19 Oct 2007
The news of the brutal murder of one of Africa’s most popular musicians (Lucky Dube) in Rosettenville on the outskirts of Johannesburg on October 18th 2007 was very devastating to music lovers in general and reggae fans in particular. The street violence of South Africa has once more robbed Africa and the world of one of her brightest. That Lucky Dube died in such a manner is not surprising in a country that has one of the highest murder rates in the world. An average of 50 South Africans per day lose their lives through homicide. Last year (2006) over 19000 citizens of this beautiful country died in this way.
The first time that I heard the music of Lucky Dube was in 1988 shortly after criminals had in a similar way cut short the life of Peter Tosh- a popular reggae star in Jamaica. His style of reggae bore a close resemblance to that of the late Peter Tosh. It is the nostalgic link to Peter Tosh that pushed me to make more research into the music of Lucky Dube. I soon found out that the rhythm of Lucky Dube’s reggae was very pleasing to the ear. In addition, the lyrics of his songs carried potent messages that decried the injustices of our world. For reggae fans like me, there was consolation that someone has really emerged to replace Peter Tosh. It will be recalled that the late Tosh used reggae as a weapon to confront ills like racism, apartheid and nuclear proliferation.
Like Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube was violently killed with a gun and like Peter Tosh, his alleged three assassins left without robbing the victim. In another striking coincidence, Lucky Dube died at the age of 43. Peter Tosh was 43 when he was killed on September 11 1987.
Lucky Dube has released more than 20 albums during his musical career that spanned more than two decades. His last album ‘Respect’ was released this year. Talking about the album, Lucky Dube stressed the need that we must respect one another before it becomes possible to achieve lofty ideals like unity. He toured many parts of the world (including Jamaica-the home of reggae) thrilling crowds and spreading his message of love, unity, justice and respect for one another through music. Before his death he has received several musical awards.
Lucky Dube wore dreadlocks, never drank alcohol nor smoked marijuana or even cigarettes. When asked if he was a Rastafarian, he reportedly replied that; “If Rastafarianism is about having dreadlocks, smoking marijuana and believing that Haile Selassie is God, then I am not Rastafarian. But if it is about political, social and personal consciousness, then, yes, I am”.
Lucky Dube emerged from a society that has been at conflict with itself (due to Apartheid) pitting blacks against whites but he never looked at the society in that way. He said that human beings were “one people” with “different colors”. He was later to sing that; “Not every black man is my brother” and “not every white man is an enemy”. The chances are that at the end of the investigation it is likely to turn out that his killers were black men- confirming that indeed not every black man is his brother.
The killing of Lucky Dube has removed the smiles from the faces of millions of reggae lovers and silenced the voice that censures social injustice in Africa and beyond. We hope that whoever will step in his shoes in future will not find an Africa in which he will still have to sing again like Lucky Dube that; “They will build no schools anymore. They will build no hospitals. All they build is prisons, prisons…”
See image of Lucky Dube at this link.
Njei Moses Timah