Legacy lives on: Veteran musicians who died in the past two months

Manu Dibango [Photo: Courtesy]

As the world battles the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, legendary African music stars are exiting the stage- some due to the disease, and unceremoniously wrapping up the continent's 'golden era'.

In grief with music fans worldwide, below is a list of icons who sadly passed on in the last two months...

Manu Dibango

Famous Cameroonian saxophone legend Emmanuel N'Djoké Dibango known by his stage name, Manu Dibango succumbed to Coronavirus on 24 March 2020 at the age of 86.

According to reports, the talented saxophonist was admitted to a French hospital for a different disease when he contracted the virus.

Born in the city of Douala, Cameroon in 1933, the late Dibango’s love for the saxophone began during his high school days in France where he learnt and perfected his art in the instrument. He failed in his final year exams and consequently decided to take up music as a full-time career.

Dibango described his music style which consisted of a fusion of jazz and funk music accompanied by Cameroonian traditional sounds as unique and diverse.  

Manu Dibango [Photo: Courtesy]

For Dibango, being an African did not limit him from experimenting with other genres of music. He constantly advised his fellow musician against narrowing their musical abilities to suit only Africans.

“As you are African they expect you always to play African. Forget that. You're not a musician because you're African. You're a musician because you are a musician. Coming from Africa, but first, musician,” he said during one of his interviews with BBC.

Throughout his music career, Dibango collaborated with many other musicians, including the late Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Fela Kuti.

Famed for his hit song, Soul Makoss -produced in 1972, Dibango is said to have moved to court to sue the late American singer, Michael Jackson for using his famous ‘Ma ma-se, ma ma-sa, ma ma-kossa’ in his track 'Wanna Be Starting Somethin’ as the opening for his Thriller album of 1982.

Michael Jackson and Dibango resolved to settle the lawsuit out of court.

Read Also: Music legend Manu Dibango tests positive for COVID-19 in France

Other than Soul Makossa, Dibango will be remembered for his other famous jams such as ‘Reggae Makossa’, which was featured on the soundtrack to the 2006 video game Scarface.

His track, The World Is Yours was played as the closing concert track at the revived Brecon Jazz Festival In 2009. Others include New Bell, The Panther and Big Blow

Aurlus Mabélé

69-year old Congolese music star Aurélien Miatsonama aka Aurlus Mabélé lost his life to Coronavirus on 20 March while receiving treatment in France, Paris.

Confirming the news of his death was his manager, Jimmy Ouetenou who revealed that he had previously been ailing before being diagnosed with Corona.

His unexpected demise shocked many especially his diehard fans who took to different social media platforms to mourn his death.

Originally from Congo-Brazzaville, Aurlus moved to France in the 1980s after carving his niche and making a name for himself as the ‘King of Soukous’.

Aurlus Mabélé [Photo: Courtesy]

Back in the ’70s, Aurlus Mabélé co-founded Les Ndimbola Lokole music group with his friends in Brazzaville and through their songs; Embargo, Zebola and Waka Waka gave a whole new meaning to African music.

In Paris, the late Aurlus founded another band alongside Mav Cacharel and Diblo Dibala, called Loketo, which according to Lingala refers to hips, a common phrase in western DR Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.

Read Also: ‘King of Soukous’, Mabele, was planning a grand comeback

Despite their split a few years down the line, Aurlus managed to make more breathtaking music and sold over 10 million albums throughout his 30-year music career.  

The Paris-based Soukous star will be remembered for his up-tempo hits and high-wattage performances that kept African music alive.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

South African legendary musician and founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo choral group, Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala died on February 11 at a hospital in Pretoria aged 78 after being unwell for some time.

The Ladysmith Black Mambazo choral group band's manager, Xolani Majozi confirmed the music legends demise, news that crushed many.

Joseph Shabalala who was famed for popularizing Zulu traditional music formed Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the ’70s and had since then revolutionized South African music.

Shabalala [Photo: Courtesy]

The name ‘Ladysmith’ was inspired by his hometown, Ladysmith, South Africa, where he was raised. Unfortunately, Shabalala’s father passed on while he was still young and because of that, he had to put his dreams of being educated aside and work at his family’s farm and later on at a factory.

The Ladysmith Black Mambazo group has music took the world by storm winning themselves five Grammys.  In 1973, the group released Amabutho, the music album that became one of Africa’s bestselling albums.

The music Legend’s music style consisted of a fusion of indigenous Zulu songs and dances coupled with South African isicathamiya, (meaning ("to walk or step on one's toes lightly) in Zulu.

His big break came in 1985 when American musician Paul Simon travelled to South Africa to collaborate with South African artists for his upcoming Graceland album.

Simon collaborated with Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo and co-composed the now-famous song, Homeless.

In 1996, Ladysmith Black Mambazo collaborated with Dolly Parton on her album Treasures, for a cover of Cat Stevens' ‘Peace Train’.

Read Also: Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala dies

The ‘Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’ - The Star and the Wiseman in 1998, that became so popular it was certified triple platinum, selling 1 million copies in Britain alone.

Owing to his ill health, Shabalala retired from managing the group in 2014 but continued to teach traditional choral music as his four sons continued with his legacy.

Some of Ladysmith Black Mambazo famous hits include; Homeless, King of Kings and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.

Abdi Aziz Kilambo

Kenyan legendary Rhumba musician Abdi Aziz Kilambo died on April 11 at a hospital in Voi in Taita-Taveta County at the age of 67 after a long battle with diabetes and hypertension.

The singer cum guitarist made his debut in the music scene in the early 1990s with the creation of his band Benga Africa Group that later saw him release hits such as Nyumbani ni Nyumbani, Matata Sipendelei, Sina Kazi and Amri Kumi.

After his musical breakthrough, the rhumba veteran changed his band name from Benga Africa Group to Ngoma Afrika, incorporating musicians from other African countries and performed at various entertainment spots in Nairobi including, Miami Tavern in Umoja Estate and Ranalo Foods on Kimathi Street.

Aziz’s death has left a big hole in the rhumba music industry with several rhumba lovers eulogizing him as one of the best the ever lived.

Kasongo wa Kanema [Photo: Courtesy]

Kasongo wa Kanema

Legendary Nairobi-based Congolese musician, Kasongo wa Kanema collapsed and died at his Lang'ata home in Nairobi on April 14.

The former lead vocalist of the popular Orchestra Super Mazembe group passed on at the age of 73 leaving behind a wife and six children.

Kasongo wa Kanema relocated and settled in Kenya in the early 70s alongside other Congolese musicians looking to better their lives.

Super Mazembe group hits included; Shauri Yako, Samba, Bwana Nipe Pesa and Kassongo that carved a niche for them before disbanding the group in 1985.

Kasongo proved his musical prowess in the Kakolele Viva Christmas track that put his name on the African map.

The rhumba legend owned the popular Watoto Studio in Nairobi’s Yaya Centre that rendered its services to visiting Congolese musicians that sought to record songs while in the country.

Kasongo retired from music in 2017 after he suffered a mild stroke.

So popular was he that the Deputy President, William Ruto, eulogized Kasonga as East Africa’s best tenor vocalist.