Word circulated today that Manu Dibango, best described as a jazz-funk saxophonist, passed away at the age of 86 as a result of COVID-19 infection.
Dibango was a legend in his native Cameroon for his music, which went worldwide in 1973 with the release of “Soul Makossa.” The tune made it up to #35 in the US and, from a chart standpoint here, was his only Top 40 hit. But I don’t think we can accurately term him a “one hit wonder” considering that he released seventy-two LPs in a career than spanned over 45 years of recording.
“Soul Makossa” had local appeal in the US, and in some unsuspecting places. It was a #1 record on KRWG in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and was a #2 hit on both WQAM and WMYQ in Miami, Florida. A number of big-city and small-town stations reported this on their playlists as a Top Ten record. Listeners didn’t have to necessarily understand the lyrics to know that they found a catchy tune.
Oh, and those lyrics? The line that will likely jump out to you is repeated throughout: “Mama ko mama sa maka makossa.”
Let’s compare that with a repeated chant from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Somethin’,” a #5 record in 1983: “Mama se mama sa, mama coo sa.” Similar? I’d say so. Did Dibango get a credit on the Jackson record? No. But now you know where it came from.
You can enjoy the funk sound of “Soul Makossa” by clicking here.
One thought on “Rest in peace, Manu Dibango: “Soul Makossa” (1973)”
Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango probably would have been a bigger hit if there hadn’t been a competing version out at the same time. The competing version was by Afrique on the Mainstream record label. Charted in places like WOKY Milwaukee, WDRQ Detroit and WTAC Flint amongst others. Manu got some play in Grand Rapids and it peaked at #18 on WZZM-FM.