Obituary: Manu Dibango, Cameroon-born saxophonist who became one of first stars of World Music scene

Emmanuel N’Djoké “Manu” Dibango, musician and songwriter. Born: 12 December 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. Died: 24 March 2020 in Île-de-France, France, aged 86

Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA: African super star saxophanist Manu Dibangu, with his Soul Makossa Gang, performs at the 7th Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival, 31 March 2006. This renowned Cameroonian musician mixes jazz with some traditional African influences, and even a bit of reggae into his music. AFP PHOTO RODGER BOSCH (Photo credit should read RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

Manu Dibango, who fused African rhythms with funk to become one of the most influential musicians in world dance music, died on Tuesday from coronavirus.

The Cameroon-born saxophonist, who gained international fame with his 1972 song Soul Makossa, died in a hospital in the Paris region, Thierry Durepaire said.

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Dibango was hospitalised with an illness “linked to Covid-19,” his official Facebook page said last week.

Soul Makossa was one of the earliest hits in the nascent World Music scene, including a catchy hook copied by some of the world’s biggest pop stars.

In 2009, Dibango filed a lawsuit against Michael Jackson and Rihanna, claiming they stole his music in Wanna Be Startin’ Something and Don’t Stop the Music, respectively. Jackson settled out of court.

His funeral was to be “held in strict privacy” followed by a tribute “when possible,” Tuesday’s announcement said. Funerals in France have been limited to 20 people due to a lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus. Dibango is survived by four children.


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