Manu Dibango, Cameroonian musician and songwriter, died Tuesday, March 24, due to Covid-19, according to his official Facebook page. The Jazz icon was 86.
"Dear family, dear friends, dear fans... A voice raises from far away... It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to covid-19," the announcement reads. It was posted around 3:28AM EDT, first in French then in English.
The announcement also shared that the funeral service for Dibango will be held in "strict privacy." It also said that a tribute to the Jazz-funk pioneer will be organized.
Best known for his 1972 hit "Soul Makossa", Manu Dibango was hospitalized last week with an illness "linked to Covid 19." The March 18 Facebook post on the same page added that he is "resting well and calmly recovering" before asking fans to "respect his privacy." The earlier announcement also expressed Dibango's eagerness to meet fans soon and reminds them to "take very good care."
Dibango was born in December 1933 in Douala, Cameroon, to a father who was a civil servant of the Yabassi tribe. His mother was a fashion designer belonging to the Duala ethnicity. "Papy Groove" would later write in his autobiography, "Three Kilos of Coffee," that he never identified "completely with either of [his] parents."
The would-be music pioneer learned his instruments while attending high school in France. He would later recount in a 2018 interview with Eric Delhaye that the blacks they saw there were "either boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson - or jazzmen."
His first hit "Soul Makossa," which essentially translates to "I dance," have been identified as among the influences behind later hits "Jungle Boogie" by Kool and the Gang as well as being one of the early inspirations for the development of "world music."
Another music icon, Michael Jackson, credits the same Dibango single as his inspiration as he was working on what will be his best-selling album of all time, "Thriller." Jackson would later borrow heavily from "Makossa" for "Wanna Be Startin' Something." This led to a lawsuit which was then settled out of court. Rihanna also sampled the famous refrain from the song, "ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa" for her hit "Don't Stop the Music."
Throughout his career, Manu Dibango has received a lot of accolades and recognition for his work. He was the first chairman of Cameroon Music Corporation, an appointed "UNESCO Artist for Peace," as well as France's "Special Representative of Francophonia" to the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
France, where Dibango was known to have lived, have started to adopt tougher penalties to implement their nationwide confinement order. Funerals have been recently limited to 20 people closest to the deceased as one among the country's efforts to slow down the global coronavirus pandemic.
Dibango has been among the rising toll of celebrities falling prey to the global pandemic. As of this writing, there are more than 380,000 cases across 169 regions worldwide. More than 20,000 of these confirmed positives are in France.