Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube, singer against apartheid, was born on 3rd August,1964, in Ermelo, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa. His mother had thought that she was unable to bear children, so when he arrived, "Lucky" seemed like the perfect name. Dube first discovered his talent for music when he joined the choir at his school, as a teenager. In the early 1980s, Lucky Dube discovered artists like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, and began the switch from mbaqanga to reggae.

In 1984 he dared to make a mini-album, “Rastas Never Die”. The then apartheid government saw the album as a challenge, and banned it from the airwaves. It sold a mere 4,000 copies. But he made another (“Think about the Children”, 1985), then another (“Slave”, 1987), all the time notching up more sales and ratcheting up the menace in the music.

The next year Mr Dube got bolder still. At a recording session he sang gently, on to the tape,

Too many people
Hate apartheid
Why do you like it?

His recording engineer stopped the tape, telling him he couldn't say that. But Mr Dube not only said it; he also persuaded the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to air it, the first anti-apartheid song to be played on a white station. The album, “Together as One”, sold 100,000 copies in its first five days, becoming the soundtrack of the anti-apartheid movement. In that week, too—as if Mr Dube had sensed the first ripples of the coming wave of change—eight of South Africa's long-term political prisoners were suddenly released from jail.

(Lucky Dube - Rastas Never Die)

(Lucky Dube - Truth In The World)

With the end of apartheid in 1994 Mr Dube became a world star, signed by Motown. But there was still plenty to sing against at home. He took on drugs (“You go sniffling them glue/No good for you”); promiscuity and AIDS (“Don't you think it's time/to be a little more responsible”) and racial quotas (“We are tired of people who/think that affirmative action is the way out/and is another way of putting puppets/where they don't belong.”)

He also sang against South Africa's appalling crime wave, apparently unstoppable by bodyguards, police or high walls.

Do you ever worry
About your house being broke into
Do you ever worry
About your car being taken away from you
In broad daylight
Down Highway 54

It was not down Highway 54, but in Rosettenville, a suburb of Johannesburg; and it was not in broad daylight, but at 8.20 at night, that Lucky Dube's vehicle was carjacked by five men. He was shot to death in front of two of his seven children. But for his legions of fans throughout Africa and beyond it, mourning the senseless loss of a musician they also considered a liberator, his prophecy had come close enough. (Parts of this post are taken from the Economist magazine)