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.