Manu Dibango

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Manu Dibango
LesEscales2019ManuDibango 03 (cropped).jpg
Manu 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)
Paris, France
GenresMakossa,African Rumba, afrofunk, afrobeat, jazz,[1] traditional
Occupation(s)Musician, song-writer
Instrumentssaxophone 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, though 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]

Early life[edit]

Dibango was born in Douala, Cameroon. His father, Michel Manfred N'Djoké Dibango,[4] was a civil servant. Son of a farmer, he met his wife travelling by pirogue to her residence, Douala.[5] She was a fashion designer, running her own small business.[6] Both her ethnic group, the Duala, and his, the Yabassi, viewed this union of different ethnic groups with some disdain.[5] Emmanuel had no siblings, although he had a stepbrother from his father's previous marriage[7] who was four years older than he was.[8] 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."[7]

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 the Yabassi's customs. Throughout his childhood, Dibango slowly forgot the Yabassi language in favour of the Duala. However, his family did live in the Yabassi encampment on the Yabassi plateau, close to the Wouri River in central Douala.[7] 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.[6]

In 1941, after being educated at his village school,[9] 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."[10] In 1944, French president Charles de Gaulle chose this school to perform the welcoming ceremonies upon his arrival in Cameroon.[11]


He was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group African Jazz and has collaborated with many other musicians, including Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, 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" 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".[12]

The song "Soul Makossa" on the record of the same name contains the lyrics "makossa", which means "(I) dance" in his native tongue, the Cameroonian language Duala. It has influenced popular music hits, including Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie"[13]. The 1982 parody song "Boogie in your butt" by comedian Eddie Murphy interpolates Soul Makossa's bassline and horn charts while "Butt Naked Booty Blues" by 1990s hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teachers heavily samples its musical bridge and drum patterns.[citation needed]

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.[14][15]

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. In July 2014, he made an 80th anniversary concert at Olympia, France which was broadcast by TV5Monde.[citation needed]

In 2009 he filed a lawsuit claiming that Rihanna's and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop the Music" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" used the "Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa" hook without his permission. According to Dibango, the line is from his 1972 single "Soul Makossa". Agence France-Presse reported that Jackson admitted that he borrowed the line for "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and settled out of court. When Rihanna asked Jackson in 2007 for permission to sample the line, he allegedly approved the request without contacting Dibango beforehand. 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-say mama-sa'-related income until the matter is resolved".[16] 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.[17][18]

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[19] (Special Representative of Francophonia to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games).[citation needed]

On 24 March 2020, Dibango died from COVID-19 in Paris.[2][20]



  • Manu Dibango (1968)
  • Saxy Party (1969)
  • O Boso (1971) London/PolyGram Records
  • Soma Loba (1971)
  • Soul Makossa (1972) Fiesta Records (France), London Records (UK and Canada), Atlantic Records (US)
  • African Voodoo (1972)
  • Africadelic (1973)
  • Blue Elephant (1973)
  • Makossa Man (1974) Atlantic Records released as Pêpê Soup on Decca Records
  • African Funk (1974)
  • Makossa Music (1975) Creole Records, licensed from Société Française du Son
  • African Rhythm Machine (1975)
  • Countdown at Kusini O.S.T. (1975) D.S.T. Telecommunications, Inc.
  • Manu 76 (1976) Decca/PolyGram Records
  • Super Kumba (1976) Decca/PolyGram Records
  • The World of Manu Dibango (1976) Decca Records
  • Ceddo O.S.T (1977) Fiesta Records
  • L'Herbe Sauvage O.S.T. (1977) Fiesta Records
  • Disque D'Or (1977)
  • A l'Olympia (1978) Fiesta Records – a live double album
  • Anniversaire Au Pays (1978) Fiesta Records
  • Afrovision (1978) Mango/Island/PolyGram Records
  • Sun Explosion (1978) Decca/PolyGram Records
  • Le Prix De La Liberte (1978) Fiesta Records
  • Big Blow (1978) Derby Records – re-issue of Afrovision with a track from L'Herbe Sauvage OST and the extended single version of the song Soul Makossa
  • Gone Clear (1979) Mango/Island/PolyGram Records
  • Ses Plus Grands Succes (1979)
  • Home Made (1979) African Records
  • Ambassador (1981) Mango/Island/PolyGram Records
  • Waka Juju (1982) Polydor/PolyGram Records
  • Mboa (1982) Sonodisc/Afrovision
  • Soft And Sweet (1983) Garima Records
  • Deliverance (1983) AfroVision Records
  • Surtension (1984)
  • Electric Africa (1985) Celluloid
  • Afrijazzy (1986) Enemy Records
  • Négropolitaines, Vol.1 (1989)
  • Deliverance (1989) Afro Rhythmes
  • Happy Feeling (1989) Stern's
  • Rasta Souvenir (1989) Disque Esperance – a reissue of Gone Clear & Ambassador (compilation)
  • Polysonik (1991)
  • Bao Bao (1992)
  • Negropolitaines, Vol.2 (1992)
  • Autoportrait (1992)
  • Live '91 (1994) Stern's Music
  • Wakafrika (1994) Fnac Music/Giant/Warner Bros. Records
  • Lamastabastani (1996) Musicrama
  • Sax & Spirituals (1996)
  • Papa Groove: Live '96 (1996)
  • African Soul – The Very Best Of Manu Dibango (1997) Mercury (compilation)
  • Manu Safari (1998)
  • CubAfrica (Cuarteto Patria with Eliades Ochoa) (1998)
  • Mboa' Su – Kamer Feelin' (1999)
  • Collection Legende (1999)
  • Anthology (2000) (compilation)
  • The Very Best of Manu Dibango: Afrosouljazz From The Original Makossa Man (2000) (compilation)
  • Kamer Feelin' (2001)
  • B Sides (2002)
  • Dance With Manu Dibango (2002)
  • Africadelic: The Very Best Of Manu Dibango (2003) (compilation)
  • From Africa (2003) Blue Moon
  • Lion of Africa (2007) – live album including bonus DVD
  • African Woodoo (2008) from tracks recorded between 1971 and 1975 for cinema, TV, and advertising.
  • Choc'n'Soul (2010) features Sly and Robbie
  • Afro Funk (2010)
  • Afro Soul Machine (2011) (compilation)
  • Past Present Future (2011) features "Soul Makossa 2.0" with vocals performed by Wayne Beckford
  • Ballad Emotion (2011) (mostly jazz standards)
  • Africa Boogie (2013)
  • Aloko Party (2013)
  • Lagos Go Slow (2013)
  • Balade En Saxo (2013)

Contributing artist[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With T-Bone Walker


  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 AFP (24 March 2020). "Le saxophoniste Manu Dibango est mort des suites du Covid-19, annoncent ses proches". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  3. ^ Monroe, Jazz (24 March 2020). "Afro-Jazz Star Manu Dibango Dead at 86". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  4. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. xii.
  5. ^ a b Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 1.
  6. ^ a b Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 4.
  7. ^ a b c Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 2.
  8. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 8.
  9. ^ "Biography – Manu Dibango", Radio France Internationale, 2007, archived from the original on 6 September 2008, retrieved 9 September 2008.
  10. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 5.
  11. ^ Dibango, Rouard & Raps 1994, p. 6.
  12. ^ "Manu Dibango". Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Andrew. "Wild and Peaceful - Kool & the Gang". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  14. ^ 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 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 March 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) 5 April 2007.
  15. ^ Manu Dibango designated UNESCO Artist for Peace Archived 14 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Michaels, Sean (4 February 2009). "Rihanna and Michael Jackson sued by African singer". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ Archived 25 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ "Somalia's ex Prime Minister dies of corona virus". Facebook. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.


Further reading[edit]

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