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Afro Jazz Legend Manu Dibango dies of Covid-19 at age 86

Manu Dibango, best known for his 1972 hit “Soul Makoosa,” has died from complications of the coronavirus. According to his music publisher,Thierry Durepaire,Manu died in a hospital near paris. His funeral service will be held in strict privacy and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible.

Dibango was born in Douala, Cameroon to Michel Manfred N’Djoké Dibango, a civil servant and his wife a  fashion designer. Emmanuel had no siblings, although he had a stepbrother from his father’s previous marriage who was four years older than he was.

In 1941, after being educated at his village school, Dibango was accepted into a colonial school, near his home, where he learned French.

Dibango was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group, African Jazz, and has collaborated with many other musicians, including Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell just to name a few.

In 1976,he released a disco hit,Big Blow, which was re-mixed as a 12″ single in 1978 on Island records. and in 1998, he recorded the album CubAfrica with Cuban artist Eliades Ochoa.

At the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974, he was nominated in the categories Best R&B Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition for “Soul Makossa”. He  also served as the first chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation and was appointed with a  a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2004.

In 2009 he filed a lawsuit claiming that Rihanna’s and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop the Music and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin used the “Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa” hook,derived from a line from his 1972 single,Soul Makossa without his permission. According to Agence France-Presse ,Jackson admitted that he borrowed the line for Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin and settled out of court.

When Rihanna asked Jackson in 2007 for permission to sample the line, he allegedly approved the request without contacting Dibango beforehand. Dibango’s attorneys brought the case before a court in Paris, demanding €500,000 in damages and asking for Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music to be “barred from receiving ‘mama-say mama-sa’-related income until the matter is resolved”.

The judge ruled that Dibango’s claim was inadmissible: a year earlier, a different Paris-area judge had required Universal Music to include Dibango’s name in the liner notes of future French releases of “Don’t Stop the Music”, and, at the time of this earlier court appearance, Dibango had withdrawn legal action, thereby waiving his right to seek further damages.

Manu Dibango performing at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 2015




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