Farewell to the Makossa Man – A Tribute to Manu Dibango by Muntu Valdo


Since Rhythm Passport’s early days, Manu Dibango has constantly represented a music polestar to us. Back in 2014, we had the honour to interview him at Womad UK for what was one of our first features. Since then, he and his music have often enriched the pages of our website.

Still, we thought it was time to step aside for once and let his memory and legacy be celebrated by someone who shared his same roots. Someone who grew up with his music and had the pleasure to play and share the stage with him. Someone who loved him “like a son would love a father”.

We are talking about London-based Cameroonian musician Muntu Valdo. We reached him yesterday asking for the arduous (and painful, considering the moment) task to remember Manu Dibango in words and songs…

“Today I’d like to pay  a special tribute to Manu Dibango who is a global Icon.

He is a pioneer and was one of the first African musician superstar known, recognised and respected all over the world since His 1972 Hit Soul Makossa revealed him to the whole world.

I’m connected with him at several levels :

1) Ethnicity and origine – Manu Dibango is a fellow Camerounian, a fellow Sawa man, a fellow artist. As a singer, he used mainly the Duala language, the same I use as a singer, which the main Sawa language. Sawa is the coastal région of Cameroun where we both come from (hence I called my music Sawablues).

2) Music Releasing – Manu Dibango started his Professional career in France where he landed and settled since the age of 15 and  released his first Album (an eponymous one in 1968). I released my first Album (titled Gods & Devils ) in France in 2005.

3) Filiation – My dad, Ricky (Richard Mbenda Ewane) played Bass for Manu Dibango Orchestra in 1965 in Douala (largest Cameroon city) where Manu Dibango opened and run a club after his Congolese years. My dad told me what stroke him the most in Manu Dibango was his love of reading. He told me Manu would read at least three news papers in the morning before anything and would always have a book in his hand when he was not playing music.

4) Meeting and Performance – I met Manu Dibango shook his hand for the very first time in Yaoundé (Cameroon’s Capital city) in the late 90’s after his concert at the Palais Des Congrès De Yaoundé. Even though I was already a musician, I just greeted him as a fan. But since then, I became more interested in the artist, the legend that he is. Among other things I discovered that his global song Souls Makossa was credited to be the Disco first crossover hit, a track that started the massive Disco genre and era.

In 2003, two years after my arrival in France from Cameroon, I was introduced to Manu Dibango as an artist by a comon friend, a french politician who took me to his concert. Two years after the release of my first Album, I was invited by Manu Dibango to promote it in a radio show he used to run along with a journalist called Rober Brazza at Africa Nº1. He did so after listening to a copy of the Album I sent to the radio. Fortunately, I went with my Guitar and was asked to perform the track ‘Leta’ and was happily surprised to see Manu pull off his saxophone and played with me.

In 2013, I had the privilege to support him at the Barbican in London in celebration of his 80 years and 6 decades in music business. He was so happy about my performance that he came to play with me during the last track of my 30 min show.

I respected him as a musician, I loved him like a son would love a father and he told me once he liked my personality, he was fan of my music and my Sawablues style (which is a genre in my eyes). I will hold him very dearly in my heart as one of my biggest inspiration and motivation.

5) Tribute in music – In 2013, during the London Afrcan Festival, I payed a special tribute to Manu Dibango with my band”.

(Muntu Valdo)

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  1. DJ Jonathan E.

    Manu Dibango’s significance as a musician and global cultural figure in the second half of the twentieth century was rivaled only by Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. The importance of his work and art cannot be overstated. We are fortunate that so many of his recordings continue to be available, but after over forty years of collecting his musics I still find wonderful gems hidden in corners. His earliest work before “Soul Makossa” is well worth searching for if you’re more used to his later recordings. Thanks for the personal reflections from Muntu Valdo.

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