Pr. Francis Nyamnjoh: Manu Dibango: Afropolitan musical genius with a giant heart

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Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango – Manu Dibango – will live forever thanks to his Afropolitan sounds, and to the fact that many artists in Africa and beyond are deeply indebted to him.

He was a man of legendary generosity of spirit and talent, with an accommodating heart that sought to bridge the local and the global with creativity and innovation in song and music. His album Soul Makossa was of such artistic genius that even a global superstar like Michael Jackson couldn’t resist sampling from it to enrich his own album, Thriller.

Manu Dibango performs on stage at Ronnie Scott’s club in 2009 in London. David Redfern/Redferns

In his 1994 biography, Dibango describes himself as “Négropolitain”. It’s a term that would later be adopted and popularised as “Afropolitanism” by others enthralled by his idea of grounded cosmopolitanism. He coined the term to capture his identity as Afro-European or African and European at one and the same time.


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