Manu Dibango Biography and Profile, Cameroonian Musician, Cameroonian Songwriter

Manu Dibango Biography

Bio Synopsis

Manu Dibango, Cameroonian singer, best known for his hit single “Soul Makossa,” was born 12 December 1933. Dibango achieved a considerable success following in the U.K. with the disco hit “Big Blow,” and in 1998 he recorded the album CubAfrica with Cuban artist Eliades Ochoa. Manu Dibango died on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 after contracting the new coronavirus, his representatives have confirmed. Dibango was “a fatherly figure who was always ready to advise, hold the hand of younger musicians and lead them to success,” fellow musician and journalist Ateh Francis, also known as Bazore, said. Here’s Manu Dibango Biography and Profile. Read more


Horoscope: Sagittarius.

Manu Dibango Early Life.

Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango 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, though his mother was a Duala. Manu Dibango, born 12 December 1933 in the Cameroonian city of Douala, which at the time was under French colonial rule, Dibango’s musical career spanned across more than six decades. He worked with such notable stars as South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and American Herbie Hancock. In 2009, the saxophonist filed a lawsuit claiming that Michael Jackson stole a hook from his song, Soul Makossa, for two songs on the world’s best-selling album, Thriller. Jackson settled the case out of court.

Veteran Afro-jazz star Manu Dibango died on Tuesday after contracting Covid-19, becoming the latest African artist to succumb to the virus. The 86-year-old Cameroonian, best known for the 1972 hit Soul Makossa, died at a hospital in Paris, said a statement on Facebook.


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“He was humble, soft spoken and always smiling. May his soul rest in peace and may he become the head of God’s orchestra,” Bazore said.

Manu Dibango Biography and Profile

Afro-Jazz star Manu Dibango, best known for his hit single “Soul Makossa,” was born 12 December 1933 in the Cameroonian port city of Douala 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. A literate woman, she was a fashion designer, running her own small business. Both her ethnic group, the Duala, and his, the Yabassi, viewed this union of different ethnic groups with some disdain.

Emmanuel had no siblings, although he had a stepbrother from his father’s previous marriage who was four years older than he was. 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.”

Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango, who used Manu Dibango as his stage name, was renowned as a saxophonist and songwriter, and also played the vibraphone. His songs, which incorporated jazz, funk and traditional Cameroonian music, failed to capture local attention and he moved to France where he gained international recognition.

Manu Dibango grew up in a strictly observant Protestant family.

“My paternal uncle played the harmonium, my mother ran the choir. I’m a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’. But that doesn’t stop me from being African, Cameroonian, and all that,” Manu Dibango said.

When was 15 years old, his father sent him to France in the hope of him becoming an engineer or a doctor.

He did his studies in the northern cathedral city of Chartres, where he made his first steps in music, learning the mandolin and the piano.

By his own admission ignorant of African culture, he was drawn to the jazz giants of the day: big band leaders Count Basie and Duke Ellington and the saxophonist Charlie Parker became his heroes, he said.

He first discovered the saxophone during a holiday camp and was sufficiently distracted by his musical explorations to fail his high school exams.

His father subsequently cut off his allowance, so he moved on to Brussels and found musical work in cabarets and circus balls.

Manu Dibango parents’ ethnic groups

Manu Dibango revealed: “One is Douala, the other Yabassi, and forty kilometers separate the two groups. At home, forty kilometers is a whole world. There are, perhaps, ethnic groups every ten or twenty kilometers or so, and each one speaks in its own dialect. It’s terrible, the mosaic that we have in Africa in general, and especially in Central Africa. But religion has brought them together.”

“My father traveled forty kilometers by canoe on the river. The first village he stopped in was my mother’s. Some continue, others stop. He stopped [laughs]. Then suddenly, I arrived. I arrived in the same year that Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. My father was a civil servant in the public sector and my mother was a seamstress.”

Manu Dibango a musician at heart

“One is born a musician. Some can become one, but I think that generally, a musician is born. I always liked music, more than football, more than children’s games … When I listened to music, I knew it was my thing! The career, the job … that’s something else. I was a musician at heart and that’s what interested me. So, at the church, the best moment for me was when the master climbed up to the harmonium, put on his glasses and set the score. For someone like me who loved music, that sound was really something.”

Where Manu Dibango First Heard Jazz Music

“On the radio and at high school where some classmates loved it. It was familiar to me, but not perfectly familiar, thanks to church and gospel; the blues came later. The blacks that we saw there were either boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson – or jazzmen. We didn’t yet see African musicians, except perhaps in some dance performances at the Chaillot theater. And there was also the Bal Nègre [cabaret] with West Indian music. But there wasn’t any African music at all, since there were no African workers, and no artists. Only us with our limited folk memories, nothing at all. So, we ended up going down to the cellars in Paris, where we could see the Armstrongs and the Count Basies with whom we identified. They were the only ones and they were at the top.”

Manu Dibango Met Francis Bebey in 1951

“We were in the camp and he played the guitar well. So, everyone who loved music was around him. Francis taught me a lot, including the twelve measures of the blues. He was ahead of us. Duke Ellington’s back catalogue was already familiar to him. He introduced me to all that. It really was my first contact with harmony in jazz. And having Duke Ellington as a model, that wasn’t so bad, especially at the time.”

Brussels marked a big turning point

“I met a lot of Belgian musicians. Yes, that’s where I met my wife. It was the Black Angels venue at the top of the city. On stage you had Jacques Pelzer, Sadi Lallemand, Toots Thielemans … There is a film about Toots Thielemans in which I appear with my wife. It was in 1959 or 1960. It was pure chance. We had gone to see him in concert, and at the intermission we got up just as the camera turned. I was young, I had hair … All this is a long way of saying that I was deeply fond of jazz. I was going to see Art Blakey, I even played with him.”

African Jazz recruited Manu Dibango

“I was recruited to participate in sessions that have since become historic because it was the first time that Africans were able to record in Europe with the techniques of the moment. In Africa, everything was still happening via the radio because there weren’t really any studios. Basically, everything we recorded sounded terrible. For several reasons. The Congolese numbered about 15 million and they all spoke the same language – quite the economic force. With us, with our dialects, you could be popular in Douala and not popular in Yaoundé. The Belgians did a lot of shit in the Congo but they also did something awesome: founded a very powerful radio station, which broadcast until 3AM. All of Central Africa was plugged into it. Congolese music became popular everywhere and playing with Congolese musicians gave you notoriety throughout Africa. That’s what happened to me.”

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‘Papy Groove’

It was there, too, that he met his future wife, Marie-Josee, known as “Coco”, and bandleader Joseph Kabasle, another pioneer of African jazz. After a few years back home, including a period when he ran a nightclub in Cameroon, he was back in France in the early 1960s.

He played piano for French rock-and-roller Dick Rivers, then was bandleader for French-Italian crooner Nino Ferrer.

Manu Dibango ‘Soul Makossa’

Released in 1972, “Soul Makossa” became an international hit. Its “Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa” hook — which means “I dance” in the duala language — was sampled by various artists, including Michael Jackson and Rihanna. Dibango filed a lawsuit against the two artists in 2009, arguing that they had used the hook without this permission. The motion was rejected by a court in Paris because he had already successfully applied for his name to be mentioned on Rihanna’s releases of the song.

Dibango was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group African Jazz and well-known for his collaborations with the late Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, Nigerian guitarist King Sunny Adé and South African gospel group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Dibango achieved a considerable success following in the U.K. with the disco hit “Big Blow,” and in 1998 he recorded the album CubAfrica with Cuban artist Eliades Ochoa.

Dibango was “a fatherly figure who was always ready to advise, hold the hand of younger musicians and lead them to success,” fellow musician and journalist Ateh Francis, also known as Bazore, said by phone from Cameroon.

Manu Dibango Sued Rihanna and Michael Jackson

In 2009, Manu Dibango filed a lawsuit against Michael Jackson and Rihanna, claiming they had stolen his music in “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and “Don’t Stop the Music,” respectively. “Don’t Stop the Music” is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna for her 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad. It was written by Tawanna Dabney, Michael Jackson, and StarGate.

The song was released as the album’s fourth single on September 7, 2007 worldwide. “Don’t Stop the Music” is a dance-pop and techno song that features various rhythmic devices used mainly in hip hop music. The song samples the line, “Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa” which is taken from Jackson’s 1983 single “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”.

For using the line, both Rihanna and Jackson faced a lawsuit from the Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango, who claimed that the hook originates from his 1972 song “Soul Makossa”. Jackson settled out of court.

“Let’s say I didn’t lose. There was an arrangement. I won a lot. Let’s just say that it was another step in the career of an artist who experiences their piece becoming a standard. There are thousands of standards, but fewer that last more than forty years. Still, young people were engaging with the song. Michael Jackson gave it a new vitality. If someone else would have picked it up, maybe it wouldn’t have had the same impact. And also, he had Quincy’s job to back him up…”

Manu Dibango managed the State Television Orchestra of the Ivory Coast in the mid-70s

“Firstly, all my best childhood friends – at school, in high school – were Ivorians. I knew Houphouët-Boigny [president of Ivory Coast 1960 to 1993] when he was still a minister in France. In line with his philosophy, he wanted to be surrounded by the best Africans, in all fields. So, at the time of Ivory Coast’s independence in August 1960, he asked me to come – I lived in the United States – to play two concerts.”

“Ivorians have been trying to set up an orchestra for national radio and they called on me, a Cameroonian, something unimaginable today, just as you would never see an Ivorian running things in Cameroon. Houphouët was a proponent of idea of ??pan-Africanism. Besides, I was replacing a very good Malian musician, Boncana Maïga. On my part, I applied the Houphouët’s ideas and I recruited the best Africans: Ivorians of course but also Ghanaians, Senegalese, Nigerians…”

Manu Dibango Albums

  • Afrijazzy, 1986
  • NYXIA. Tome II, 2019
  • Live 96 – Papa Groove, 1996
  • M & M, 2017
  • B Sides, 2006
  • Sost, 2014
  • Salvamm ‘o munno, 2004
  • Su La Take, 2008
  • Lubamba, 2016
  • Swing popotin, 2002
  • Echo Chamber, 2019
  • Crooklyn, Volume 2, 1994
  • Ghetto Blaster, 2013
  • Sabou, 2004
  • The Very Best Of Manu Dibango: Afro Soul Jazz From The Original Makossa Man, 1997
  • Ballad Emotion, 2011
  • Starbucks African Blend, 2005
  • Afro Blue – The Roots & Rhythm, 1999
  • Sounds of Africa, 2012
  • Maniseros de Oro, 2011
  • Da Funk Vol. 2, 2000
  • Afrobeat par Mondomix avec Tony Allen, Femi Kuti, Manu Dibango, KonKoma, 2014
  • African Soul, Vol. 2, 2013
  • Créole jazz, vol. 1 (La sélection), 2014
  • Zouk & Biguine (Ambiance tropicale), 2009
  • New Directions Nouvelles Orientations Novos Rumos 1959-1962, 2011
  • Vision, 2000
  • Best of Cameroun, 2018
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Manu Dibango Songs

  • Soul Makossa, Soul Makossa · 1972
  • Big Blow, Big Blow & Soul Makossa · 1976
  • New Bell, O Boso · 1972
  • Abele Dance, Essential Recordings · 2006
  • The Panther, Africadelic · 1973
  • Sun Explosion, Home Made · 1979
  • Ayé Africa, Mboa’ Su Kamer Feelin’ · 2000
  • Oh Koh, Home Made · 1979
  • Pepe Soup, Makossa Man · 1973
  • Super Kumba, Super Kumba · 1974
  • O Boso O Boso · 1972
  • Soir Au Village, Super Kumba · 1974
  • Africa Boogie, Waka Juju · 1982
  • Ekedy, Essential Recordings · 2006
  • Mouvement Ewondo, Manu Safari · 1998
  • Soul Fiesta, Africadelic · 1973
  • Mangabolo, Waka Juju · 1982
  • Dikalo, Dikalo & Telo Miso · 1973
  • Senga, Makossa Man · 1973
  • Bayam Sell’am, Afrovision · 1976
  • Tek Time, Gone Clear · 1980
  • Soma Loba, Polysonik · 1990
  • Dasiko, Manu Safari · 1998
  • Yekey tenge, Polysonik · 1990
  • Biko, Wakafrika · 1994
  • Ambiance Tropika, Manu Dibango Anthology · 2018
  • Hibiscus, O Boso · 1972
  • Groovy Flute, African Voodoo · 1972
  • Nights In Zeralda, Soul Makossa · 1972
  • Wouri, Saxy-Party · 1972
  • Weya, Makossa Man · 1973
  • Tam Tam Pour L’Ethiopie, All Africa Radio · 1985

Manu Dibango Dead

Manu Dibango died on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 after contracting the new coronavirus, his representatives have confirmed. The 86-year-old Cameroonian, best known for the 1972 hit “Soul Makossa”, is one of the first worldwide stars to die as a result of COVID-19.

“He died early this morning in a hospital in the Paris region,” his music publisher Thierry Durepaire said.

A message on his official Facebook page confirmed that his death had come after he contracted COVID-19.

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

“OH NO NOT YOU MANU DIBANGO,” Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour wrote on Twitter. “I don’t have the words to express all my sadness.”

French Culture Minister Franck Riester also paid tribute to him on Twitter.

“The world of music has lost one of its legends,” he wrote. “The generosity and talent of Manu Dibango knew no frontiers.”

Manu Dibango Age

Manu Dibango (Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango) was born on 12 December 1933 and died 2020. He was 86 years old.

Manu Dibango Children

  • Georgia Dibango,
  • Marva Dibango,
  • Michel Dibango

Manu Dibango Biography and Profile


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