Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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DIBANGO, Manu

(b Emmanuel Dibango, '33, Douala, Cameroon) Singer-composer, arranger; plays reeds, piano. Sent to Paris at age 15 to prepare for professional career, persevered with music despite parental disapproval; studied classical piano, taking up saxophone '54. To Brussels '56, played sax and vibes in jazz bands; to newly independent Zaire '61 on a visit, stayed five years, playing with Kabaselle and the African Jazz, running a nightclub and playing on over 100 singles. Back to Paris '65 with Kabaselle, made several LPs with him but also made singles, determined to pursue own direction, incl. raunchy 'Tribute To King Curtis' '70. First solo LP O Boso '72, then Soma Loba; third Soul Makossa became world-wide dancefloor hit: album picked up by Atlantic, made no. 79 Billboard LP chart, title single top 40 in USA mid-'73: 'The Makossa Man' was the first African to have an international hit. Success saw band expand to 14 pieces; to NYC where he played with top jazz musicians, Fania All Stars, etc. At peak of popularity returned to West Africa as mus. dir. of Orchestre RTI, house band of Ivorian TV. More LPs incl. Super Kumba '74, Afradelic '75, Manu '76, African Rhythm Machine and Afrovision: Big Blow '76; left Ivory Coast, spent rest of decade between Paris and Cameroon and touring Africa, releasing more LPs incl. Waka Juju, A L'Olympia and Home Made. To Jamaica '79; recorded Gone Clear, Reggae Makossa, Ambassador with legendary rhythm section Sly and Robbie (all on Island). Continued to tour '80s, still finding time to help other musicians with their careers; LPs incl. live Deliverance, two vols of solo piano Mālodies Africaines, Sweet And Soft. Electro-pop experiments resulted in Abele Dance '84; eponymous hits compilation on Disques Festival. Has also written/performed film scores incl. L'Herbe Sauvage, Ceddo, The Price Of Freedom. LP Electric Africa on Celluloid '85 maintained pressure on competition for title of Africa's biggest star. Live '91 on Stern's/FNAC was followed by Wakafrika '95, a collaboration with MC Mello; he also collaborated with Yousso N'Dour, Salif Kečta and Peter Gabriel. Had his own French TV show Salut Manu '96; album Live '96 on Afrovision. African Soul '97 on Mercury was a good compilation.