At 86 years old, the Cameroonian saxophone legend Manu Dibango has joined the ancestors. Reports state he died in Paris of the coronavirus Monday. As Dibango was a legend in our world, and a personal friend of our host Georges Collinet, we'll be working on a larger tribute, but in the meantime, it seems appropriate to celebrate his life by posting this marathon of a 2018 concert by Dibango and his ensemble at Internationale Jazzwoche in Burghausen, Germany on March 9, 2018.
To call Dibango a giant of African music would be an understatement. You've almost definitely heard his 1972 hit “Soul Makossa,” and you definitely would recognize two tracks on Michael Jackson's Thriller that cribbed from “Soul Makossa” so obviously that Jackson settled the case out of court.
Dibango was to come to New York to perform with Angelique Kidjo at her now-canceled Carnegie Hall concert this month, and Kidjo posted a short video of them working out a coda for Dibango's biggest hit:
Dear #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! pic.twitter.com/3pGoICwjCn
— Angelique Kidjo (@angeliquekidjo) March 24, 2020
Dibango made funky, ambitious and celebratory music that was unapologetically Cameroonian without allowing himself to be boxed as “just” an African artist. He was a musician through and through and we're grateful for his 86 years on earth and the magic he gave us.