Soul Makossa

"Soul Makossa" is a song released as a single in 1972 by Cameroon saxophonist and songwriter Manu Dibango. In 1972, David Mancuso found a copy in a Brooklyn West Indian record store and often played it at his parties at The Loft. The response was so positive that the few copies of "Soul Makossa" in New York City were quickly purchased. The song was subsequently played heavily by Frankie Crocker, who deejayed at WBLS, then New York's most popular black radio station. Since the original release was so obscure, at least 23 groups quickly released cover versions to capitalize on the demand for the record.

Later in 1972, American-based Atlantic Records licensed the original Manu Dibango version from French record label Fiesta, and released it as a single (with the B-side track being "Lily"). The single peaked at number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1973; Dibango's original version of the song and a cover by Afrique were on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time. The song also became an international hit leading to even more cover versions by various groups around the world.

Except for some words in English, it was written in Duala, a native dialect continuum from Cameroon. The song is probably best known for the chanted vocal refrain "ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-sa", which was adapted and used in songs by many prominent artists, such as Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" from his album Thriller (1982) and Rihanna's hit single "Don't Stop the Music" from Good Girl Gone Bad (2007).

"Soul Makossa" was originally recorded as the B-side for "Hymne de la 8e Coupe d'Afrique des Nations", a song celebrating the Cameroon national football team's accession to the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, as well as Cameroon's hosting the games for the first time; the lyrics were written by Cameroonian poet and musicologist S.M. Eno Belinga. Manu Dibango later recorded a new version for his 1994 album Wakafrika, titled "Mouvement Ewondo".

In 2011, a second version of the song titled "Soul Makossa 2.0" was recorded in France by Manu Dibango and Wayne Beckford and was issued as the first single from Dibango's album, Past Present Future. Les Nubians also featured their own version of "Soul Makossa" entitled "Nü Soul Makossa (featuring Manu Dibango)" on their 2011 album Nü Revolution.

1973 US single

Track listing

# "Soul Makossa" – 4:30 # "Lily" – 3:02


  • Manu Dibango – writer, arranger, vocals, saxophone
  • Georges Arvanitas – piano
  • Patrice Galas – piano
  • Joby Jobs – drums
  • Manfred Long – bass guitar
  • Freddy Mars – percussion
  • Manu Rodanet – electric guitar
  • Pierre Zogo – acoustic guitar


    Adaptations and samples

    The song's refrain consists of the phrase "ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa", which is a play on the word "Makossa", Dibango's main music genre. After the popularization of the song, the phrase was adapted and used in several popular songs including the following:

  • 1973: "Watergrate" ‒ Dickie Goodman
  • 1973: "Sessomatto" ‒ Armando Trovaioli
  • 1974: "Do It Good" - KC & the Sunshine Band (horn section in the break)
  • 1982: "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" ‒ Michael Jackson
  • 1982: "Funky Soul Makossa" ‒ Nairobi & The Awesome Foursome
  • 1988: "Girl You Know It's True" (N.Y. Subway Extended Mix) ‒ Milli Vanilli
  • 1988: "A Day in the Life" ‒ Black Riot ft. Todd Terry
  • 1989: "Pump Your Fist" ‒ Kool Moe Dee
  • 1989: "Fast Lane" ‒ Urban Dance Squad
  • 1989: "Warm It Up, Kane" ‒ Big Daddy Kane
  • 1990: "Rhythm (Devoted To The Art Of Moving Butts)" ‒ A Tribe Called Quest
  • 1990: "Butt Naked Booty Bless" ‒ Poor Righteous Teachers
  • 1991: "Trophy" ‒ Geto Boys
  • 1991: "Naked" ‒ Nicki Richards
  • 1991: "On The House Tip" ‒ Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch
  • 1992: "Benvenuti Nella Giungla" ‒ Jovanotti
  • 1994: "Mama Say" ‒ Bloodhound Gang
  • 1994: "Samba Makossa" ‒ Chico Science
  • 1994: "Amma Dekh Tera Munda Bigda" ‒ Bali Brahmabhatt & Alka Yagnik
  • 1996: "Cowboys" ‒ Fugees
  • 1996: "Do That To Me" ‒ The Lisa Marie Experience
  • 1996: "Get Funky" ‒ Casino
  • 1997: "Ojo Por Ojo" ‒ Makiza
  • 1997: "Face Off" ‒ Jay-Z ft. Sauce Money
  • 1997: "Intro/Court/Clef/Intro" ‒ Wyclef Jean
  • 1998: "Clap Your Hands" ‒ Black Eyed Peas
  • 1998: "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" ‒ Will Smith
  • 1998: "Startin' Something" ‒ Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz
  • 1998: "Viva!" ‒ Makossa Magic
  • 1999: "Macosa" ‒ Outsidaz ft. Eminem
  • 2000: "Feelin' So Good (Video Version)" ‒ Jennifer Lopez ft. Big Pun and Fat Joe
  • 2002: "Up and Down (In and Out)" ‒ Deborah Cox
  • 2002: "4 Tribes" ‒ Organ Donors
  • 2003: "Hailie's Revenge (Doe Rae Me)" ‒ Eminem ft. Obie Trice and D12
  • 2005: "Algo Más Que Música" ‒ El Chojin
  • 2005: "Mama-Kossa" ‒ Back to Basics
  • 2006: "Mama Say Mama Sa" ‒ The Caramel Club
  • 2007: "Don't Stop the Music" ‒ Rihanna (using Michael Jackson's version of the lyrics)
  • 2008: "Brooklyn Girls" ‒ Charles Hamilton
  • 2008: "Havenhurst Prophet Posse" ‒ Jib Kidder
  • 2008: "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" ‒ Michael Jackson with Akon
  • 2009: "MaMaSé" - K3
  • 2010: "Hands in the Air" ‒ Girl Talk
  • 2010: "Lost In The World" ‒ Kanye West ft. Bon Iver, Alicia Keys, and Charlie Wilson
  • 2011: "You See Me" ‒ Childish Gambino
  • 2012: "Farewell American Primitive" ‒ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
  • 2014: "Big Momma's House" - Kryder & Tom Staar
  • 2015: "Soul Makossa (Money)" ‒ Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP
  • 2017: "Changa" - Addison Groove

    Cover versions

  • The Gaytones (1972) - "Club Africa" - 1999
  • Catelli Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra (Village)
  • Fania All Stars Live San Juan 73(Fania, 2009)
  • Guerra '78 (Discolando)
  • Jablonski (Randy's)
  • Babatunde Olatunji (Paramount, 1973)
  • Lafayette Afro Rock Band (Musidisc, 1973)
  • Afrique (Mainstream Records, 1973)
  • All Dyrections (Buddah Records, 1973)
  • Nairobi Afro Band (Town Hall Records, 1973)
  • Simon Kenyatta Troupe (Avco Embassy Records, 1973)
  • Mighty Tom Cats (Paul Winley) (pirated version; identical to DiBango's original)
  • Pop Highlife Band (Makossa)
  • Saviñon, Victor (Oro Disco)
  • The Afrosound (Discos Fuentes, 1973)
  • Zamot, Johnny (Mericana)
  • Afrika Bambaataa (Tommy Boy, 2004)
  • Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP, 2015
  • Pino Presti - "To Africa / Soul Makossa" (Best Record, 2017)

    Michael Jackson/Rihanna lawsuit

    Rihanna's 2007 hit single "Don't Stop the Music" uses samples from Michael Jackson's 1983 single "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'". In February 2009, Dibango filed a lawsuit against the two singers, claiming that both songs stole their "mama-say mama-sa mama-ko-sa" hook from "Soul Makossa" without permission. According to Agence France-Presse, 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 for Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music to be "barred from receiving 'mama-say mama-sa'-related income until the matter is resolved". However, the court in Paris rejected his motion as being illegitimate due to him successfully applying for his name being listed on Rihanna’s releases of the song a year earlier. The court in Paris ruled that with this agreement the African artist abdicated from any further claims.