African Music Encyclopedia


Manu Dibango


Manu Dibango, born Emmanuel Dibango N'Djocke in 1933 in Douala, Cameroon, is a true African international superstar. Though his parents were both Protestant, Manu was considered to be the child of a mixed marriage (his father is of the Yabassi people, his mother of the Douala), Manu always felt that he was a divided man.
"Born of two antagonistic ethnic groups in Cameroon, where custom is dictated by the father's origin, I have never been able to identify completely with either of my parents. Thus I have felt pushed toward others as I made my own path"
In the spring of 1949, when Manu was just 15, his parents sent him to Paris to prepare for a professional career. After twenty-one seasick days he reached Marseilles. He waited for hours until his sponsor showed up and they boarded a crowded train for Paris where he was enrolled in a technical school at Saint-Calais where he finshed his second and third years of high school. Before he came to Saint-Calais the locals there had never seen a black person, thus he became an object of curiosity.

Soon Manu met Francis Bebey, another African expatriate, and together the two began to explore the jazz scene in Calais. They started a band before they really knew how to play the instruments and learned as they went along. Bebey explained twelve bar blues to Manu and finally he began to understand the music of a favorite artist, Duke Ellington. Manu studied classical piano before taking up the saxophone around 1954. Two years later he moved to Brussels and played sax and vibes with various jazz bands. Once in Brussels Manu began to take off as a musician. He met Coco and within a year they decided to stay together, Manu still regards her as his "eternal guardian angel."

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