Manu Dibango is perhaps one of the world’s best jazz saxophonists. A true international superstar with a career starting from the ’50s. At 15, he was sent to Paris to prepare for a professional career. He is a tireless globetrotting musician.
Last year, he played for hundreds of fans at Mano-Mundo Festival in Belgium, and this year he was in Belgium again to play at Gent. He speaks about his passion for music.
Joel: As an African musician you have made such an enormous contribution to African music internationally. How do you feel about this achievement?
Manu: I’m glad I’m still in motion. I don’t think of my past achievements. The most important thing is what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’m happy I did what I did. Thanks be to God.
Joel: In 1972, your hit “Soul Makossa” stormed the world. Since then you are still on the music scene. What keeps you moving all these years?
Manu: Passion “La Passion” What I would want African youths to have is passion. Because if you have passion, you can easily accept suffering and when there is no passion, you have to try to cultivate it. If you can do that then you can really bring out the best of yourself.
Joel: In 1985, you raised funds for famine-stricken Ethiopia through your “Tam-tams for Ethiopia project” with Mory Kante and others. What do you feel about the present situation in Ethiopia?
Manu: Well, talking about Ethiopia is like talking about the whole continent. A month ago we played against AIDS and famine. We also played in Dakar. It is not only the music that is playing an important role in this issue of problems affecting Africa but the activities of doctors, sportsmen, and journalists are also helping in various ways.
Joel: According to an international music magazine I read recently, you and the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti are among the world’s best saxophonists. How do you feel about this?
Manu: It’s nice to hear that. You know that one doesn’t play music just for the hours to pass. But you play music because you are in love with music and luckily if it happens that people like what I’m proposing, then I’m happy.
Although music is business, yet you don’t start thinking about money from the initial stages when you are in music. First, propose to the people what they want and if they like it, then the money comes later.
Joel: Last year, I watched you playing at the Mano-Mundo festival when the frenzied crowd called for more songs. What was your experience at that moment?
Manu: Well you can see that I’m still in motion. It happens that you share the music with the audience. That is the best happiness an artist can have. I’m not alone on stage but with a group of musicians.
So the more the music is successful, the more the audience feels happy about the music. It’s the responsibility of an artist to make his fans happy. That is a proposition. I’m always talking about a proposition.
Joel: This question comes from one of your fans who live in the United States of America. He said I must ask you the reason you do always play in Africa and Europe but not in the USA.
Manu: If they want me there, I will be there. I go to every country that wants Manu. I have management and those who want me to play in contact with my management. I have played in Canada and some parts of South America. I live in America for two years in the ’70s. The most important thing is they love my music.
Joel: Thanks for the interview.
Manu Dibango: You are welcome.