Manu Dibango, not just Soul Makossa

Manu Dibangolive in concert.

Manu Dibango live in concert.

The legendary African Jazz musician Manu Dibango is set to perform at this Sunday’s Koroga festival. Born as Emmanuel Dibango he became famous worldwide when his song Soul Makossa was heavily borrowed by the late Michael Jackson in 1972. Manu says he was in Paris when he heard mama-say “ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa,” on the radio when MJ’s Wanna Be Starting Somethin’ was playing. Having gotten no recognition from the late Michael Jackson, he went on to sue him and was duly compensated. Later on in Paris, he heard Rihanna’s Please don’t stop the music which used MJ’s rendition of Soul Makossa. He had to go to court a second time to get what was duly his.

Now, from its memorable words to its dancey tune, Soul Makossa opened up Manu Dibango’s music to a greater worldwide audience. However, if you look at his career, that hit was just one of the many contributions he made to African music.

When Manu Dibango was 15, he left his home country Cameroon and went to France to study in high school. First as a piano player, he got interested in the saxophone and that has become his instrument of choice to date. He went back home to Cameroon and formed an Afrijazz band where he was lead and together they played all across Africa and the world.

His music mainly falls under the genres of afrojazz, makossa, African rhumba and afrobeat. He has worked with great artists in the jazz world with names such as Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo, Lady Smith Mambazo. With over 30 albums to his name, a man like Manu Dibango is undoubtedly the father of African Jazz.

At 82, Manu has dedicated six decades of his life to African music, playing the saxophone and vibraphone, touring the world and writing songs. Very few have contributed this much to making sure African jazz is exported to the ends of the world. He also has a humanitarian spirit and has written songs about peace and justice. In 2004, he was named artist for peace by UNESCO. More about his life can be found in his book Three Kilos of Coffee.

The audience at Koroga Festival may expect to watch some of their favourite songs live. Songs like Super Kumba, Goro City and of course, Soul Makossa are what his fans will expect to hear.

This comes after the sad death of another Rhumba legend Papa Wemba who passed away on the 24th of April this year when he was performing on stage. Papa Wemba had performed at an earlier edition of the Koroga Festival last year where he gave his fans a stellar performance. Manu Dibango is one of the musicians that paid a tribute to him on Facebook saying Africa has truly lost a worthy son.

Also set to perform this Sunday at the Arboretum Grounds is Edward Parseen and the Different Faces Band, June Gachui and Maurice Kirya. Edward Parseen and the Different Faces Band featured on our list that showed the Kenyan jazz bands you should look out for. Their performance at the 2016 Safaricom Jazz that was held in February at Kasarani was definitely a jazzy treat on its own.

June Gachui has performed at Ricky na Marafiki Afrojazz evenings and her record “Everything is fine” is sweet and divine. She is sure to rock the stage on Sunday with her vocals. She also featured on our favourite jazz musicians list.

Maurice Kirya is a Ugandan singer with a unique and lovely voice. After performing at the Blankets and Wine sometime back, he has quite the following in Kenya even though most of his songs are in Baganda language which is not common here.

With a headline like Manu Dibango and the rest of the acts, this edition of the Koroga Festival is one that music lovers should not miss.

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About Faith Linyonyi