Manu Dibango was born on 12 December 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. In March 1949, when he was only 15 years old, he disembarked in Marseilles after 30 days on a boat and was welcomed in Saint-Calais, in the Sarthe region, by the Chevalier family. After the Jules Ferry college in Saint-Calais, he continued his studies in Reims, then in Paris.
From 1953, between Paris and Brussels, he devoted himself to music, his only passion, and became a professional in 1957. From France he emigrated to Belgium, where he lived almost permanently for 5 years. In Brussels, he frequented jazz clubs, established himself as an excellent musician and played with the best Belgian and foreign artists. He made several records for different labels, but it is above all his collaboration with Kabassélé and African Jazz that revealed him to the African public. For the first time in 1964, with his African Soul Quintet, an African recorded jazz.
On his return to France, Manu made a name for himself, accompanying the stars of French chanson. He collaborated notably with Nino Ferrer, of whom he became the conductor, Mike Brant, Dick Rivers and Michel Fugain…
In 1973, Soul Makossa hit the airwaves in the United States and became a worldwide hit, putting Manu and his saxophone in the spotlight. More than 30 years passed and this track remains "the most sampled". A musical nomad par excellence, Manu has recorded more than forty albums, more than a dozen film scores and has collaborated with musicians from various backgrounds.
Manu Dibango passed away on March 24, 2020 from an infection with Covid-19. Legend of Afro-jazz but not only, the 86-year-old saxophonist had celebrated in 2019 his 60 years of career.
Multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, piano, vibraphone, marimba, vocals), composer, arranger, conductor, Manu Dibango was an artist ahead of his time, whose musical genius we will keep on rediscovering.
Photo credits : Louis Vincent - Vincent Bailly - A. Hermann