I love reggae music, especially songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube and count myself as a reggae fan. It was in the morning of Friday October 19, 2007. I was going to work on board our staff bus when I heard the news over the radio that Lucky Dube, the South African-born reggae musician, had died the previous day Thursday October 18, 2007! I peremptorily dismissed the news as untrue, hoping that it was either a reverie or I did not hear well. But it turned out to be true, for the sad news was repeatedly aired and soon became the topic of general conversation.
Ironically, the late Lucky Dube in one of his hit tracks lamented how evil forces were “killing the prophets of reggae”. Alas! He another prophet of reggae has fallen victim to the same fate in the hands of agents of evil. When the legendary Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981, most of his fans worldwide believed and still believe that there was more to his death than met the eyes. This suspicion of foul play is heightened when viewed against Marley’s 1976 narrow escape from the assassins’ bullets. In 1987, Peter Tosh, another reggae great was shot dead by three evil emissaries, two of whom were never caught. Lucky Dube is the latest casualty on the list of reggae musicians cut short by agents of darkness.
Sequel to the above, one is forced to ask, who are killing the prophets of reggae? Over the years, reggae music has come to be associated with the fight for justice, equal rights, pan-Africanism, liberation of the oppressed, good governance, as well as the fight against apartheid, colonialism, neo-colonialism, man’s inhumanity to man and other social vices. These ideals were popularized in the lyrics of Marley, Tosh and other reggae pioneers. And succeeding reggae artistes like Lucky Dube took over from where they stopped and have maintained the tempo ever since. Once accused of fighting the whites (his father’s race), Bob Marley was reported to have answered that he was fighting the bad system and not personalities, but it happened that the bad system is ascribed to the whites.
Reggae musicians, otherwise known as Rastafarians, rever and deify the late Emperor Haile Sellasie of Ethiopia for two reasons. First, he is acclaimed to be a descendant of the Biblical King Solomon of Israel. Second, Ethiopia remains the only African country which was never colonized. They identified themselves with the cause of African irredentism, liberation, total independence and unity. In one of his songs, Marley urged Africans to unite, while Peter Tosh reminded all blacks in Diaspora of their African origin. Their commitment to the African cause is only comparable to that shown by famous pan-Africanists like Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, etc.
It is very unfortunate that both Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube were killed by fellow blacks (Africans). Were their killers acting for themselves or as agents of faceless, but powerful external forces? Is their murder the handiwork of persons who felt pricked by the messages contained in the lyrics of their songs? We may never know, except courtesy of an in-depth and thorough investigation which may throw up some startling revelations. Nevertheless, it is an irrefutable fact of history that the West has always been suspected of involvement in the overthrow or assassination of almost all genuine African leaders such as Lumumba, Sellassie, Nkrumah, Sankara, etc whose resolve to uplift Africa from neo-colonialism and dependence they loathed.
Lucky Dube, through the instrumentality of his songs, fought the repressive policy of apartheid and other societal vices, identified with the oppressed and urged that the Blackman be accorded the respect and dignity due to him. It is worrisome that the selfsame blacks he fought for turned around to kill him. He was not consumed by the forces of apartheid which he denounced through his songs. The circumstances of Dube’s death and the rising incidence of violent crime in South Africa in recent times compel one to wonder if black South Africans are not more vicious on themselves than the agents of apartheid were on them. We cannot justifiably blame whites always whenever blacks turn against fellow blacks. Could the high crime wave in South Africa be traced to high-level unemployment and the use of youths as thugs and hired assassins by politicians as obtains in Nigeria? Whatever be the case, it is high time the South African government tackled this monster of violent crime which is giving the country a bad image abroad. Else, agents of apartheid may point to it and argue that blacks are incapable of offering good governance.
We lament the demise of reggae stars at the peak of their career. We mourn the death of Lucky Dube. However, we find consolation in the stardom he achieved in his music career, the consciousness he created through the messages in his songs, especially that he helped through his music to dismantle apartheid. Again, as he sang in one of his tracks, “nobody can stop reggae/‘cos reggae is strong”. My heartfelt condolences go to his family and my fellow fans of his. But for his final wishes, Dube deserved a state burial by the South African government.