Afro-Funk Legend Manu Dibango Dies from Coronavirus

One of Africa's first global music stars...

Appalling news this week as more and more prominent figures test positive for the coronavirus. One of the first high-profile victims from the world of arts, Manu Dibango, has died from COVID-19 in France.

The 86 year old Cameroonian saxophonist and pioneer of Afro Funk announced a week ago that he had contracted the virus via a Facebook post. “Dear audience, dear friends,” the post (originally in French) read. “Manu Dibango is resting well and calmly recovering. He kindly asks you to respect his privacy. He can’t wait to meet you again soon, and in the troubled times we all go through, wants you to take very good care of yourselves.”

However, it was revealed Monday that the artist (whose full name was Emmanuel N’Djoke Dibango) had died in a hospital outside of Paris.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on March 24 2020 at 86 years old due to COVID-19,” the statement in French reads.

A funeral service will be held privately, with a tribute to be organized “when possible.”

Manu Dibango was born on December 12 1933 in what was then known as Douala, French Cameroon. His work fusing the music of Africa with jazz and funk made him one of Africa’s first global music stars, as well as earning him a Grammy Award for his 1972 song “Soul Makossa.” In 2009 representatives for Dibango sued Michael Jackson for lifting a hook from “Soul Makossa” (“Mamma say mamma sa mamma ko ssa”) for Jackson’s 1982 hit “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and Rihanna for sampling the same in her 2007 single “Don’t Stop the Music.” It was reported by AFP that Jackson settled out of court.

In a 2017 interview with the BBC, the musical legend reflected that “As you are African they expect you always to play African. Forget that. You’re not a musician because you’re African. You’re a musician because you are musician. Coming from Africa – but first, [a] musician.”