The Cameroonian rhythm that set the world on fire

Mama-ko, mama-ssa, makomako-ssa.

This inimitable chant comes from Emmanuel N’Djoké “Manu” Dibango’s iconic 1972 hit Soul Makossa. It was initially a B-side he recorded for the African Cup of Nations, which was being hosted in his home country of Cameroon that year.

Dibango is the most sampled African artist of all time, with more than 125 samples and covers recorded, according to Sample Chief, a digital platform dedicated to African music.

Soul Makossa was embraced by many African-Americans who had begun embracing their African roots, catalysed by the “Black is Beautiful” movement and the TV show Soul Train which was beginning to gain mainstream attention.

It became a huge hit in the United States, but because there weren’t many released copies of the track, it was covered by numerous bands. At one point there were nine versions of Soul Makossa on Billboard’s global charts.

Legendary US group Kool and the Gang’s 1973 megahit Hollywood Swinging was inspired by the track, and Beyoncé used it in live performances in 2018. Both Michael Jackson and Rihanna have faced legal action for interpolating Dibango’s famous phrase without permission.

Primarily written in the Duala language, the song plays with the word “makossa”, which loosely means “I dance”. The legendary saxophonist and songwriter released more than 70 albums in the six decades he was active and is regarded as a pioneer of afro-jazz and afro-funk music. Dibango passed away in March after contracting Covid-19.

This article first appeared on The Continent, the new pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.

Make sense of your world

Subscribe to Mail & Guardian at R10/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Refiloe Seiboko
Subeditor at Mail & Guardian

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Why lawyers argue the case for a Madlanga constitutional court

The brilliance of Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga’s mind and his transformative judgments can prove salutary at a time when the judiciary is under populist attack, his peers hope.

Solidarity vs University of Free State in vaccine mandate court...

The union wants the court to decide whether the policy of enforcing vaccinations at UFS holds water.

Informal waste collection shouldn’t let plastic polluters off the hook

The image of plastic recycling as the solution to plastic pollution is perpetuated by statistics that highlight successes, which are communicated in tonnes and percentages that are difficult to visualise.

Millions of rand lost as SANDF returns unauthorised Cuban Covid-19...

Remedial action against officials suspected of wrongdoing must be taken, says the ministerial task team investigating the defence department
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×