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Celebrating a global music icon: Cameroon's Manu Dibango 'goes home'


From Cameroon to Africa and the world.

The death of veteran Afro-jazz star Manu Dibango was confirmed on Tuesday by his family and representatives. He succumbed to the coronavirus pandemic at a hospital in the French capital, Paris.

A message on his official Facebook page confirmed the death reading in part: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Manu Dibango, our Grandpa Groove, on 24 March, 2020 at the age of 86, after contracting covid 19.”

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.

The Cameroonian’s name is trending worldwide on Twitter. Whiles several high-profile personalities from presidents to fellow artistes and fans from across the world continue to celebrate his life and craft – testament to how the saxophonist, singer and songwriter was a big global star.

Presidents of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Gabon have all tweeted their condolences whiles Benin’s Angelique Kidjo and Senegal’s Youssou Ndourr have all praised the talent of Dibango. Kidjo described him as a the “original giant of African music.”

Here are some quick facts about Dibango

  • Born in 1933 in the city of Douala, he attended church from where he honed his music skills.
  • Celebrated for a unique blend of jazz, funk and traditional Cameroonian music.
  • Influenced bands from Kool and the Gang in the 1970s to hip-hop in the 1990s.
  • Best known for his hit Soul Makossa. Video below
  • He served as the pioneer chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation.
  • UNESCO appointed him Artist for Peace in 2004
  • Collaborated with artists several artists including Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and US pianist Herbie Hancock.
  • On record to have sued Michael Jackson and Rihanna in 2009, accusing the duo of unlawfully adopting some of his lyrics. He eventually settled out of court.

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Manu’s global legend was tied to his hit song Soul Makossa, which was originally composed for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon that year. The ambassador of Afro-jazz, although he is African and deeply rooted in his homeland, has always considered his music as a link between cultures and generations.

Despite his advanced age, he has always continued in the field and teamed with the younger generation. He has explored rhythms as diverse as reggae, rap and electronic music; celebrating traditional Africa and contemporary jazz with his stentorian voice.

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