African Music Giant Manu Dibango Dies of Coronavirus at 86

Manu Dibango at the festival Les Escales a Saint-Nazaire, France, July 2019 Photo via Wikicommons

Cameroonian saxophonist Emmanuel N’Djoké “Manu” Dibango died in Paris yesterday, March 24, after contracting Covid-19. “It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove,” read the announcement on his official Facebook page. He was 86.

His best-known hit, “Soul Makossa” (1972), is a smooth mix of jazz, soul, funk, and African music elements. Originally the B-side of a Dibango’s 45 RPM single, the song outlived the disco era and remained an inspiration for generations of American artists. According to the site, Dibango’s work was sampled (not always with his permission) by artists such as Michael Jackson (on “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ,” which was settled out of court), Rihanna, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, and Busta Rhymes. Others have noted his work on tracks such as Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It” and JAY-Z’s “Face Off.” He also collaborated with artists as disparate as Herbie Hancock, Fela Kuti, Peter Gabriel, Eliades Ochoa, and Don Cherry.

Born in Douala, Cameroon in 1933, Dibango went to high school in France, where he learned to play piano and then saxophone. He spoke in interviews about falling in love with jazz after listening to Louis Armstrong and Count Basie in the cellars of Paris. A story noted that the first song Dibango performed on the sax in front of his classmates was “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“I play different kinds of music before playing my own. I think that’s very important to play other people’s music,” he is quoted in the story. “As you are African they expect you always to play African. Forget that. You’re not a musician because you’re African. You’re a musician because you are a musician. Coming from Africa, but first, a musician.”

Love In The Times of The Virus: Fred Hersh Daily Mini-Concerts

In an e-blast today, pianist Fred Hersh announced a program of free daily mini-concerts available on his Facebook page, beginning Sunday. It is not necessary to have a Facebook to access it.

At a time in which many of us are not only trying to adjust to a “new normal” but also bring back old revolutionary concepts such as solidarity, community, and the common good, we certainly can use all the grace and beauty we can get.

“I hope everybody is safe and healthy and will remain that way. This is an unprecedented challenge to everyone on the planet and we all need resilience and resourcefulness going forward,” reads the message.

“Starting this Sunday, every day at 1pm EST, 10am PST, and 7pm in Europe I will do a live mini-concert of piano music from my home. You can see and hear the concert here:

“You don’t have to “be” on Facebook or sign in to anything to access the concert. Just click the image below. And if you “like” the page you will be notified each day.”

“Wishing you all strength and much love,
Fred ”








If you are familiar with Hersh’s work, you need no further encouragement.
If you have not heard Fred Hersh, you are in for a treat.

Robert Glasper Premieres Orchestral Piece With Nu Deco Ensemble


Nu Deco Ensemble, Jacomo Bairos conductor, performing at the Arsht Center, Miami

Pianist, composer, and producer Robert Glasper has made an art of moving with ease between jazz, hip hop, neo-soul, rock, pop, and back. Using tools as traditional as the jazz piano trio and as open-ended as the recording studio, Glasper has created an ever-changing but organic mix that is often deceptively easy-on-the-ear — yet always studded with surprising turns and details. This weekend, Glasper will be premiering his first orchestral work, a commission by the Miami-based Nu Deco Ensemble, in concerts Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the World Center in Miami Beach, FL.

(These concerts were canceled on Thursday because of coronavirus concerns.)

The restless, genre-bending Glasper was a natural choice for Nu Deco.
“Robert has been in our ‘bucket list’ collaborator from the beginning of Nu Deco,” says Nu Deco co-founder, composer and co-artistic director Sam Hyken. “I find very exciting the opportunity to add to the orchestral canon using artists that normally wouldn’t get an opportunity to do so because of just the way classical music is.”

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