Manu Dibango’s ‘Soul Makossa’: monster hit, enduring classic and artists’ favourite

Soul Makossa by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango dates back to 1972 and is often cited as one of the first disco records ever. By any measure, the record was and remains a staggeringly successful hit.

Soul Makossa by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango dates back to 1972 and is often cited as one of the first disco records ever. By any measure, the record was and remains a staggeringly successful hit.

The history of Soul Makossa is remarkable. For the eighth edition of the African Nations Cup in 1972, Manu Dibango wrote the track Mouvement Ewondo, but it was the b-side of the record that turned out to become the biggest African hit of all time. Makossa, a Cameroonian dance, was the base of the song, and Dibango completely rebuilt it according to the latest musical trends, incorporating funk and soul influences.

The song owes its reputation to the chanted Duala refrain “ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa” (a play in the word “Makossa”, Dibango’s main music genre), which would go on to be used/sampled by a long list of artists, the most well known of these being Michael Jackson who used it in the last bridge ofWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (from the 04:44 mark).

 

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