Legendary Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango has died in Paris after contracting coronavirus.
A message on his official Facebook page confirmed his passing with “deep sadness”, and said: “His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible.”
The African musician – who was best known for 1972’s ‘Soul Makossa’ – was born in Douala, which is Cameroon’s biggest city, in 1933.
He attended school in France, where he learnt instruments including the piano and saxophone.
As The Guardian reports, Dibango’s love of jazz was cemented after spending time at concerts held in the French capital.
“The blacks that we saw [in France] were either boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson – or jazzmen,” he said in a 2018 interview. “So, we ended up going down to the cellars in Paris, where we could see the [Louis] Armstrongs and the Count Basies with whom we identified.”
In a career spanning over 50 years, he worked with revered acts such as South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Herbie Hancock.
Dear #ManuDibango, you’ve always been there for me from my beginnings in Paris to this rehearsal just 2 months ago! You re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being. This coda of #SoulMakossa is for you! pic.twitter.com/3pGoICwjCn
— Angelique Kidjo (@angeliquekidjo) March 24, 2020
In 2009, Dibango also took Michael Jackson to court after the line ‘mama-say, mama-sa, ma-makossa’ from ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ was lifted from Dibango’s chorus on Soul Makossa. He won an out of court settlement.
Paying tribute on Twitter, musician Angelique Kidjo wrote: “You’re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being.”
His death follows the passing of New Orleans DJ Black N Mild , who died last week after contracting the virus.