The musician Manu Dibango, who has died aged 86 after being handled for Covid-19, lined an enormous spectrum of kinds, from conventional roots music to jazz, soul, Afrobeat, reggae, gospel, French chanson, Congolese rumba, salsa and solo piano. Most significantly, Dibango was a founding father of funk.
In 1972 he made his mark with the hit Soul Makossa. As quickly because it was launched, because the B-side of a tribute to the Cameroon soccer crew, there have been no less than 5 completely different cowl variations within the American charts. The usage of the chorus “mama-say, mama-sa, ma-makossa”, on Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something, from his 1982 album Thriller, earned Dibango substantial compensation 20 years later. This was extra lately adopted by a similar claim in opposition to Rihanna when she sampled Jackson.
Dibango was an unmistakable determine, with shaved head, shades, a benign grin and a deep, reverberating snigger. The immediately recognisable tone of his music was all the time swinging, melodic and invigorating. Though finest generally known as a saxophonist, Dibango was additionally a consummate keyboard and vibraphone participant and an ideal arranger, who may get the very best from a quartet or a 28-piece orchestra.
As he as soon as mentioned: “What’s particular is that Africa has a protracted historic relationship with sound, and a communion between sound and the visible stronger than in some other tradition. The sound carries the rhythm and the motion creates the pictures. The best way an African strikes in contrast with the atmosphere is completely different from the western conception.”
Emmanuel Dibango was born in Douala, in French-administered Cameroon. His father was a high-ranking civil servant, his mom a designer, and each mother and father have been religious Protestants who disapproved of secular music. Manu obtained encouragement from the musical director of his church choir, and surreptitiously broadened his musical perspective with a bamboo flute and a home-made guitar. In 1944, he was within the faculty choir for the state go to of Normal Charles de Gaulle to Cameroon.
Through the second world struggle, West Africa supplied many reluctant recruits to the allied forces and Dibango would recall serving to to chop unfastened the ropes binding “volunteers” press-ganged into the French military. Considered one of them was an uncle of his.
In 1949 his mother and father despatched him to France to review and, as an incentive, promised to pay for music classes. He arrived on a steamer to take up his training at Saint-Calais within the area of Sarthe. The one black baby on this small nation city, he received on nicely along with his schoolmates, who remembered him bringing the primary bananas they’d ever seen. For his half, he discovered snow unique and tried to put up some dwelling in an envelope.
He was adopted by the group and settled rapidly into the French lifestyle, however his individuality, his cultural roots and, probably, recollections of the “volunteers”, prevented him from accepting the entire nationwide id anticipated by his host nation. Because of his mother and father having completely different ethnic backgrounds, he was by no means happy with an imposed id. He was sad to be labeled as an African musician, preferring to be thought of as an artist, and an African.
Thought of too outdated to take up the violin, his most well-liked instrument, he studied classical piano for 4 years. His fellow college students included Francis Bebey, who would grow to be a novelist and musicologist, with whom Dibango performed classical and jazz items, though for pupil dances they grew to become a blues band.
Whereas he was on vacation in 1953, a pal lent him a saxophone and Dibango took to the instrument, enrolling for 2 years of personal tuition. After doing the rounds of French jazz golf equipment, he moved to Belgium, the place his soulful type attracted the proprietor of the Bantou membership. Inside months Dibango had been signed up by Joseph Kabasele, the founding father of contemporary Congolese music, whose band, African Jazz, spearheaded a musical revolution in Africa. In Brussels he additionally met his future spouse Marie-Josee (generally known as Coco), whom he married in 1957.
In 1959 Kabasele recorded the pan-African anthem Independence Cha Cha Cha and invited Dibango to the Congolese capital, Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), to work with him. They made many hit information for the Ngoma label within the prevailing rumba type. Dibango additionally ran a recording band referred to as African Soul through which he performed the organ on his personal interpretations of American music. He managed a nightclub, the Tam Tam, however regardless of monetary success, he and Coco skilled racism, in order that they moved to Abidjan in Ivory Coast.
After a interval as chief of the Ivoirian nationwide broadcast orchestra, Dibango realised that the inventive “miracle” he thought he was observing in Africa had was a mirage, and he returned to France.
Within the late 1960s and early 70s he recorded movie soundtracks – together with that of Ousmane Sembène’s celebrated characteristic, Ceddo (1976) – incidental background music and commercials, and singles for the African market.
In 1972 he joined the Congo rumba combo Ry-Co Jazz for a tour of Algeria, together with the guitarist Jerry Malekani, who thereafter grew to become his everlasting accompanist. Following the loss of life of the US tenor sax supremo King Curtis in 1974, Dibango launched a tribute single which recognized the American as a serious affect on his approach. He then recorded two albums for Chris Blackwell’s Island label, together with the instrumental Massive Blow (1976).
In 1982 Dibango labored on a masterful triple album, Fleurs Musicales du Cameroun, which gathered modern and conventional musicians from the assorted ethnic teams of Cameroon.
In the identical 12 months he toured France with the American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, exploring every little thing from soul to Malian folks music and Thelonious Monk. Quickly after, he was blowing ice-cold funk on his album Electrical Africa (1985), which featured Herbie Hancock, and the hit single Abele Dance. He collaborated with a protracted listing of prime class performers: Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, Fania All Stars, Ray Lema, Invoice Laswell, Sly and Robbie, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and lots of up and coming Cameroonians.
In 1984 he joined greater than a dozen artistes on the fundraising single Tam Tam Pour l’Ethiopie, launched indignantly in response to Band Support, which many Africans thought of condescending. Dibango’s 1994 album Wakafrika featured King Sunny Adé, Peter Gabriel, Salif Keita, Papa Wemba and Youssou N’Dour.
In 1967 he was bandleader on Pulsations, the primary black music programme on French TV, and within the early 1990s he hosted his personal prime-time French TV present, Salut Manu. In 1998 his achievements have been celebrated by the agricultural group the place he grew up, with the naming of a cultural centre after him. He reciprocated by donating the saxophone he had used on Soul Makossa.
In later years he was an envoy for Unicef, obtained a number of honours from African international locations and in 2010 was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. He was nonetheless working final 12 months, on tour with Symphonic Safari, mixing jazz with classical music.
Within the UK his frequent live performance appearances included a 2008 Africa Day present in Trafalgar Sq., however probably the most satisfying for him have been the common bookings at Ronnie Scott’s membership, the place he loved being recognised as a “jazz man”.
Coco died in 1995. He’s survived by his daughters, Georgia and Anya and son, Michel.
• Manu (Emmanuel N’Djoké) Dibango, musician, born 12 December 1933; died 24 March 2020