How ‘Soul Makossa’ became Manu Dibango’s biggest hit

Manu Dibango has died in France from complications arising from Covid-19. The Cameroonian musician was 86 years old. (AFP pic)

PARIS: The African music legend has passed away at the age of 86, having succumbed to complications of the Covid-19 virus.

Along with legions of fans in mourning, the artiste has left behind a large musical repertoire, including one song that is much better known than all the others, “Soul Makossa.”

It was in the 1970s that Manu Dibango, who was born Emmanuel Dibango N’Djocké in Cameroon in the early 1930s, first created the track that was to make his name.

Having gained recognition for performing in European and African tours led by major artists such as Nino Ferrer, he convinced Cameroonian authorities to finance a single in support of the national soccer team, which had reached the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1972.

However, the “Hymne De La 8e Coupe D’Afrique Des Nations” found little success with disappointed Cameroonian supporters after the national team was eliminated by Congo, and no one mentioned the record’s B-side, “Soul Makossa.”

However, the track fared much better in Europe and also in the US, where it went on to become a hit.

Dibango traveled to the United States where he befriended stars of American soul and performed at Madison Square Garden in New York. And the story of the song, which was widely covered, did not stop there.

There was a court case against, of all people, Michael Jackson, who lifted a hook from “Soul Makossa” for “Wanna be startin’ somethin’,” the opening track on his album “Thriller,” a case that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Legal wrangles continued when Jackson gave permission to Rihanna to sample the disputed track on the planetary success “Please, Don’t Stop The Music.”

More recently the song was once again sampled on “Déjà Vu” by Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Last year Dibango celebrated six decades of his musical career.