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
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
(Le Bucheron), made for the
millennium celebrations on Robben Island in the presence of
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
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.