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Manu Dibango

It is almost impossible to find a fitting description for a musician such as Manu Dibango who has made such an enormous contribution to African music as a whole. He is a saxophonist, nicknamed 'The lion of Cameroon', from a track on The Very Best of African Soul album.  Originally trained in classical piano, his musical career began in Brussels and Paris in the 1950s. 1960 finds him in Congo as a member of African Jazz led by Joseph Kabasele (Le Grand Kalle)! He formed his own band in Cameroon in 1963, moving to Paris in 1965. His international breakthrough came in 1972 with Soul Makossa. 
Manu Dibango is extraordinarily versatile, having played almost every style of music you care to mention: soul, reggae, jazz, spirituals, blues... Dibango features on albums by Angelique Kidjo, Anne-Marie Nzié, Meiway and Kékélé (Kinavana, 2006) and, on his Wakafrika album of 1994, many top African and international musicians contribute (see CDs), In 1985 Manu raised funds for famine-striken Ethiopia through his successful 'Tam-Tams for Ethiopia' project with Mory Kante and others.
Manu's first album was recorded in 1969 and in 1970 he accompanied Franklin Boukaka on a classic 12-track album (see CDs). In 2000 two were released: Anthology, a boxed set of 3 CDs (see CDs) and Mboa' Su  (see CDs) which includes a new arrangement of Franklin Boukaka's track 'Aye Africa' (Le Bucheron), made for the millennium celebrations on Robben Island in the presence of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Listening to the Anthology CDs you will find some amazing contrasts from one track to the next. In 2000 Manu gave a concert in Cameroon after many years away and was given the honour Cameroonian of the Century together with football star Roger Milla. An album with a difference was released in 2002: entitled B Sides, most of the tracks are remastered from recordings in the 1970s where Manu plays, not sax, but the marimba and vibraphone. There are Rough Guides to the music of whole countries

but Manu warrants one all to himself: the 13-track album The Rough Guide to Manu Dibango (2004) has the full range of his songs, classics and rarities (see CDs).
Manu's autobiography was originally published in French in 1989 with the English
translation,Three Kilos of Coffee, published in 1994 (see Reading). The book makes fascinating reading as Manu describes his experiences personally. In 1984 he originated the word 'negropolitain'.

Manu performed alongside Cuban Clave Y Guaguanco at the Barbican in London in 1999 and played there again in April 2001 with the spectacular Afro-Funk Big Band including Richard Bona, Claude Deppa and Tony Allen. In 2003 he was on stage with Ray Lema at WOMAD Reading (see photo above)! In September the same year Manu was in London with the Soweto String Quartet for an evening of songs of struggle and liberation.
To celebrate his 70th birthday Manu held a unique concert with special guests at London's Barbican in October 2004. Earlier in 2004 he was named as Unesco's Peace Artist of the Year.
A major event for 2007 was Manu's celebration of his 50 years in music, coinciding with the release of a CD/DVD The Lion of Africa. Manu paid tribute to jazz composer and musician Sydney Bechet, who had been a powerful motivating force his life, in an album Homage to New Orleans: Manu Dibango joue Sydney Bechet (2007). In 2011 Manu went on to collaborate with Wayne Beckford for a new version of 'Soul Makossa' as well as an album Past Present Future.
Visit for details of Manu's exciting concert dates. For example he was at the 2012 Kriol Jazz Festival in Cape Verde in which Cesaria Evora was honoured.