Coronavirus has sent ripples across the global art, music and showbiz fraternity.
In a span of one week, the pandemic snuffed out the lives of Africa’s globally acclaimed artistes, including Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, 86, and prolific Congolese composer and singer, Aurlus Mabélé, aged 67.
Countless concerts, forums and entertainment events have either been cancelled or postponed.
Dibango and Mabélé succumbed to the virus within days of each other. Dibango died on March 24, Mabélé on March 19.
In attempts to come to terms with individual sense of loss, the past few days have seen social media platforms flooded with condolence messages as fans reel from the shock of losing the two celebrities.
Kenyan saxophonist Juma Tutu, Swahili Jazz band’s frontman, paid glowing tribute to Manu Dibango, describing him as one of his mentors.
“I learnt of Dibango’s passing with a heavy heart – but what I can never forget or erase from our memories, is his passionate commitment and involvement with music makers and composers from all over Africa whenever he had a chance. I was fortunate to share the same podium with him during the Safaricom Jazz Festival 2018 edition,” recalled Juma.
“When I learnt that Dibango would be in town, I got in touch with his then manager who I had met previously while working with Mozambique-born jazz guitarist Jimmy Dludlu,” he recounted.
A plot quickly took shape as he sought to bring his two if his mentors on the same stage.
“I co-opted veteran saxophonist Mzee Ngala into my band for our set. We got a chance to interact with Dibango alongside his peer. The only hitch was that they did not have much time to talk or share thoughts. Dibango was down-to-earth, with lots of humility,” says Juma.
The festival’s concert highlight was when the jazz legend invited Kenyan artistes on stage during the performance of his all-time classic hit Soul Makossa, released in 1972 at the dawn of the disco era.
Years down the line, the funky song stormed pop, soul and R&B-radio stations, spilling into dance floors across the US, the UK, Europe and urban Africa.
Mabélé shot to fame during mid-1980s, propelled by the incessant appeal for his Le Loketo band’s signature Lingala hits, blending his smooth vocals and evocative lyrics and riding on celebrated guitarist, Diblo Dibala’ magic fingers.
“Mabélé’s legacy of uniting the world through sound and dance will live on forever. He bridged music communities globally, helping define genres but, more importantly, transcending borders and languages to make people dance,” writes Eyder Peralta, National Public Radio’s International Correspondent.
Some of his coveted albums include Embargo, Stop Arretez, Choc a Distance, Dossier X, Congo Brazza, Fiesta D’or, Soukous Autoroute, Le Crocodile, Tour de Controle, Qui Dit Mieux, King of SoukousEP and Best of Arlus Mabele.
Away from coronavirus, the world also lost some of its most celebrated artistes this month.
Though unrelated to Covid-19, country music maestro Kenny Rogers, 81 died on March 20. Barely four days later, celebrated French illustrator Albert Uderzo, co-creator of popular comic series Asterix which grew to be a part everyday life for millions of kids and even adults for over half-century passed on at 92.
For decades, Alberto alongside co-authors René Goscinny and Jean-Yves Ferri, charmed scores of young readers with an endless stream of witty tales christened The Adventures of Asterix that painted the exploits of Gaulish warriors fighting Roman Empire’s soldiers during the reign of Julius Caesar. The initial series appeared in a Franco-Belgian comic magazine in the late 1959.
On Thursday last week, the local reggae fraternity was hit by the passing of veteran vocalist and songwriter, Albert Craig also known as Apple Gabriel.
With details of his demise still scanty, reports indicate that the songwriter had fallen in dire straits and was living off the streets.
After rising above physical handicap traced to his childhood that was riddled by polio, Apple Gabriel’s most famous songs include Lift Up Your Conscience, We A De Rasta, Why You So Craven, Oh Jah Solid Rock, Middle East, Falling Angels, Rude Boy Shuffling, Friday Evening, Walk The Streets of Glory and There is No End.
With a career that spanned six decades, the legendary Kenny Rogers’ creative prowess is defined by best seller hits such as Lady, Lucille, We’ve Got Tonight, Through the Years and 1978 hit The Gambler which inspired multiple TV movies in which he featured.
Music hall of fame
His mark on the American music history is indelible, capped with an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. A three-time Grammy Award winner, Rogers managed to attain 24 number one hits, selling more than 50 million albums.
“Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music’s history,” the Country Music Association said in a statement.
Lionel Richie, a long-time friend, who also doubled as the writer and producer of Kenny Rogers’ Lady, shared his grief with fans.
“Today I lost one of my closest friends. So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken... My prayers go out to Kenny’s Family.” — Lionel Richie (@LionelRichie)
Dolly Parton, herself an acclaimed country music star who sang with Rogers in the duet, Islands in the Stream posted a video of herself with the fallen artiste saying: “God bless you Kenny, fly high into the arms of God.”