Manu Dibango

Cameroun World music

Biography :

Manu Dibango, one of Africa’s musical stars and one of the top living saxophonists, is an indispensable artist. He is a superb stage performer who, at age 82, still shows good communicative humour. The very concept of world music owes much to him. Manu Dibango, the greatest of African saxophonists, is above all one of the founding fathers of a modern African musical style that is open to jazz, R&B, salsa, gospel, funk and reggae.

Born in 1933 in Douala, Cameroun, he sang in the choir led by his mother, but for him this was pure amusement. He arrived in France at age 15 to pursue his studies. At that time, he knew next to nothing about jazz or the saxophone. The virus had not yet taken hold. Two years went by before he discovered what would make his life: the saxophone. He would soon be performing in clubs, to his father’s chagrin.

His wanderings led him to Belgium, where he blended into the Congolese community. In the early 1960s, the singer Kabasele, hired him for his group, African Jazz. He recorded many discs with them and toured ceaselessly. A few years later, he founded his own band and developed his own style, with unique sounds. In 1972, a 45 RPM disc was released: Side B would become one of the greatest African hits of all time, Soul Makossa, which sold in the millions worldwide. It was also a hit in the United States and was reused later by Michael Jackson and Rihanna, among others. World music was born.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Manu Dibango recorded numerous albums, mixtures of jazz and African musical styles, among them Super Kumba (1974), Africadelic (1975) and Mélodies africaines (1983), followed by Afro-electro-funk works including Abele Dance' (1984). Despite a string of tours and recordings, Manu Dibango never forgot where he came from, and he committed himself regularly to the African cause. Never ceasing to build bridges between continents and musical genres, he has produced more than 30 discs since the start of his career, including Gone Clear (1979), Ambassador (1981), Wakafrika (1994), Lamastabastani (1995), B Sides (2002) and Manu Dibango Joue Sidney Bechet (2007). He has also composed music for films including Kirikou ou les bêtes sauvages and Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer. 

Manu Dibango is the very memory of African music and the world sound. He has played all over the world with many of the greats, and he himself has become one of the most prestigious figures in jazz and on the African continent. A specialist in the blending of genres, Manu Dibango takes a wicked pleasure in covering his tracks, crossing influences and imbuing himself in varied musical styles, the better to surprise audiences and bring them on an unforgettable journey.

In 2015, he was named Grand témoin de la francophonie by the International Organization of La Francophonie, and he will play the role of ambassador for the French languages at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Merci! Thank You!, an anthology of his work in a 5-CD set, has just been released in 2016.

Manu Dibango

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