Manu Dibango is best known for his 1972 single "Soul Makossa" which some have credited as one of the first disco records. His 8 decade career has spanned a rich and expansive catalog of records as well as numerous samples and covers.
Emmanuel N'Djoké Dibango is a Cameroonian musician and song-writer who plays saxophone and vibraphone. He developed a musical style fusing jazz, funk, and traditional Cameroonian music.
DiBango was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group, African Jazz, and has collaborated with many other musicians, including Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Adé, Don Cherry, and Sly and Robbie.
"Soul Makossa" is DiBango's biggest record and has spawned multiple samples and covers. Here is how Dibango describes coming up with the song in his autobiography, Three Kilos of Coffee:
On one side of the 45 I recorded the hymn; on the other I recorded "Soul Makossa," written using a traditional makossa rhythm with a little soul thrown in. In my Douala neighborhood, at my parents' house, I rehearsed this second piece. The house had no air-conditioning, and the windows were wide open. All the kids flocked around. Hearing me rehearse, they fell over laughing. Unbelievable — how on earth had I concocted that mishmash? Poor makossa really took a blow. My father was astonished: "Can't you pronounce 'makossa' like everyone else? You stutter: 'mamako mamasa.' You think they're going to accept that in Yaoundé?" The Cup organizing committee reacted the same way. The march on side one they found "impeccable." But the other side… "Really, Manu has gone nuts. What possesses him to stutter like that?"
"Soul Makossa" is credited by some as spawning the Disco scene in New York City. NY DJ David Mancuso is credited with picking it up and playing it at his infamous loft parties. The track gained heavy rotation on New York's popular black radio station WBLS, the obscure Cameroonian single became a hot commodity. Since the original single was so hard to find, numerous cover versions filled the void (such as this one from the Lafayette Afro Rock Band).
Check out a playlist of Manu's work below through the lenses of Uristocrat as well as some of some of the tracks that have sampled his work.
Uristocrat Manu DiBango playlist