Manu Dibango speaks to Joel Savage

Manu Dibango is perhaps one of the world's best jazz saxophonists. A true international superstar, with a career, starting from the 50's. At 15, he was sent to Paris to prepare a professional career. He is a tireless globetrotting musician. Last year he played for hundreds of fans at "Mano-Mundo festival" in Antwerp and this year he was invited once again to play at "Pole-pole festival" in Gent. Both cities are in Belgium. Now he speaks about his passion for music to me.

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 that 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't do that then you can really bring out the best of yourself.

Joel: In 1985, you raised funds for the 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 Africa continent. A month ago we played against AIDS and famine. We also played in Dakar. It is not only the music which is playing an important role on 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 best saxophonists. How do you feel about this?

Manu: It's nice to hear that. You know that one doesn't play music for the hours just 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 of money from the initial stages when you are in music. First, you 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 feel happy about the music. It's the responsibility of an artist to make his or her fans happy. That is a proposition. I'm always talking about a proposition.

Joel: This question comes from one of your fans who lives 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 every country that wants Manu. I have management and those who want me to play contact my management. I have played in Canada and some parts of South America. I lived in America for two years in the 70's. The most important thing is they love my music.

Joel: This is another question from one of your fans. He said that when he was young, he heard that you sued Michael Jackson for using "Makossa"in his music without your permission. Is it true?

Manu: Yes that is true. It is a long time story in 1986. But the problem has been solved a long time ago.

Joel: I believe that you are now in your seventies. What is the secret behind your fitness?

Manu: If I have a secret of what keeps me young, then definitely I'm going to sell it. (He laughed) I told you before. It's passion.

Joel: In 1994, you released "The rough guide of Manu Dibango" What do you have in store for your numerous fans worldwide?

Manu: Well, at the moment I have a big band in France. The name is "Marabuti". We have big projects presently and the future and we are going in the studios probably in autumn for recording.

Joel: Sir, thank you very much for this interview.

Manu: You are welcome.