As one of the African continent’s most renowned musicians, Manu Dibango continues to inspire African music lovers with his unique musical style. Whether through his integration of traditional Cameroonian melodies with other genres such as jazz and funk or his uses of the popular term “makossa“, Dibango’s musical achievements have garnered him widespread admiration throughout Africa and beyond. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for traditional African culture may regard Manu Dibango’s tremendous talent amongst the most significant in the history of African music. His contributions to modern day music continue to be seen through the artists his music has impacted.
Born in the city of Douala, Cameroon, Dibango’s family once lived in a Yabassi encampment in Douala’s central region, near the local Wouri River. As a young child, Dibango frequently attended a Protestant church for his religious education. There, he enjoyed studying the art of music, quickly learning the craft. During 1941, Dibango became accepted into a nearby colonial school where he became fluent in French and educated in several other subjects. Two years later, during 1944, Charles de Gaulle, France’s president, selected the school to attend and perform during his arrival’s welcoming ceremonies in Cameroon in what would be one of Dibango’s earliest stage experiences. With time, Dibango became highly skilled as a vibraphone player and saxophonist. His unique talents became recognised throughout the region, garnering him much respect amongst the music community and its growing population of devoted fans.
As a member of African Jazz, a Congolese rumba band, Dibango has collaborated alongside a wide variety of musicians with Fela Kuti, Bernie Worrell, Herbie Hancock and Don Cherry amongst them. Widely regarded as Dibango’s most renowned work is his hit “Soul Makossa”. The song contains the lyric “makossa”, meaning “dance” in the Cameroonian language of Duala — Dibango’s native tongue. Throughout the years, the term has forged a great influence on a range of popular musical hits and talents by the likes of Michael Jackson, Akon, Rihanna and The Fugees. During 1998, Dibango joined forces with Cuba’s Eliades Ochoa for his album CubAfrica.
Appointed to UNESCO’s Artists for Peace during 2004, Dibango’s impact on African music is well recognised throughout the continent and around the globe. A true testament to his widespread influence, the musician held the role of Cameroon Music Corporation’s first chairman. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for native African music may find Dibango’s impact of great significance within the African culture.