Tribute to Manu Dibango

Hommage à Manu Dibango
Manu Dibango died on March 24, 2020 as a result of a Covid-19 infection. Legend of Afro-Jazz but not only, the 86-year-old saxophonist had celebrated his 60 years of career last year.

Tribute to a talented and generous artist

He was known as Manu, Papa Manu, Papy Groove... Manu Dibango was one of the rare saxophonists of international stature whose name resonates with the ears of a very large public. He knew, by his touching genius and his charismatic personality, how to gather and spread his music across the divides.

What we also remember is his contagious laughter, his humility, his joie de vivre. A UNESCO award-winning artist for peace and committed to many causes, he was an incredibly generous and passionate man. Many of us at Henri SELMER Paris were able to share with him an exceptional and longstanding friendly relationship.

Bernard Chocu, from the repair department, had been the official repairman of Manu Dibango's saxophones since the age of 15 and had developed a strong friendship with him. He is one of those who have a multitude of anecdotes to tell about the artist. For example, that day in 1976, when Manu called him in panic just before his concert at the Olympia, asking him to rehabilitate the soprano who had just fallen to the ground. That other moment, when the star had gone to a Selmer stand he was holding in Breuil-le-Vert and played a piece in his honour. "He was a good man, he always had a little note to joke around with. He'd come into the workshop at Selmer's and everyone knew Manu was there because they could hear him laughing." he says.

Manu Dibango and Bernard Chocu (2017)

Jérôme Selmer, President of the Henri SELMER Paris Manufacture, is also very touched by the news. He has had a special relationship with Manu Dibango for many years.

"I liked his great human warmth very much. He knew how to put people at ease, his kindness and his natural gentleness facilitated contacts. He kept it simple despite his deserved success and his brilliant career: I think that's the prerogative of great men. He also contributed through his music to ease the tensions of our modern society. I also salute his solid friendship for our house and for our family, which he loved very sincerely. We will all remember him as a great man. Thank you Manu for making us live great moments of happiness."

Personalized saxophone offered to Manu Dibango

Building bridges between the West and Africa

Born in Douala (Cameroon) in 1933, Manu Dibango was 15 years old when he arrived in France to study. He spent part of his adolescence in a host family in Saint-Calais, then went to study in Chartres, Reims and Paris. The young man first played the mandolin and the piano before taking up the alto saxophone. He developed a passion for jazz alongside his friend Francis Bebey who introduced him to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker...

When his father cut him off in 1956, he left for Brussels where he became a professional musician. He played in orchestras and private clubs before taking over the direction of the orchestra of a Brussels club, Les Anges noirs. It was there that he met Joseph Kabasele, known as "Grand Kallé", the father of modern Congolese music. The latter hired him in his orchestra African Jazz, revealing him to African and European audiences. It was the beginning of an intense, innovative and eclectic career, between Belgium, Congo, Cameroon and France.

In 1973, Soul Makossa became a worldwide hit and made Manu Dibango an international star, becoming the first African artist in the United States to receive a gold record.

A musical nomad par excellence, Papy Groove has recorded more than forty albums and has collaborated with musicians from various backgrounds: Serge Gainsbourg, Nino Ferrer, Youssou N'Dour, Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Sting... Numerous tributes and testimonials followed one another all day long on social networks. 

All the Henri SELMER Paris teams celebrate his memory and bring their best thoughts to his family. We remember his warm voice, his smile and many moments of complicity.