Manu Dibango is arguably one of Africa’s best jazz saxophonists. The talented artist also plays the vibraphone. Dibango developed his music style very early on in his career, blending jazz, funk, and traditional Cameroonian music to create his unique sound.

He began his career in the 1950s, and quickly became a well-known international musician, living and performing in several countries including France, Belgium, Jamaica, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Francis Bebey one of Cameroon’s respected musicians, and a writer of note helped mentor the young Manu, and Bebey was instrumental in helping to launch Dibango’s musical career.

Manu Dibango and band performing in 2014. Photo: Flickr/ Emerson Marques Pedro
Manu Dibango and band performing in 2014. Photo: Flickr/ Emerson Marques Pedro

He was one of the founding members of the Zairean band, African Jazz in 1960. But his claim to worldwide fame came after the release of his 1972 single Soul Makossa.

During his legendary career, Manu 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.

His love for music and the profession goes beyond his own success. In 2004, he was appointed a UNESCO Artist for Peace after serving as the first chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation.

In July 2014, he made an 80th anniversary concert at Olympia, France. And more recently was honoured with the title of Special Representative of Francophonia to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Dibango has released over 70 albums, and he is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most celebrated artists.

Here are our top five Manu Dibango songs, in no particular order:

Lion of Africa

Manu Dibango performing at the Barbican, London in 2007. Part of Fela Kuti’s Black President Festival and featuring Courtney Pine.

Soul Makossa

Released in 1972 under Fiesta Records.

Electric Africa – feat. Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock

Originally released in 1985.

Wakafrika

First released in 1994.

Sun Explosion

Originally released in 1978.