The legendary African saxophonist and Godfather of African Jazz, Manu Dibango, has passed away from coronavirus, aged 86.
If you have been listening to my eclectic journey shows, you will know that Africa and African music feature often, fuelled by the eight years I Iived and worked across the continent in the 1980s. The outstanding musician of that time, and arguably to this day, was Cameroonian born Manu Dibango.
A gentle giant of a man, with a huge smile, and a deep baritone voice, his music evokes the paradox of Africa: poverty, oppression, corruption, laughter, rhythm, joy, dance. When you listen to music from Africa you are invariably brought to your feet to sway if not to dance, or in my case prance, as the multiple rhythms swirl around and through you, and you struggle, in a happy way, to focus on a particular hook or rhythm, only to be distracted by another hook or rhythm coming in from the side, or down from the top, or up from the bottom. The feeling is visceral, the emotion is predominantly joy, and the response can only be physical. And if it’s Manu Dibango you are listening to, then inevitably he will laugh his deep, guttural laugh, which might be threatening in a thriller, but infectious in a song.
And if you want to have a happy time during lockdown, check out two of my favourite Manu Dibango albums, Wakafrica (1994) and Mboa (1982).