PARIS: Veteran Afro-jazz legend Manu Dibango died on Tuesday after contracting the new coronavirus, one of the first worldwide stars to succumb to the disease.
The 86-year-old Cameroonian, best known for the 1972 hit 'Soul Makossa', “died early this morning in a hospital in the Paris region,” his music publisher Thierry Durepaire said.
A message on his official Facebook page confirmed that his death had come after he contracted Covid-19.
“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible,” the message said.
“OH NO NOT YOU MANU DIBANGO,” Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour wrote on Twitter. “I don’t have the words to express all my sadness.” French Culture Minister Franck Riester also paid tribute to him on Twitter.
“The world of music has lost one of its legends,” he wrote. “The generosity and talent of Manu Dibango knew no frontiers.” The saxophonist was one of the pioneers of Afro jazz and also fused funk with traditional Cameroonian music.
His biggest hit was 'Soul Makossa', 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.
In 2009, he accused Michael Jackson of borrowing one of his hooks for two songs on the legendary Thriller album. Jackson settled out of court.
“I have the harmonies of Bach and Handel in my ear with Cameroonian lyrics,” he said in an August 2019 interview.
Emmanuel N’Djoke Dibango was born on Dec 12, 1933, growing up in a strictly observant Protestant family.
“My paternal uncle played the harmonium, my mother ran the choir. I’m a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020