Paris: Veteran Afro-jazz legend Manu Dibango died Tuesday after contracting coronavirus and became one of the first worldwide stars to succumb to the disease.
The 86-year-old Cameroonian, best known for the 1972 hit ‘Soul Makossa’, died early this (Tuesday) morning in a hospital close to the French capital,” his music publisher Thierry Durepaire said Tuesday. A message on Dibango’s 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 organised when possible,” the message added.
“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 Dibango on Twitter. “The world of music has lost one of its legends,” wrote Riester. “The generosity and talent of Manu Dibango knew no frontiers.”
The saxophonist was one of the pioneers of Afro jazz and also fused funk with traditional Cameroonian music. His biggest hit was ‘Soul Makossa’, the B-side of a song to support the Cameroon football team in the African Cup of Nations but was picked up and popularised by New York DJs.
In 2009, he accused Michael Jackson of borrowing one of his hooks for two songs on the legendary ‘Thriller’ album. Jackson settled the matter out of court.
“I have the harmonies of Bach and Handel in my ear with Cameroonian lyrics,” he told this agency in an August 2019 interview. “It is a luxury to be able to have at least two possibilities. In life, I prefer to be stereo than mono.”
Emmanuel N’Djoke Dibango was born December 12, 1933, growing up in a strictly observant Protestant family. 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, and that made up his mind to be a musician.