African Jazz saxophone player Manu Dibango died March 24 in a Paris, France hospital as a result of the Covid-19 virus at the age of 86.
Born in Cameroon, Dibango fused the African rhythms of his homeland with funk and dance music who had a big hit in 1972 with his song “Soul Makossa” – which later became the inspiration and sampling for the Michael Jackson hit “Wanna Be Starting Something”. Dibango filed a suit against Jackson for using the song without permission which was settled out of court.
In the 50’s Dibango began touring the world playing his music and in 1960 he was one of the founding members of the band African Jazz. He also led the band African Soul and the Ivoirian national broadcast orchestra.
Over the course of his long career Dibango has worked with numerous musicians including Fela Kuti, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Don Cherry, the Fania All Stars, MC Mello, Herbie Hancock, Hugh Masekela, and Charlotte M’Bango.
Dibango’s music appeared in two dozen film nad television productions including the documentary “Salsa”, “Miami Vice”, “Less than “Zero”, “Gotti”, “The Sopranos”, “Ride Along”, and “Little America”.
He was born Emmanuel Dibango N’Djocke on December 12, 1933 in Douala, Cameroon where he began his musical studies in the church. He went to high school in Saint-Calais, France where he learned to play the saxophone piano and vibraphone. He met his wife Marie-Josee (Coco) in Brussels while playing there; they married in 1957.
Besides playing music he ran nightclubs, directed orchestras, and launched one of the first music journals in Africa.
Predeceased by his wife Coco, he is survived by his children – Georgia and Anya, Michel.
Due to restrictions in crowd size, Dibango’s funeral will be a private affair with a public memorial when it is permitted.
Feature photo credit: By Selbymay – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88505041