Manu Dibango & Soul Makossa – live at Torino Jazz Festival – 2014 – Recorded April 24, 2014 – RAI Radio 3
Another tragic loss to the Music World due to COVID-19 – this time, the Afro-Jazz/Beat/Funk legend Manu Dibngo, who left us on March 24th from complications of Coronavirus in Paris.
To me, the Afro-Jazz scene has always been one of vast possibilities and discoveries – the deeply rich and colorful tapestry of rhythms has been a huge influence and innovation in the area of modern Jazz.
Here’s some background via the BBC, who did a tribute to his career shortly after his death last month:
Emmanuel N’Djoke Dibango was born in the Cameroonian city of Douala on 12 December 1933, which at the time was French colonial rule.
His father was a civil servant and his mother was a dressmaker who led a Protestant women’s church choir several times a week.
Dibango went after school to listen to their rehearsals and it was there that he “caught the magical virus of music”, he told Courier magazine in 1991.
He would sing whenever he could and he enjoyed conducting his mother’s sewing apprentices as they sang while they worked.
“What I liked most of all was to marshal the voices into a human instrument that sounded right and true,” he said.
“Eventually the tunes I learned became so much a part of me that later on when I was in France and heard a Bach cantata that I had learned at chapel I thought at first that I was listening to music from back home.”
Dibango was sent to France as a 15-year-old to continue his schooling and also study classical piano, taking up the saxophone later.
But when he started hanging out at clubs and neglecting his studies, his parents stopped supporting him, forcing him to make music pay.
He earned his money accompanying all sorts of singers in all kinds of dives as well as playing classical music for ballet dancers.
Moving to the Belgian capital, Brussels, in the 1950s, he found work at the Ange Noir club. It was there that he met Josef Kabasele, also known as “Le Grand Kallé” – the revered Congolese musician who led Orchestre African Jazz, a band that spawned numerous musical stars.
Impressed with the young Cameroonian’s prowess on the saxophone and piano, Kabasele took him under his wing inviting him back to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Dibango began honing his writing and producing skills.
In the late 1960s and into the next decade, he synthesised his own unique sound, blending jazz, soul and funk with Cameroonian rhythms and melodies. He produced powerful new music that included evergreen club favourites like New Bell and Big Blow.
Salsa legends Fania All Stars, Nigeria’s juju music maestro King Sunny Ade and Jamaica’s cutting edge reggae duo Sly and Robbie, number among the artists from different genres who were eager to collaborate with him.
He never seemed to tire of music and his 44 album releases over his long career, plus the many rumba recordings he worked on, stand as a testament to his commitment to the art.
Speaking to the BBC in 2013 about his legacy, Dibango modestly said that “when you are gone it is finished”, but as his music continues to be played and inspire people, his influence is far from finished.”
As tribute to the artist and the man, here is that 2014 concert from the Torino Jazz Festival with Manu Dibango and Soul Makossa Gang.
Crank it up and celebrate.