Manu Dibango was born in Douala,Cameroun in 1934 to a devout chiristian parents who did not want him to be involved with music other than church music. At age 15 his parents sent him to study in France to become either a lawyer or a doctor,which were the most sought after professions as at then.
However,contrary to his parents expectations and wishes he did a four years classical piano course and also learned the saxophone for two years before he launched out to play music professionally. He started in Rennes,east of France,from where he went to Brussels in Belgium to play music at clubs.
At the dawn of the Zairean independence in 1961,Manu Dibango left Brussels for Zaire where he continued his music career and did some records with top musicians at that time,such as the group called African Jazz led by the late Kabasele.
It was Manu's two years sojourn in Zaire that really brought him to limelight in the whole of Africa and parts of Europe,especially France and Belgium. The numerous singles he recorded together with the African Jazz were released in Belgium through a record company called Decca,and that really gave him the opportunity of being heard all over Africa.
When Manu Dibango went back to Paris he continued to experiment with the Congo music and recorded some albums with some Congolese musicians with whom he played when he was in Zaire. These albums were very successful. Then came the biggest achievement of Manu in the music world,the development of the Makossa Music.
According to Manu Dibango as quoted by the African Music No. 20 March/April 1984 Edition "Makossa started in Cameroun little by little,with two or three influences with the Nigerian highlife,because we are very close,and also with Central African music,which you can call Congo music. So the melting,the melange,of that made makossa come and develop its own way.
Perhaps one of the most popular Manu Dibango's albums is the 'Soul Makossa' released in 1972,which according to him was the first international African hit which made him travel a lot. He spent two years in New York playing with good musicians he had always dreamed to meet,like Tony Williams,Buster Williams,Frank West,The Brecker Brothers(African Music No. 20, March/April 1984 Edition).
In 1983 Manu released another chart-buster album 'Waka Juju' which increased his popularity not only in Africa but in the major cities of America and Europe. There is no doubt that this highly energetic and skillful saxophonist and singer whose trade mark is clean shaved and shinning head has done Africa proud in the world of music as the originator of makossa music.
Emeka E. Okeke.