Cameroon saxophonist, Manu Dibango dies from Coronavirus

Cameroonian legendary saxophonist and singer, Many Dibango, has passed few days after contracting coronavirus.

A statement on his Facebook page on Tuesday announced the passing of the 86-year-old.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Many Dibango, our Papy Grove, who passed away on 24th March of 2020 at 86/years old further to Covid 19.

“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized. The saxophonist was one of the pioneers of Afro-Jazz and also fused funk with traditional Cameroonian music,”.

Dibango was born in 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. He attended high school in France and began learning instruments: first the piano, then saxophone – for which he became best known – and vibraphone.

He is best known for his 1972 hit “Soul Makossa”, and is one of the first global celebrities to die as a result of COVID-19.

His biggest hit was 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.

The line “mama-say, mama-sa, ma-makossa” from Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ was lifted from Dibango’s chorus on Soul Makossa – Dibango sued Jackson over the uncredited interpolation, winning an out of court settlement. In 2009, he took Jackson to court again along with Rihanna, whose track Don’t Stop the Music also uses the chorus line, but the complaint was deemed inadmissible.

Dibango went on to tour widely off the back of the track’s success, and collaborated with Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and more. His tracks were also sampled by artists including Busta Rhymes and the Chemical Brothers.

Musicians paying tribute include Angelique Kidjo, who said on Twitter: “You’re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being.”