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An Ode to Lucky Dube, The Greatest African Reggae Artist Of All Time

Lucky Philip Dube  (August 3, 1964 – October 18, 2007) was a South African reggae artist. He was one of South Africa’s best selling artist  and one of its most outspoken performers. He recorded 22 albums in Zulu, English and […]

Lucky Philip Dube  (August 3, 1964 – October 18, 2007) was a South African reggae artist. He was one of South Africa’s best selling artist  and one of its most outspoken performers.

He recorded 22 albums in Zulu, English and Afrikaans in a 25-year period and was South Africa’s biggest selling reggae artist. Dube was murdered in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville on the evening of 18 October 2007. Lucky Dube was the son of a single mother who thought she could not have children. Her first child therefore was given the name “Lucky”. Lucky Dube had a tough upbringing and lived in turn, with his mother, grandmother, and an uncle. He began to sing in bars in his home town and in church. He and his comrades began drumming around and started a band, but they couldn’t afford to buy instruments. They tried to persuade moneyed people to sponsor them but, when they were unsuccessful, Lucky Dube wrote a play that the guys performed. This brought in just enough to purchase a guitar, and they started the Skyway band.

They began by playing mbaqanga. They were together for 2 years before Lucky Dube joined the Love Brothers, a mbaqanga band led by Richard Siluma, who later became Lucky’s manager. After a few years as a mbaqanga singer Lucky decided, in the early 1980s, to switch to reggae. The influence came from artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. 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. Lucky Dube made a type of melodious, African reggae that slowly but surely has turned him into a superstar. He sang powerfully in English about social problems, the black’s struggle, and God’s greatness. With the song, “Together As One“, he became the first black artist in South Africa to be played on a white radio station. He had had no formal musical education, but nevertheless played several instruments and arranges his own songs. His first two albums, “Slave” (about alcoholism) and “Prisoner”, both sold over 500,000 copies and are the best selling disks ever in South Africa. Lucky Dube was one of Africa’s most beloved and sought after artists and toured the world over.

s one of the first artists to bring African reggae to the mainstream, Dube bridged cultural gaps within the African diapora. What Lucky Dubé’s music did was “[present] a praxis of cross-culturality and visionary possibility that the diaspora at large tends to erase. Dube gave Africa a voice and put its culture on the global stage by joining the global reggae community. Through taking Jamaican roots music back to its roots, he re-contextualised the oppression and political struggles that reggae seeps itself in, bringing the basis of the diaspora back in conversation with the diaspora at large to allow for a more pan-African form of cultural expression.

Death

On October 18, 2007, Lucky Dube (43) was brutally shot and killed in front of his son and daughter in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, by car hijackers. He is survived by his wife, Zanele, and his seven children.

Adapted from: africansuccess.org

Kirkpatrick Chidamba

Free Thinker. Loud. Another inhabitant of Terra Firma. I am not your favourite person. Neither do I plan to be. But you will know my opinion. In fact, you will love it.

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