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Africans Mourn Michael Jackson's Death

GUY RAZ, host:

Michael Jackson's star power reached across the globe and shined especially bright in Africa.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton met him briefly during an Ivory Coast visit in the early 1990s. And she sent us this postcard from her current base in Senegal, the first African country Jackson visited as part of the Jackson 5.

(Soundbite of music)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: The Senegalese love to dance and to make music. And right there at the airport in Dakar in 1974, drummers and dancers greeted the Jackson 5 as they stepped off the plane. The performance clearly inspired the 15-year-old Michael Jackson. He spoke about it in this vintage video posted on YouTube.

(Soundbite of archive recording)

Mr. JACKSON: I love the way, you know, they do their different dances.

QUIST-ARCTON: It didn't take Jackson long to join in the vigorous Senegalese dancing. That's the Michael Jackson Africa will remember, a musical genius with dazzling dance steps. My encounter with him was almost 20 years later in 1992 in Ivory Coast. Jackson was to be crowned a traditional chief. Now being a diehard Jackson 5 follower during my teeny-bop years, and now a journalist, I was as excited as his Ivorian fans about the visit. But it wasn't quite what we've expected. Jackson appeared to hold his nose as he stepped off the plane in Abidjan, proceeded to ignore the assembled VIPs and zoomed off in his limousine. Later, I managed to ask him just one question. How do you like Ivory Coast? The reply in this tiny, tiny voice was, beautiful. I love it. My foreword exclusive with Michael Jackson.

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QUIST-ARCTON: But back here in Dakar, let me leave the last word to this young Senegalese singer who was in the middle of a sound check on stage yesterday but stopped to speak about the lasting influence of one of his heroes.

Mr. BADA FREDDIE(ph) (Singer): My name is Bada Freddie. I'm representing Daraje(ph) family. About Michael Jackson, yeah, it's a great loss because just like any youth on the earth, you know, Michael Jackson, I used to watch him dancing and singing since I was a kid. Just like a part of me is gone.

QUIST-ARCTON: And what's your favorite Michael Jackson song? Will you sing it for us?

Mr. FREDDIE: Song…

(Singing) Ah ah ah ah.

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.