The legacy left by two music legends – Cameroonian Manu Dibango and America’s Kenny Rogers will live on in the world music arena. The two were talented and passionate about their musical careers.
I never watched Rogers play live at any festival except watching his live performances through television and I thought I would get that chance – but I have watched Manu Dibango play at a festival in Europe, he was a beauty to watch live and his playing of the saxophone reminded me of our very own – Dan Sibale and another legend – South Africa’s Hugh Masekela.
Sibale, who has showed class with his saxophone performing with several artists including Soldier Lucius Banda and Lulu, mourned Dibango on his Facebook page.
“You were indeed a true legend. Rest in peace master Dibango,” he said.
Having watched some other great artists from West Africa perform in the country such as Mali’s Salif Keita, I longed to see Manu Dibango perform at one of the festivals and with French Cultural Centre (FCC) vibrant then in bringing a number of French musicians, I thought they would get the Cameroonian’s signature to come down to Malawi.
That chance never came but watching him at a festival in Europe left me with memories and later watching his interview on BBC Africa saw an artist, who loved and lived music.
To the younger generation, the names of Manu Dibango and Kenny Rogers might not at all strike a chord but these are artists, who have inspired many musicians in the world including Malawi to be where they are today.
There are artists in the country, who loved country and Western and would not skip the sounds of Rogers on their line-up.
According to CNN, Rogers, whose legendary music career spanned six decades, died at the age of 81.
His publicist Keith Hagan told CNN, that Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music.
“His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world,” Hagan posted in a statement.
Rogers was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, for what organisation officials called a distinctive, husky voice.
He had 24 number one hits and through his career more than 50 million albums sold in the US alone.
He was a six-time Country Music Awards winner and three-time Grammy Award winner, Hagan said.
Rogers was at his peak in the 1970s and 1980s when his songs dominated the charts and he ended up collaborating with several other renowned names in the world’s music arena such as Dolly Parton.
Mourning Rodgers, Parton tweeted that she will remember her partner on the hit duet ‘Islands in the Stream’.
“You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone,” she wrote on Twitter.
She added: “I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend.”
Rogers’ death came barely five days after the world also woke up to news of the death of Manu Dibango who died on Tuesday.
Despite listening to some of his songs mostly ‘The Gambler’ and ‘Lucille’, I never knew that Rogers was also a trained photographer.
According to www.theguardian.com, Rogers shined not only in music but also photography and that the country star’s brooding images caught the sinister side of America.
The beauty of Rogers is that he sang songs full of emotion, courage, drama and that was cemented by his strong voice.
Although he was not from Malawi, his songs have been enjoyed by many people in the country and during secondary school days for some, his songs were part of the letters they would give to a woman to win her heart.
You do not just wake up and then compose a song, you have to be really good in composition and stitching your story to capture the attention of a person and Rogers was just good at that.
And just as www.theguardian.com writes, Rogers was not just great at telling stories through song but he also used photography and books among others to reach out to the people.
He actually received an honorary degree from the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and PPA President, Ralph Romaguera, when giving him the award said:
“He’s obviously well-known as an entertainer. But he truly is a remarkably talented photographer, too.”
Coming to Manu Dibango, the African saxophone legend died Tuesday in France after contracting coronavirus, the BBC reported.
According to BBC, the 86-year-old—famous for fusing jazz, funk, and sounds from his home country Cameroon—is one of the first global stars to die in the pandemic.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove,” a statement from his official Facebook page read.
His 1972 single, ‘Soul Makossa’, was a global hit that made its way to the United States of America, Europe and Africa at the start of the disco era.
According to The New York Times, pop star Michael Jackson quoted part of the song in his 1983 song ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,’ and Rihanna later sampled that piece in her 2007 hit ‘Don’t Stop the Music’.
Dibango is reported to have later sued them both in 2009, and Jackson’s estate settled the case out of court.
The song ‘Soul Makossa’ although he released it longtime ago, is still sampled until now and through this track, Manu Dibango, clearly shows the current generation of musicians that good music will always live the taste of time.
Dibango real name, Emmanuel N’Djoke, collaborated with numerous artists over a long career including US pianist Herbie Hancock and Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
Several African artists have paid tribute to the legend including award winning artist Angelique Kidjo.
She wrote on Twitter:
“You’ve always been there for me from my beginnings in Paris to this rehearsal just two months ago. You are the original giant of African music and a beautiful human being”.
Senegalese star Youssou Ndour described Manu Dibango as a genius on the saxophone and that he was a pride of Cameroon and all of Africa”.
The BBC indicated that both Ndour and Kidjo, along with other stars such as Keita, Papa Wemba and King Sunny Ade, worked on Dibango’s 1994 album Wakafrika.
Speaking to the BBC in 2013 about how he wanted to be remembered, Dibango said: “When you are gone, it is finished, it is not up to me to say, ‘I want this.”
Born in the Cameroonian city of Douala in 1933, which at the time was under French colonial rule, Dibango’s musical career spanned across more than six decades.
He produced a number of songs and listening to songs such as ‘Milady’s Song’, one gets to appreciate the deep and mature sounds of the afro-jazz legend, who shined in both singing and playing the saxophone as well as keyboard.
Lucius who has been in the music industry for long, posted on his Facebook page that this was the end of an era.
“You were the last man standing after Bob Marley (1981), Fela Kuti (1997), Hugh Masekela (2018) and now Manu Dibango. You were a team that inspired us,” Lucius said.
Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) Director, Luc Deschamps, and French Honorary Consul, said the world had lost an amazing artist.
“I remember as a child seeing him on television in France and loving his music and his charisma. He was an amazing ambassador of African music in France and around the world. And he was always gathering other musicians around him and encouraging them,” Deschamps said.