It was on 18 October 2007 when tragedy struck. Lucky Dube, the iconic South African reggae star, was dropping his children off in Rosettenville in the south of Johannesburg. Criminals had been surveying the area for vehicles to steal. A newspaper report tells the story of what happened next: “They pounced. Two shots were fired. Dube tried to drive off but he crashed his car into a tree and died on the spot” .
And just like that, the world lost one of its most potent voices, a voice that had rallied alongside the masses in South Africa, fighting against injustice and segregation – a voice that had been the source of comfort for so many across the continent who needed something to believe in.
Lucky Dube was born in on 3 August, 1964 in what is now Mpumalanga (then Eastern Transvaal). It was at school that he started singing in a choir. He soon formed his first band, The Skyway Band, with whom he’d play using instruments borrowed from the school. His musical journey led him to The Love Brothers, a mbaqanga band formed by his cousin Richard Siluma, which he joined in 1982 as a vocalist.
His first attempt at reggae, Rastas Never Dies (1984), didn’t garner as much fanfare as his mbaqanga outings, from his label and listeners alike. But this did little to deter Dube and Siluma (as producer) from utilising the template set by Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh. His second album, Think About The Children (1985) was better received. Subsequent albums like Slave (1987), Together As One (1988) and Prisoner (1989) remain some of the biggest selling albums in South African history. He also assumed the Afrikaans alter-ego Oom Hansie for some satirical albums in the mid-80s, also produced by Siluma, and had the opportunity to explore his acting talents in films such as Getting Lucky and Voices in the Dark. He continued to release hit albums into the 90s, such as House Of Exile (1992), Victims (1993) and Taxman (1997). His last albums were Respect (2006) and the self-titled Lucky Dube in 2007.
Throughout Dube’s prolific career, his main pre-occupation, the one thing he longed for more than anything else, was the quest for unity among all South Africans. In an interlude from his Captured Live album (1991), he can be heard speaking in front of a capacity audience: “This song comes deep down from the bottom of my heart, ‘cause it’s a song that talks about the racial discrimination that is happening between blacks and whites.” Dube then carries on to tell the story of the bible – he talks about man being created in the image of god, and how that god has no colour. It’s a bold, but necessary, statement – an indictment of what was then the state of affairs in his country.
Some reggae purists never appreciated his brand of reggae and saw Dube as a lightweight compared to Jamaican artists. Their negativity only fuelled his progress. With time, Dube became a globally recognised reggae artist, performing at festivals around the world. Just as noticeable as Dube’s music were his dreadlocks, a point of contention among those who questioned whether he was a committed Rastafarian. Speaking on that issue, he said the following: “When it comes to being Rasta, I say if ‘Rasta’ means smoking ganja and . . . going around shouting ‘Jah Rastafari!’, then I am not Rasta. But if it means fighting for justice, fighting for togetherness, the oneness, the love and brotherhood, then yes, I am Rasta” .
Three men – confused souls with no appreciation for the value of life – have since been sentenced. Their co-accused turned state witness. His first two versions of events didn’t corroborate with the third. “I was scared”, he said . They succeeded in killing Lucky Dube the flesh, but the myth and the legend lives on in homes, taxi ranks, dingy bars and all kinds of establishments across the African continent.
Source: Music In Africa