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Manu Dibango: the man who launched a thousand ‘mamako, mamasa, makomakossa’

Posted at 3:00 pm, November 25, 2013 in Music & Nightlife

Gibberish has a long, terrible, musical history. From ‘Agadoo’ to ‘The Ketchup Song’, lyrical nonsense has been nothing short of a blight on the musical landscape for decades. There are exceptions, of course – none bigger than Manu Dibango’s 1972 Afro-disco classic ‘Soul Makossa’.

You may not think you know it, but the list of artists who have sampled (or just plain copied) its ‘mamako, mamasa, makomakossa’ refrain is long and illustrious. Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Kanye West, Rihanna and The Bloodhound Gang – all have built hits around the Cameroonian sax master’s nonsensical incantation.

And here he is, this towering giant of West African music – a man who has pushed the boundaries of disco, funk and Afrobeat, all while retaining a fundamental grasp on the jazz he loves so much – still going strong and celebrating his 80th birthday in inimitable style.

‘Soul Makossa’ is widely acknowledged as one of the first true disco hits. With a simple, insistent beat, a looping sax riff and harmonised vocals, it became a favourite of downtown New York dancers in the ’70s and made Dibango the first African musician to score a Top 40 hit in the States. He’ll almost certainly be jamming out that old classic tonight in the Barbican’s main hall, but will also delve into his eclectic, pop and reggae-tinged back catalogue. At 80 years old, Dibango is going to be the coolest, funkiest OAP in town. Eddy Frankel

Manu Dibango plays tomorrow night (November 26) at the Barbican Centre. 

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