If you woke me up to a Lucky Dube song, even of a rare collection, I’d tell you even in my somnolent state that it’s a Dube song. I’m not particularly a fan of his but any follower of reggae music can tell that a particular reggae sound is Dubes’.
His music is characteristically unique and he appeared to have carved a niche for himself in that genre even though he wasn’t Jamaican. A feat almost impossible to attain. Lucky Dube almost looked to be edging it even above established Jamaican reggae acts, even looking to be more Rastafarian than most Rastas in Jamaica before he was caught down by robbers in his crime-ridden South Africa.
There are very few reggae acts that cannot be copied. I know many will easily point to Bob Marley, but I believe that though Marley was unique, all you need do was to hear the millions of men who sing to a Marley song while having their bath to agree with me that indeed Marley could be copied. I have never heard anyone copy Dube perfectly in doing any of his songs.
I can’t remember fully how I became drawn to his songs, but seeing that I love reggae music it was going to be, somehow, someday. Many people are drawn to reggae music because they feel it’s conscious, Lucky Dube’s music represents all that’s conscious in music. I can’t even think of any of his tracks that isn’t conscious. They are all massively message filled that it appears as if he devotes no time to play or even to trivia.
I do not know how much of an influence the situation in the South Africa he grew up in contributed to the consciousness embedded in his music, even in the lyrics with the seriousness he attached to putting his music out in his usual emotion-laden voice. Though it feels like his music mostly talks about the poor and downtrodden, he puts it out in such a way as not to hurt the ears of the wealthy, rich and powerful, in the lessons of life which he readily dispenses without let.
I’d been at a party where in the midst of the cacophony associated with house music, with heads banging at their craziest, wriggling hips and footwork by many of those on the dancefloor, only for the DJ to play a Lucky Dube song. Immediately, the mood changed, I had thought there’d be backlash yet it was a change necessitated by an appreciation of what the DJ had done. Twas one of Dube’s popular songs and the crowd sang every bit of that song to it’s end, and though the crowd at this particular event were wealthy and high net worth individuals they were not ashamed or reluctant to chant into any available listening ear the chorus to that Dube song to the effect that they “….were born to SUFFER”. The DJ resumed the normal flow after this Dube song, and everyone appeared glad for the break that conscious song provided all from the prevailing malady. I have not witnessed something like that ever since.
Lucky Dube spoke out against the xenophobic tendencies of South Africans especially against their African brothers, at a time it was unpopular to so do. For that he earned more respect from many non-South Africans resident there, and though his songs strengthened many during the apartheid era, he wasn’t carried away by the euphoria that followed the end of apartheid, contributing in his own way in keeping the government and the people on their toes, as regards their responsibility to the New Rainbow Nation.
When I learnt on the 19th of October, 2007 of Dube’s death, which had occurred the evening before, I was shocked. My pain was further compounded by the fact that he died from injuries sustained from gunshots inflicted on him by armed robbers, who intended to rob him of his car. I kept on wondering if the robbers didn’t know whom they were assaulting in the first place, or did he not know not to argue with men with guns? We may never know what truly transpired, unfortunately whatever happened led to his demise to the huge loss of us all.
Lucky Dube isn’t with us now, but he’s left so much to immortalize him by. He will continue to live in the many hearts that he touched while he walked this terra firma.
…and for avowed Lucky Dube fans, here’s one for the road: