upon his arrival in Cameroon.[12]

In 1949, at age 15, Dibango was sent to college in Saint-Calais, France. After that he attended the lycée de Chartres where he learned the piano.[13]


Dibango was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group African Jazz and collaborated with many other musicians, including Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti,[14] Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Adé, Don Cherry, and Sly and Robbie. He achieved a considerable following in the UK with a disco hit called "Big Blow", originally released in 1976 and re-mixed as a 12-inch (300 mm) single in 1978 on Island Records. In 1998, he recorded the album CubAfrica with Cuban artist Eliades Ochoa. At the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974, he was nominated in the categories Best R&B Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition for "Soul Makossa".[15]

The lyrics of the song "Soul Makossa" on the record of the same name contain the word "makossa", which refers to a style of Cameroonian urban music and means "(I) dance" in Dibango's native tongue, the Cameroonian language Duala. The song has influenced popular music hits, including Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie".[16]

He served as the first chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation, with a high profile in disputes about artists' royalties. Dibango was appointed a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2004.[17][18]

His song "Reggae Makossa" is featured on the soundtrack to the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours. In August 2009, he played the closing concert at the revived Brecon Jazz Festival.

His song "New Bell" in featured on the soundtrack to the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV in the radio station International Funk 99.

In 1982, Michael Jackson used the "Ma ma-se, ma ma-sa, ma ma-kossa" hook from Dibango's 1972 single "Soul Makossa" without his permission and without credit for his 1983 song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" from his superhit 1982 album Thriller. When Dibango found out he considered suing the megastar, but Jackson was quick to admit that he borrowed the line and the matter was settled out of court.[19]

Manu Dibango - Stuttgart 17.07.2013 - 2

In 2007, Rihanna sampled the same hook from Jackson's song for her track "Don't Stop the Music" and did not credit Dibango. When Rihanna had asked Jackson for permission to sample the line, he allegedly approved the request without contacting Dibango beforehand. In 2009, Dibango sued both singers. Dibango's attorneys brought the case before a court in Paris, demanding 500,000 in damages and asking for Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music to be "barred from receiving 'mama-se mama-sa'-related income until the matter is resolved".[20] The judge ruled that Dibango's claim was inadmissible: a year earlier, a different Paris-area judge had required Universal Music to include Dibango's name in the liner notes of future French releases of "Don't Stop the Music", and, at the time of this earlier court appearance, Dibango had withdrawn legal action, thereby waiving his right to seek further damages.[21][22]

In July 2014, he performed an 80th birthday concert at the Olympia in Paris[23] which was broadcast by TV5Monde.

On 8 September 2015, Michaëlle Jean, Secretary General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, honoured Manu Dibango with the title of Grand Témoin de la Francophonie aux Jeux Olympiques et Paralympiques de Rio 2016.[24]

On 24 March 2020, Dibango died from COVID-19 in Melun near Paris.[2][25]


As leader[edit]

  • Saxy-Party (Mercury, 1969)
  • Manu Dibango (Fiesta, 1971)
  • Africadelic (Mondiophone, 1972)
  • Soul Makossa (Fiesta, 1972)
  • O Boso (Fiesta, 1972)
  • African Woodoo (PSI, 1972)
  • Makossa Man (Fiesta, 1973)
  • Super Kumba (Fiesta, 1974)
  • Countdown at Kusini (D.S.T., 1975)
  • Afrovision (Fiesta, 1976)
  • Manu 76[26] (Fiesta, 1976)
  • Bande Originale du Film Ceddo[27] (Fiesta, 1977)
  • A L'Olympia (Fiesta, 1977)
  • L'Herbe Sauvage (Fiesta 1977)
  • Anniversaire Au Pays (Fiesta, 1978)
  • Le Prix De La Liberte (Fiesta, 1978)
  • Home Made (Fiesta, 1979)
  • Gone Clear (CRC, 1980)
  • Piano Solo Melodies Africaines Vol. 1 (AfroVision, 1981)
  • Ambassador (CRC, 1981)
  • Waka Juju (CRC, 1982)
  • Mboa (AfroVision, 1982)
  • Soft and Sweet (Garima, 1983)
  • Deliverance Live in Douala (AfroVision, 1983)
  • Surtension (Garima, 1984)
  • Melodies Africaines Vol. 2 (AfroVision, 1984)
  • L'Aventure Ambigue (Carrere, 1984)
  • Electric Africa[28] (Celluloid, 1985)
  • Manu Invite... Akofa Akoussah Au Togo (Blackspot, 1983)
  • Afrijazzy (Soul Paris, 1986)
  • La Fete a Manu (Buda Musique, 1988)
  • Negropolitaines Vol. 1 (Soul Paris, 1989)
  • Comment Faire L'Amour Avec Un Negre Sans Se Fatiguer (Milan, 1989)
  • Polysonik (Fnac Music, 1990)
  • Live '91 (Fnac Music, 1991)
  • Bao Bao (Mau Mau, 1992)
  • Wakafrika (Fnac Music, 1994)
  • Lamastabastani (Soul Paris, 1995)
  • Negropolitaines Vol. 2 (Soul Paris, 1995)
  • Papa Groove Live 96 (Wotre Music, 1996)
  • CubAfrica (Melodie, 1998)
  • Manu Safari (Wagram, 1998)
  • Mboa' Su Kamer Feeling (JPS, 2000)
  • Spirituals (Bayard Musique, 2000)
  • Kamer Feeling (JPS, 2001)
  • From Africa (Blue Moon, 2003)
  • Homage to New Orleans (Goya, 2007)
  • Lion of Africa (Global Mix, 2007)
  • Past Present Future (BorderBlaster, 2011)
  • Ballad Emotion (Konga Music, 2011)
  • Balade en Saxo (EGT, 2014)


  • African Soul - The Very Best Of Manu Dibango (1997)
  • Anthology (2000)
  • Africadelic - The Best Of Manu Dibango (2003)
  • The Rough Guide To Manu Dibango (2004)


  1. ^ Nyamnjoh, Francis B.; Fokwang, Jude (2005). "Entertaining Repression: Music and Politics in Postcolonial Cameroon". African Affairs. Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society. 104 (415): 251–274. doi:10.1093/afraf/adi007.
  2. ^ a b "Le saxophoniste Manu Dibango est mort des suites du Covid-19, annoncent ses proches". Le Monde (in French). Paris. AFP. 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  3. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (24 March 2020). "Manu Dibango, Cameroon jazz-funk star, dies aged 86 of coronavirus". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  4. ^ Monroe, Jazz (24 March 2020). "Afro-Jazz Star Manu Dibango Dead at 86". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  5. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. xii
  6. ^ a b Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 1
  7. ^ a b Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 4
  8. ^ a b c Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 2
  9. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 8
  10. ^ "Biography – Manu Dibango", Radio France Internationale, 2007, archived from the original on 6 September 2008, retrieved 9 September 2008
  11. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 5
  12. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 6
  13. ^ Labesse, Patrick (24 March 2020). "Mort du saxophoniste Manu Dibango, qui a succombé au Covid-19". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  14. ^ Mojo f Manu Dibango Retrieved 18 April 2022
  15. ^ "Manu Dibango". Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  16. ^ Hamilton, Andrew. "Wild and Peaceful - Kool & the Gang". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  17. ^ Ernest Kanjo, "We Want Bread! Cameroonian musicians seem to have lost their creative acumen in their endless battles over money", Post Newsmagazine, September 2006, accessed at "Post newsmagazine". Archived from the original on 26 March 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2007. 5 April 2007.
  18. ^ Manu Dibango designated UNESCO Artist for Peace Archived 14 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (26 June 2009). "Michael Jackson". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  20. ^ Michaels, Sean (4 February 2009). "Rihanna and Michael Jackson sued by African singer". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  21. ^ Lavaine, Bertrand (18 February 2009). "Dibango recalé face à Jackson et Rihanna" (in French). Radio France Internationale. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  22. ^ "L'action de Manu Dibango contre Michael Jackson et Rihanna irrecevable". La Presse (in French). 18 February 2009. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  23. ^ J., Caroline (24 February 2014). "Manu Dibango en concert à l'Olympia de Paris pour ses 80 ans". (in French). Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  24. ^ Archived 25 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Somalia's ex Prime Minister dies of corona virus". Facebook. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Manu 76, by Manu Dibango". Manu Dibango. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  27. ^ "Ceddo (Bande originale du film), by Manu Dibango". Manu Dibango. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Electric Africa, by Manu Dibango". Bill Laswell. Retrieved 13 March 2021.

General sources[edit]

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