Reggae Icon Lucky Dube Meets an Untimely End
Lucky Dube.

Reggae Icon Lucky Dube Meets an Untimely End


Many people, especially Rastafarians, agree that Dube ably filled a void created by the deaths of reggae legends Bob Marley and Michael Tosh.

By Gerald Businge
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First published: October 20, 2007


Many Ugandans have joined other fans the world over to mourn the death of reggae music star, Lucky Dube, 44, who was shot dead in his home city Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday. Dube's death has shocked the continent, especially the Rastafarian (Rasta) community who cannot believe the music icon should not have had his life ended on a street as he dropped off his two children. The Rasta community in Uganda and Dube's music fans are gathering at the National Theatre in Kampala to mourn a man whom they believe has been the most influential musician on the African continent.


Lucky Dube is believed to be the most popular foreign musician in Uganda, pulling crowds across generations and classes. He 'wowwed' rural and urban fans alike at each of the six music concerts he held in Uganda. Hundreds would throng Entebbe Airport to welcome him, while many more would line Entebbe-Kampala road to have a glimpse of their music hero. Ras B Ssali, who presents a reggae music programme on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) said Uganda was like a home to Dube, who visited Kampala several times. Donning clothes with the Rastafarian colours of red, yellow and green, Ras Ssali said Dube's music was relevant to all of Africa as he preached against war, corruption and advocated for unity, peace and hope.

Lucky Dube
Lucky Dube.

Lucky Dube came from a humble background and was born in Ermelo, eastern Transvaal, South Africa. He grew up with his singing mother, who once believed she could not conceive. Her first child, therefore, was given the name 'Lucky'. Dube (pronounced 'Doo bay') is a town in Johannesburg. Dube had a tough upbringing and lived in turns with his mother, grandmother and an uncle. According to an official biography, Dube began to sing in bars in his hometown and in his local church. With friends, he began drumming and eventually started a band, but they could not afford to buy more musical instruments.

Dube wrote a play that his group performed and this brought in enough money to purchase a guitar with which they started the Skyway Band while still at school, aged 18. After two years, Dube founded The Love Brothers with Thuthukani Cele and Chris Dlamini. Together, they released the album Mbaqanga, whose songs were traditional Zulu music. It was not long before he discovered what a goldmine he had in his throat.

As a schoolboy and a library assistant, Dube discovered information about the Rastafarian faith in an encyclopedia and never looked back. He had discovered a spiritual belief based on the power and supremacy of black people. Believed to be the most outspoken South African singer, Dube's move into reggae music in 1984 was sparked off by his quest to express his anger against apartheid. The turning point in his music career was to come in 1985 when, together with producer Richard Siluma, he recorded South Africa's first reggae album, Rastas Never Die.

Lucky Dube - Slave





The album was banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation but Dube re-issued it three years later. His follow up Think About the Children went gold, and he formed a band, The Slaves, with which he produced several albums. As was exhibited by the large audiences that thronged his performances in Uganda, Dube's ascent to massive popularity started in the 1980s. In 1989, he played to an 80,000-strong audience. In 1990, he released Prisoner, which spent only five days to achieve double platinum status (selling 100,000 copies).
 

Lucky Dube - Prisoner


By 2000, Prisoner had sold more than 1 million copies internationally. Dube's subsequent releases continued to sell in large numbers. According to music analysts, Dube's international promotion has been an important part of his rapid ascent. In 1988, his albums began to be released by international labels (Celluloid and Shanachie) as well as South Africa's Gallo Records.

According to a biography written by Banning Eyre, Dube's raspy voice reminded one of Peter Tosh. However, Dube could also unleash a smooth, powerful falsetto to rival Smokey Robinson. Dube's tight grooves, passionate melodies and fluty keyboard notes became a model for reggae bands throughout Africa. By 1991, he had overtaken Ivory Coast's Alpha Blondie as the top gun in African reggae music production and was well on his way to becoming one of the top-selling artists on the continent.

Lucky Dube - Back To My Roots (Live)



He had his 'baptism of fire' as a reggae artist when he played at the Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica, before the world's most critical reggae audiences and was a success. In 1996, Dube received the World Music Award for Best Selling African Artist. Somewhere along the way, he found time to act in two films: Getting Lucky and Voice In The Dark.

Although he is highly regarded in Rastafarian circles, Lucky Dube believed that Jesus Christ is Lord, another attribute that won him fans across religions. Many people, especially Rastafarians, agree that Dube ably filled a void created by the deaths of reggae legends Bob Marley and Michael Tosh (whom Lucky Dube said was his main inspiration).

Throughout his music career, Dube made a type of melodious, African reggae that slowly but surely turned him into a superstar. He sang powerfully in English about social problems, black people's struggles and God's greatness. The emotions with which he bellowed out his tunes and the spiritual touch of all his songs epitomized the reggae sensation that has swept through much of Africa. His big, unabashedly cathartic melody enabled him to create a distinctive musical sound, with which he 'wowwed' many music lovers for more than 23 years.

Lucky Dube - Together As One



With the song, Together As One, he became the first black artist in South Africa to be played on a white radio station. Though Dube had no formal musical education, he ably played several instruments and arranged his own songs. Though he had somewhat retired on the musical scene, Lucky Dube at his death was arguably still one of Africa's most sought after artists. He is a man whose music touched many souls - not just because his uniquely tailored messages always suited the times, but also because of the dramatic, hyper, aggressive rock-flavoured beats that made his music appeal to people across all walks of life.

In 2003, he came to Uganda for the sixth time and launched his 13th album, The Other Side, which, his fans believe, put him in a class of his own and made him Africa's greatest music star. Lucky Dube is dead, but his music will surely live on for generations and generations to come. We are comforted by the allusion in his first album Rastas Never Die. He, like other Rastas including Bob Marley and Peter Tosh never died but lives on through his message-filled music.

Lucky Dube - Remember Me (Live), Uganda 2003

By Gerald Businge
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First published: October 20, 2007
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Gerald Businge is a media practitioner and features Editor at Ultimate Media Consult in Uganda. He is a graduate of Mass Communication and several journalism and leadership certificates. He has been a practicing journalist since March 2001 and has worked at The New Vision as features writer, and has written extensively for different newspapers, magazines, newsletters in Uganda and internationally. He currently does fulltime media communication consultancy work as well as writing and editing at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd where he is a founding member and CEO. You can get his attention so long as you are interested in and you are working for a better world.