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Manu Dibango, Legendary Afro-Jazz Legend, Dies of COVID-19 at the Age of 86

Claudine Varela
Mar 25, 2020
05:46 A.M.
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Manu Dibango, who famously sued Michael Jackson for lifting lyrics from his song has died at the age of 86 due to the Coronavirus.


Legendary African jazz musician Manu Dibango has died at the age of 86. The announcement was relayed on his Facebook page and revealed he had died from COVID-19.

Manu Dibango performing at the Woman Festival in the UK in July 2014. | Photo: Getty Images


Dibango, of Cameroonian descent, died in Paris on March 24. In the message sent thru his social media, the announcement read,

“A voice raises from far away…It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove.”


Dibango launched his six-decade career blending African and European music with his biggest hit, “Soul Makossa.” He originally wrote the song for the 1972 “African Cup of Nations” football tournament.

Dibango, who was famous for fusing jazz and funk music attributed his musical influence to the church

Manu Dibango playing the saxophone at New York's Central Park in July 1994. | Photo: Getty Images


The song inspired Michael Jackson’s single, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” through the lyrics, “mama-say, mama-sa, ma-makossa.” This became the subject of a lawsuit Dibango filed against the King of Pop which resulted in an out-of-court settlement.

In 2009, Dibango filed another lawsuit against Jackson as well as Rihanna who used the same lyrics for her song, "Don't Stop the Music." However, Dibango's claims were deemed inadmissible. He later revealed in an interview that "an arrangement" was made.


Dibango, who was famous for fusing jazz and funk music attributed his musical influence to the church. Raised in a Protestant family, he was once quoted by AFP News as saying “I’m a child raised in the Hallelujah," as reported by BBC News

He collaborated with numerous artists which included Herbie Hancock and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. He prided himself in playing different kinds of music which made him known for his eclectic style.

Manu Dibango receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award during the opening of the 25th Africa festival in Germany in June 2013. | Photo: Getty Images


Several African musicians have paid tribute to Dibango after his passing. Beninois performer Angelique Kidjo


him as “the original giant of African music and a beautiful human being.”

Meanwhile, Youssou Ndour deemed him a saxophone “genius” who was a “big brother, a pride of Cameroon and all of Africa.” Both artists collaborated with Dibango for his 1994 album, “Wakafrika.”

A “strictly private” funeral will be held for Dibango, according to the message on his Facebook. However, a special tribute “will be organized when possible,” the message added. The legendary artist is survived by his four children.

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