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Manu Dibango

Emmanuel N'Djoké "Manu" Dibango (12 December 1933 – 24 March 2020) 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.

Early life

Emmanuel "Manu" Dibango was born in Douala, Cameroon in 1933. His father, Michel Manfred N'Djoké Dibango, was a civil servant. Son of a farmer, he met his wife travelling by pirogue to her residence, Douala. Emmanuel's mother was a fashion designer, running her own small business. Both her ethnic group, the Douala, and his, the Yabassi, viewed this union of different ethnic groups with some disdain. Dibango had only a stepbrother from his father's previous marriage, who was four years older than him. 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".

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 Douala. However, his family did live in the Yabassi encampment on the Yabassi plateau, close to the Wouri River in central Douala. 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.

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

Career

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".

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". 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.

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.

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 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 the song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" from his superhit 1982 album "Thriller". When Dibango found out he considered to sue the megastar but Jackson was fast to admit that he borrowed the line and the matter was settled out of court.

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". 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.

In July 2014, he made an 80th anniversary concert at Olympia, France 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 (Special Representative of Francophonia to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games).

On 24 March 2020, Dibango died from COVID-19 in Paris.

Discography

Albums

  • 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

  • Unwired: Acoustic Music from Around the World (1999) World Music Network
  • The Rough Guide to African Disco (2013) World Music Network

    As sideman

    With T-Bone Walker
  • Good Feelin' (Polydor, 1969)