The Strange Story of “Mama Say Mama Sa Mama Coosa”
75-year-old Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango is suing both Michael Jackson and R&B diva Rihanna over the use of the line “mama-say-mama-sa-mama-coosa,” which was first made popular in Dibango’s 1972 afro-funk classic, “Soul Makossa.”
(At this point, we advise you stop reading this, and press play on the YouTube clip at the bottom of the page. Seriously. Feeling good?)
Okay, back to the news. According to the AFP, Jackson already admitted to borrowing the line from Dibango on his 1983 Thriller track “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, and the two settled out of court. However, the quotable phrase also appears in Rihanna’s 2007 hit single “Don’t Stop the Music,” which contains a sample of Jackson’s song. Dibango claims he wasn’t consulted on the usage, and is seeking an additional 500,000 euros in compensation. Sounds like he’s going easy on them — we’re pretty sure Rihanna spends more than that on umbrellas.
So what does “mama say mama sa mama coosa” actually mean? One possible translation: “makossa” means “dance” in the Cameroonian language of Duala.