Reggae Greats Remember Cameroon Saxophonist Manu Dibango

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A report by Howard Campbell for South Florida Caribbean News

Manu Dibango, the Cameroon saxophonist who died on March 23 in France, was a forerunner of the current Afro Beats craze. He reportedly succumbed to the coronavirus at age 86.

Dibango is best known for the funky 1972 hit song, Soul Makossa. He worked with an eclectic band of musicians throughout his career which lasted for over 60 years.

Dibango collaborated with Afro Beat pioneer Fela Kuti of Nigeria and American jazz pianist Herbie Hançock. His 1981 album, Ambassador, was partially recorded in Jamaica at Dynamic Sounds with a number of top reggae musicians.

The six-song set featured Sly and Robbie, keyboardist Ansell Collins, drummer Mikey “Boo” Richards, guitarists Willie Lindo, Mikey Chung and Rad Bryan.

Geoffrey Chung, Mikey’s younger brother, produced Ambassador which was released by Mango Records, a subsidiary of Island Records.

Lindo, who is based in South Florida, says he was brought into the sessions by Geoffrey Chung. He also recalls playing Soul Makossa as a young musician with the Boris Gardiner Happening Band in Jamaica.

“The whole feel (of Soul Makossa) was different for the time. The African idea, the melody,” said Lindo.

Among those paying tribute to Dibango was singer Angelique Kidjo of Benin who visited him at his home in Paris two months ago.

“You are the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being,” she posted on Twitter.

A new generation of fans discovered Soul Makossa in 1983 when Michael Jackson sampled it for his big hit, Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’. Rihanna has also sampled the song.

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