Manu Dibango To Headline the Safaricom International Jazz Day Celebrations – Here’s What You Need To Know About Him

Manu Dibango Jazz Maestro: Image from

In May Safaricom will be hosting the International Jazz Day celebrations with Jazz maestro Manu Dibango as the headlining act. This will be the first time Manu Dibango will be gracing the Safaricom Jazz stage and it will also launch 2017-2018 Safaricom International Jazz calendar. The International Jazz Day concert will be held on the 1st  of May 2018 at the Carnivore grounds and will feature 12 Kenyan Jazz bands.

Manu Dibango Jazz Maestro: Image from

Manu Dibango who was born in Cameroon and is probably Africans best-known saxophonist. His musical career began in the 1950’s. Later on, he graced different stages in France, Belgium, Jamaica, Zaire, and Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon.

MANU DIBANGO – SOUL MAKOSSA 2.0 (Official) Remix

Dibango’s musical career has seen him release over 40 albums with a great number of soundtracks. Songs like Ibida and Seventies were also one of his great hits. Over the span of his career, he has worked with great artists such as Herbie Hancock, Bootsy Collins, Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, , Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Adé, Don Cherry and the late, great, Grammy Award nominee and Safaricom Jazz alumni, Hugh Masekela. Dibango has also directed orchestras and started one of the first African musical journals. He has also written an autobiography, Three Kilos of Coffee.

Manu Dibango’s full name is Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango and he was born on 12 December 1933. He is a Cameroonian musician and songwriter who plays saxophone and vibraphone. His music fuses jazz, funk and traditional Cameroonian music. His parents came from two different ethnic groups, Yabassi and Duala. He was born in Douala, Cameroon. He has no siblings although he has an older stepbrother from his father’s previous marriage. He wrote in his autobiography, Three Kilos of coffee, that he has never been able to identify completely with either of his parents.


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Manu Dibango. Image from

After being educated at a village school, in 1941 he was accepted into a colonial school where he learnt French. This was the school that in 1944, French president Charles de Gaulle chose this school to perform the welcoming ceremonies upon his arrival in Cameroon.

Manu Dibango ‘Lion of Africa’ 

“In 1956 Dibango moved to Brussels, where he not only learned to play the vibraphone but also expanded his stylistic vocabulary to include various West African forms—most notably makossa, a Cameroonian genre based in Douala. It was then that he began to realize his ambition of forging a new musical sound by merging jazz with African popular traditions. In 1960 Dibango toured Europe with African Jazz, a band led by Congolese musician Joseph Kabasele, who shared Dibango’s interest in musical fusion. After the tour, Dibango followed Kabasele to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he remained with the band until 1963, when he moved back to Cameroon. There he established his own band and continued to broaden his knowledge of African regional styles. ” Manu Dibango

He is best known for his 1972 single, “Soul Makossa”. The word Makossa means dance in Duala, which is Manu’s mother’s language. He joined the seminal Congolese rumba group ‘African Jazz’ in 1960 and continued to perform with them for five years. He was propelled to the world stage with the release of the very famous ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1972. The song was a hit gaining world acclamation. It influenced several hits such as Micheal Jackson’s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and Rihanna’s ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’.  His song, “Reggae Makossa”, is featured on the soundtrack to the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours.

Soul Makossa – Manu Dibango (1973) 

Manu Dibango has a considerable fan base all over the world including the UK where he had a disco hit called Big Blow originally released in 1976. Dibango was appointed a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2004.

The Kenyan bands performing include: Mwai and the truth, Edward Parseen and the Different Faces Band, The Swahili Jazz band with Juma Tutu and Nafsi Huru, James Gogo of Gogo Simu band, Shamsi Music, The Limericks, Chris Bittok, Eddie Grey, Jacob Asiyo and Kavutha Asiyo, Mambo Tribe, Nairobi Horns Project with Africa Plus, and Ghetto Classics.

Chris Bittok a renowned jazz singer, composer and saxophonist from Kenya. Having started his journey at the young age of 14, he has grown immensely as a musician and has performed on many jazz stages along great jazz musicians.

Eddie Grey is a jazz recording and performing guitar artist. His mastery of guitar skills makes his performances electric. He has performed in previous Safaricom Jazz Festivals sharing the stage with stars like James Gogo and Edward Parseen and The Different Faces Band.

Husband and wife duo Jacob & Kavutha Asiyo. Kavutha is a great jazz musician and is currently the Music Director of Kenya’s International Jazz Festival. She is known for her vocal prowess and jazz improvisation known. She has been of great impact championing the jazz culture in Kenya. Her husband Jacob Asiyo is one of the leading instrumentalists in Kenya. He was one of the performers at the very first Safaricom Jazz Festival in 2014. With him on the piano and his wife on vocals, they make up a jazz powerhouse.

The Nairobi Horns Project will perform with Africa Plus from South Africa. The Nairobi Horns Project is a 5 member band that brings together instrumentalists in Nairobi to work on drums, percussions, bass, guitar and keyboard.Mics And Beats: The Nairobi Horns Project Band

Africa Plus is a South African Jazz trio consisting of Lungelo Ngcobo, Sphelelo Mazibuko and Prince Bulo. The music genres include Nu-Jazz and Afrobeat.

All proceeds from the Safaricom Jazz festival go to the Ghetto Classics Music Programme. Read about how The Ghetto Classics Programme has helped a young man change his life Simon Kariuki Has An Amazing Story About How Ghetto Classics Turned His Life Around #SafaricomJazzAt5


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