Afro-jazz pioneer Manu Dibango dies from coronavirus

Francis Akhalbey March 24, 2020
Manu Dibango — Photo via Kampala Sun

Legendary Cameroonian afro-jazz musician and pioneer, Manu Dibango, passed away Tuesday at the age of 86 after contracting coronavirus, his representatives confirmed. The veteran musician, who tested positive for the virus March 18, died in a Paris hospital.

“He died early this morning in a hospital in the Paris region,” Thierry Durepaire, his music publisher, told AFP. His Facebook page also confirmed his death via a statement Tuesday.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to covid 19,” the statement read.

“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible.”

Dibango, who was born in Douala in 1933, was well-known for his trademark infusion of indigenous Cameroonian music with funk and jazz.

“After being a German colony, Cameroon became a French protectorate. When the French navy came to Douala, they brought modern Western music with them. African performers played in the bars and hotels where white people stayed,” he told the UNESCO Courier about the kind of music he listened to in his native Cameroon while growing up in a 1991 interview.

“When the Africans came back to the district where they lived, they taught us the fashionable tunes. Well, more or less… We children changed these approximations in our turn. There was also initiation music, which was played with drums and wooden instruments such as tom-toms. And we heard traditional guitarists at weddings and funerals.”

A seasoned saxophonist and vibraphonist, his 1972 global hit single, Soul Makossa, is often regarded as one of the first disco records. The single was sampled by Michael Jackson and Rihanna for their chart-topping songs, Wanna Be Startin Somethin, and Please Don’t Stop the Music.

Dibango sued both musicians for sampling the song’s popular “Ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-kossa” hook without his permission. Both settled out of court.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: March 24, 2020


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