Manu Dibango: African saxophone legend dies of Covid-19

a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’ has died

one of the first BIG dance tunes of my youth was ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1972. It was played on repeat in clubs and the radio in Belgium, France, everywhere. And it still packs floors. Such a timeless Afro-groove, what a great musician Manu Dibango was. So sad to know that he is the first musician to die from the Covid-19 virus. Such a loss. Manu Dibango (born December 12th, 1933, Douala, Cameroon-died March 24th, 2020, in Paris, France) RIP.

see also Blue Elephant -Manu Dibango 1974

Manu Dibango -OST ‘How To Make Love To A Negro Without Getting Tired’ 1989

Manu Dibango vs Chateau Flight -Soul Fiesta

Dig the Latin bag, bro!

Emmanuel N"Djoke Dibango, known as Manu Dibango performs during his concert at the Ivory Hotel Abidjan in 2018

The African saxophone legend Manu Dibango has died in Paris after catching coronavirus.

Dibango – best known for his 1972 hit Soul Makossa – is one of the first global stars to die from Covid-19.

The 86-year-old fused jazz and funk music with traditional sounds from his home country, Cameroon.

He collaborated with numerous artists over a long career, including US pianist Herbie Hancock and Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

The Cameroonian musician filed a lawsuit in 2009 saying Michael Jackson had stolen a hook from his song, Soul Makossa, for two tracks on the world’s best-selling album, Thriller. Jackson settled the case out of court.Media captionManu Dibango speaks about some of his memorable outings

“It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove,” a statement on his official Facebook page read.

His funeral will take place in “strict privacy”, the statement read, asking instead for people to send condolences by email and adding that a tribute will be arranged “when possible”.

Top African musicians Angelique Kidjo and Youssou Ndour have led the tributes.

‘Giant of African music’

On Twitter, Kidjo shared a video, recorded two months ago, of her rehearsing the end of Soul Makossa with Dibango.

“You’re the original giant of African music and a beautiful human being,” the Beninois performer wrote.

Twitter post by @angeliquekidjo: VerifiedDear #ManuDibango, you’ve always been there for me from my beginnings in Paris to this rehearsal just 2 months ago! You re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being. This coda of #SoulMakossa is for you!

Ndour called the Cameroonian a “genius” on the saxophone and described him as a “big brother, a pride for Cameroon and all of Africa”.

Both Ndour and Kidjo, along with other stars such as Salif Keita, Papa Wemba and King Sunny Ade, worked on Dibango’s 1994 album Wakafrika.

Speaking to the BBC in 2013 about how he wanted to be remembered, Dibango said: “When you are gone, it is finished, it is not up to me to say, ‘I want this.'”

Archive shot of Manu Dibango
Image captionManu Dibango, seen here in 1970, drew on a wide range of musical influences

Born in the Cameroonian city of Douala in 1933, which at the time was under French colonial rule, Dibango’s musical career spanned across more than six decades.

‘Raised in the Hallelujah’

He grew up in a religious Protestant family, the AFP news agency reports, and his first musical influences came from the church.

“I’m a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’,” he is quoted as saying.

But he drew on many influences and was well known for his eclectic style.

“I play different kinds of music before playing my own. I think that that’s very important to play other people’s music,” he told the BBC in 2017.

“As you are African they expect you always to play African. Forget that. You’re not a musician because you’re African. You’re a musician because you are musician. Coming from Africa, but first, musician.”

Manu Dibango
Image captionDibango failed his high school exams after being distracted by music

He was sent to high school in France, which is where he learnt to play the saxophone.

The first tune he performed, in front of fellow students, was When the Saints Go Marching In, he told the BBC.

To the disappointment of his father, Dibango failed his high school exams and took up music performing in nightclubs in Belgium instead, AFP reports.


Manu Dibango vs Chateau Flight -Soul Fiesta

‘Soul Fiesta’,  originally recorded by Manu Dibango and re-released in 2002 on the French label Versatile Records as a remix by hot Parisian producers team Chateau Flight. Strangely enough I cannot locate the original song  in my album collection of Manu Dibango. Or even 45’s.  Can anyone shine a light in what year  ‘Soul Fiesta’ originally came out?? On which label? Was it French Fiesta? Your input is appreciated…

….thanks to reader Afrikola for the following update; ‘…This came out on the album ‘Afrodelic’ as Fiesta 360.058 in 1973 and got re-released on Hi&Fly Records, H&F 0019 in 2006′.

Manu Dibango Soul Fiesta original version

This 12″ features  a full rhythm mix + this version without drums

Manu Dibango -Soul Fiesta Chateau Flight Rmx No Drumz Mix instrumental 

Blue Elephant -Manu Dibango 1974

in my previous post on the Blue Elephant label I promised to highlight the Manu Dibango album (BE 877 041).  A few readers reacted eagerly to see and hear more, so here it is.

For some mysterious reasons the same album got a release on Pink Elephant (PE 877 068) as well. It is self-titled and the songs were recorded in Paris at the Sofrason Studios in 1973. Parts of this album originally appeared as the album “Makossa Man” (Fiesta 360 048, France) while “Pepe Soup” was added to the US release with the same title.  The Dutch release on Blue Elephant has  “New Bell”, “O Boso” as extra additions and a few other alternative tracks which make this album quite unique.

Manu Dibango album  Blue Elephant(BE 877 041)

side 1

1. New Bell

2. Pepe Soup

3. Sango Pous Pous

4. Mwassa Makossa

5. Ashiko Go

side 2

1. O Boso

2. Weya

3. Dangwa

4. Senga

5. Soul Makossa

All titles by Manu Dibango. Produced by J.P.Martin. Original Sofrason Recording 1973. Released in Holland 1974.

Dig the Latin bag, bro!

Good day to all. Today I bring you a selection of tunes that reflects the cross-pollination of Africa and Cuba. Music that injects Afro into Cuban and Cuba into Africa. Danzón, Son, Cuban jazz, Rumba, Boogaloo, Salsa, Mambo;  those rhythms came from the African continent in the first place. Large numbers of African slaves and European (mostly Spanish) immigrants came to Cuba and brought their own forms of music to the island.

In the 50’s and 60’s New York was the birthplace of Boogaloo (or Bugalu) and Mambo  and other Afro-Cuban inspired rhythms like Salsa. Latin youth culture flourished during those days and the trends and styles of the barrios of  downtown Bronx and Spanish Harlem were eagerly copied by African musicians on the other side of the ocean. Sort of a global village in fact. Africa dissolved Latin rhythms within it’s own music,  so the circle was round.

I start this selection with a rare album, released originally in France on African Records in 1970, that features the talents of Le Grand Kalle, Don Gonzalo and Manu Dibango as L’ African Team.

‘Africa Boogaloo’ and ‘Boogaloo la Fontaine’ are two tracks from this album that could easily have been recorded for Fania or Tico but were made in Africa. On both tracks Manu Dibango & Kalle sing and play, the groove is tight and mesmerizing.

L’African Team -African Boogaloo

L’African Team -Boogaloo La Fontaine

Of all African musicians Manu Dibango surely must have been one of the most succesful and busiest working showman around the globe. He can be heard with the Fania All Stars on an album that was recorded in New York’s Yankee Stadium on August 24th, 1973. The event was a concert, organised by Fania Records under the title Nuestra Cosa -best translated as ‘Our Latin Thing’. Forty thousand souls, mostly from the barrios of Manhattan and the Bronx, turned to welcome Mongo Santamaria’s Septet, El Gran Combo from Puerto Rico and the Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango. Although the New York concert ended prematurely due to chaos and riots caused by the public’s enthousiasm, the track ‘Soul Makossa’ was re-recorded during another concert by the same line-up in San Juan. Hear Manu Dibango introducing his big hit ‘Soul Makossa’ to an ecstatic crowd….

Fania All Stars featuring Manu Dibango -Soul Makossa

Ray Barretto needs no further introduction. His musical career spans many decades and he was without a doubt one of the great Latin musicians who is widely credited as the godfather of Latin Jazz. In 1960, Barretto was a house musician for the Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside labels. New York had become the center of Latin music in the United States and a style called “Charanga” was the Latin music craze of the time. He never forgot the African roots of his music as ‘Abidjan Revisited’ proves, a slice of uptempo conga madness and flute while Manu Dibango is namechecked in the lyrics.

Ray Barretto -Abidjan Revisited

In the year 2009 African Boogaloo was being re-discovered by Europeans and Africans alike. The excellent compilation ‘Africa Boogaloo’, with stunning artwork proves just that. This package presents a range of tracks from the 50s through the 70s – some of the earliest African interpretations of Latin styles that blend with grooves like Congolese Rumba; AFRO & F.U.N.K.Y. Latin Jazz.

Titles include “A Moins Que Namikosa” by Orchestra OK Jazz, “Rampa Rampa” by Orchestre Yaya Mas, “Quiero Wapacha” by Charles Lembe, “Ven Y Ven Y Ven” by Orchestre OK Jazz, “Vamos A Bailar” by Rio Band, “Guantanamo” by Laba Sosseh, “On Verra Ca” by Orchestre Baobab, “Mi Guajeo” by Orchestre N’Guewel, “N’Niyo” by Amara Toure, “Il N’Est Jamais Trop Tard” by Pierre Tchana & Orchestre Poly Rhythmo, “Africa Boogaloo” by Le Grande Kalle with Don Gonzalo & Manu Dibango and “Adigbedoto” by Gnonnas Pedro.

The best news is that most of the selections come from albums or CD’s that are still available! Or have been re-issued with new packages and liner notes. Click the titles to see where you can purchase this great music. Caliente!

Recommended Listening

Africa Boogaloo – The Latinization Of West Africa-Various Artists HJRCD41 (Honest John’s 2009)

Le Grand Kalle and l’African Team (Sonod 1999)

Fania All Stars -Latin Soul Rock (Fania SLP 00470)

Aleke Kanonu -Nwanne, Nwanne, Nwanne

Nigerian musician Aleke Kanonu is quite unknown yet he has worked with numerous jazz artists in the USA.

He sang and played kalimba and congas with Stanley Cowell on the album entitled ‘Regeneration’ on Strata-East in 1976.

In 1980 came  ‘Aleke’,  a great afro-beat LP with jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis.

A year later, an obscure 12″  was recorded in New York with Mr Tolbert , entitled “Happiness / Nwanne, Nwanne, Nwanne”.

Wicked sound! Dig Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango et al but then you are going to love this

Aleke Kanonu meets Tolbert The Miracle Man -Nwanne, Nwanne, Nwanne

I lost track of this record until last night while browsing thru my Disco section where it was stored. Last night changed it all!! I remember buying this , way back in NYC at the time when it was released. There was a short-lived buzz with a few key jocks and interest from the shops but due to short supply it disappeared into obscurity. Rare and highly desirable.