Icons Of Africa

DUBE: International reggae star who hated crime, never neglected Jah

DUBE: International reggae star who hated crime, never neglected Jah

By Josiah Odanga

Instead of using music solely for entertainment, Lucky Dube abandoned South African’s Zulu pop music, Mbaganga; and championed political, economic and social well being of the people through reggae music. This he did at a time apartheid was hurting humanity in South Africa.

This earned Lucky Dube international recognition.

Shifting from Mbaganga to reggae saw him suffer great financial losses, as his fans either did not find reggae palatable or were just not ready to abandon Mbaganga. This, however, discouraged him not. He produced his next reggae album, which made immediate landmark sales. Further, the apartheid regime found his new songs critical and banned his War and Crime song in 1995. Still, that did not stop him.

Reggae is a music genre of Jamaican culture. Arguably, Dube wanted to embrace a multi-cultural outlook in his piece of art by abandoning Mbaganga.

He released several albums between 1984 and 2007. These include Rastas Never Die, Think About the Children, Slave, Together As One, Prisoner, Captured Live, House of Exile, Back to My Root, Victims, Trinity, Tax man, The Way It Is, Soul Taker, The Other Side, Respect, Lucky Dube and One Love.

Anti- apartheid

His song, Together As One, for instance, spoke strongly against racial discrimination. In the lyrics, Dube wonders why apartheid continued to maneuver yet even dogs and cats had forgiven one another.In the song he calls for equality amongst races world over “Hey you rastaman, Indian man, We’ve got to come together as one, not forgetting the Japanese,” goes the refrain. Release of the “Different Colours, One People” album took his advocacy for love and equality a level higher.

Apartheid was a socio-political system enforced by the white minority in South Africa between 1948 and 1990, before a government of national unity, headed by Nelson Mandela, could be voted in 1994. Apartheid divided South Africans, by law, along racial lines.

Dube’s advocacy songs are thought to have played a major role in the historic achievement of freedom for South Africans.

If Dube were Olomide

If Dube were Koffi Olomide coming to perform in Kenya today, he would not have kicked somebody, for sure. That is criminal. He hated it.He would have dashed to the stage and performed without forgetting to dedicate the Prisoner song to high school students who have lately set schools ablaze. Prisoner encourages both young and old to acquire education with an aim of ending crime. He poses a question of what a world it would be with prisons, rather than schools, all over. Dube himself was a gardener and security guard before rushing into school to acquire education. It is in school that he learnt of the Rastafarian Movement.

Love matters

Dube never abandoned God. In his song she frequently brings God(Jah) at the center of tragedies and confusion. In the How will I know song, for example, he seeks God’s guidance on how to tell that the lady in town loves him and not that other guy.

Message to liquor slaves

His Slave song focused on health. In both lyrics and video, Dube portrays himself as an irresponsible husband enslaved to liquor. His cry to part ways with the horrible lifestyle gives the song its moral angle. Ironically, in Kenya, reggae music is common in bars.

His Mama song encourages young men and women not to hastily get into marriages as it is better for couples to-be to understand each other and get advice from the elderly. Dube laments that he is hurting, having married beauty (another man’s plaything) instead of a wife.

Economic gains and accolades

Due to the worldwide audience, his albums were commercially successful. From 1989, various albums made marvelous sales and won him numerous awards. Prisoner, Captured Lives and House of Exile saw him win 4 QKTV Awards between 1989 and 1992. Victims sold more than a million copies worldwide in 1993. He got a recording deal with Motown in 1995, resulting into the Trinity Album.In 1996 he was named ‘Best Selling African Recording Artiste’ at the World Music Awards and ‘International Artiste of the Year’, at the Ghana Music Awards.Many other albums won him South African Music Awards.

Dube was also an actor.He featured in films like Voice in the Dark, Getting Lucky and Lucky Strikes Back.

Upcoming polls

As evident already, Kenyans have been divided along tribal lines. This is common before national elections.

Dube talked of racism, which in Kenyan context, would be equated to tribalism. Even though Dube is dead, his artistic advice lives in his songs like Children Suffering, One Love.

Dube was born on August 3, 1964 in Ermelo, to a South African mother who had been terminating pregnancies.The name ‘Lucky’ came about him being the very first pregnancy to survive.Unfortunately, Lucky was shot dead by those believed to have been carjackers on October 18, 2007 in Rosettenville, South Africa.


  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • tumblr
  • rss
  • pinterest
  • mail

Written by The Kenyan Weekly

The Kenyan Weekly newspaper is a fresh general-news publication published on newsprint once a week.

There are 0 comments

Leave a comment

Want to express your opinion?
Leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *