By Joseph Batte
The sad news of Lucky Dube’s death has hit the entire music world like a lightening bolt. His fans are in shock. The local music promoters are speechless. Local artists are mourning too because they have lost somebody they would look up at.
According to Joseph Batte of Uganda, he covered three of Dube's four concerts in Uganda. "We grew up on his music since his first reggae album ‘Rastas Never Die’ in 1985. The reasons fans in Africa, especially Uganda, got attracted to him was both to do with his music and his electrifying shows.
Although critics dismissed his music as simplistic, his brand of reggae appealed to many because it was easy to assimilate. Most of the songs he wrote were not the ‘boy-meets-girl’ type that assails our ears these days. We identified with his music not because it was sweet, but because his songs were often loaded with a lot of common sense lyrics. He called it ‘music with a message.’ It did not only reach reggae audience but appealed to a large and varied audience worldwide.
Lucky Dube was the most talented African Reggae artist, and arguably one of the best live performers in the world. His concerts were electrifying. Every performance swept fans off their feet. He is one of the few artists who could transfer the live feel of his music onto the stage.
His backing band, called the Slaves, made up of various talented and disciplined musicians. If one of them dared come late for a show, Lucky Dube would kick him out.
His shows were very tight. It explains why we seemed not to get enough of him, despite the fact that the hits seemed to have somewhat dried up. For that very reason, singer and promoter Geoffrey Lutaaya of the Eagles Production was planning to bring Lucky Dube for the fifth time to Uganda on Easter 2008.
Lucky Dube was born on August 3, 1964 in Ermelo, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa. At the age of 9, he was chosen as library assistant at his school. His desire to learn about the rest of the world and South Africa’s controversial history had him immediately immersed into the world of literature. It was here that he became acquainted with the Rastafarian religion, discovering it in an Encyclopedia. He also read about the music which is synonymous with Rastafarianism - REGGAE. His interest grew the more he read and found out, and soon he was working and earning enough money to buy Peter Tosh albums, which were the only Reggae albums available in South Africa at the time.
Whilst he was at school he founded his first band - the Skyway Band - and raised enough money to buy his first guitar from a stage play he produced. His talents soon came to the attention of Richard Siluma, who was a distant relative and a record producer.
In 1979 Lucky launched his career as a mbaqanga singer. Along with future Slave members Thutukani Cele and Chris Dlamini he recorded an album in 1982, entitled Mbaqanga. In the next three years Lucky went on to release his debut solo album, entitled Lengane Ngeyetha, which spawned his first hit. His next album, Kukuwe, also went gold. He subsequently released another two Zulu traditional albums.
During 1985 and without the knowledge of his record company, Lucky and Richard went into the studio and recorded “Rastas Never Die” - the first ever reggae album to be recorded in South Africa. Because of the political situation and censorship in the government-controlled media, it was banned immediately. The album gained awareness but did not sell well. Record company executives demanded a return back to traditional Zulu pop music. Lucky featured in his first movie - Getting Lucky - and was involved in producing the soundtrack. In 1986, his second reggae album, entitled Think about the Children.
Richard and Lucky also recorded an album under the name of ‘Oom Hansie’ which was an Afrikaans/Zulu rap album and entitled ‘Help My Krap’.
The beginning of the Slaves Band was also now being formed. In 1987 Lucky’s third reggae album was released, entitled Slave, and he had huge hits with “I’ve Got You Babe”, “Slave”, and “Back To My Roots”. With his band, he pulled crowds of over 50,000 in Johannesburg.
Lucky embarked on his first international trip to promote the album SLAVE, which was now released on the Celluloid label in France. In 1988, Together as One was released, in which he asked all South Africans, black and white, to unite.
Lucky hit the road again and performed to crowds in excess of 65,000.
In 1989 sixty of South Africa’s top musicians, including Lucky, embarked on a series of shows in France under the banner of Franchment Zoulou tour. Lucky established himself as a truly international artist, and got rave reviews at every show. He continued on to tour the US.
This year also gave Lucky the chance to act in his first full length feature film entitled ‘Voice In The Dark’, in which he co-starred with John Savage.
1989 also saw the release of PRISONER and within 5 days it had hit double platinum. 1990 was a year to take stock and perform mainly in Africa, performing in venues ranging from small township halls to Ellis Park, at which 80,000 people went to see Lucky perform.
In 1991 Lucky toured the United States again and then made an historical appearance at the world famous reggae Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica - the first time ever for a South African artist and his long awaited dream was realised. He was the first and only artist to be invited back for a 25 minute encore. The tour carried on to Australia, Japan and Ghana.
PRISONER became his biggest selling album, with in excess of 1,000,000 copies sold worldwide.
The electrifying double live album CAPTURED LIVE was released featuring some of his best known songs with live arrangements. The album quickly reached platinum status and outsold any international music release sales on a live album. Lucky won BEST MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR at the annual OKTV awards in South Africa. HOUSE OF EXILE was released and Lucky headlined the first ever reggae festival in South Africa - REGGAE STRONG FOR PEACE - and the proceeds of the live album, with the title track written by him, went to a crisis line in Soweto. The REGGAE STRONG FOR PEACE album went gold and a live video was released.
In 1992 Lucky signed an endorsement sponsorship with a leading local product company - ACE MAIZE MEAL - and CAPTURED LIVE and HOUSE OF EXILE registered worldwide sales in excess of 1,000,000. 1992 saw Lucky faced with his most hectic touring schedule yet. It took him to Europe twice, the United States, Japan, The Caribbean, New Caledonia, Australia, South Pacific and a return visit to the Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica where he received top billing this time. In between all this touring Lucky joined Peter Gabriel for the Real World Recording Week in England, and Peter joined Lucky on stage at the 10th Anniversary Womad festival to perform IT’S NOT EASY. Lucky won best video of the year and best sleeve design for the album HOUSE OF EXILE. LUCKY DUBE LIVE IN CONCERT video was released.
1993 Kicks off with more heavy touring to the Caribbean, Ivory Coast and South America. VICTIMS is released worldwide and Lucky embarked on a United States tour to promote it. The Ace sponsorship is resigned and the second leg of promoting the album starts with tours of Europe, Japan, and Australia. Lucky performed at the AFRICA AGAINST AIDS concert in Sun City, and Gallo released the video documentary ‘THE MAN THE MUSIC’
The Ace sponsorship is renewed for the third time. Lucky embarked on a world tour with PETER GABRIEL, performing across Europe and the US to crowds of 60,000. Peter performed IT’S NOT EASY with Lucky every night as the encore to the show.
Lucky finishes a hectic year with a highly successful tour of Kenya where teargas was needed to calm the crowds, and a show at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg with STING and MIDNIGHT OIL. 1994 heralds a new record label in the form of the world famous MOWTOWN/TABU. In 1995 TRINITY is released on Mowtown worldwide in March. FEEL IRIE was released as the first single in South Africa in February, and TRINITY was released as the single every where else. Lucky embarked on a promotional tour in early April starting in Europe, which took him right through to the end of the year, spending 2 months in Europe, 2 months in the United States, and visiting Australia, New Zealand for the first time, Solomon Islands
, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. This was also the first tour with the new band, no longer called THE SLAVES.
By 1996 Lucky’s stage show had the reputation of being one of the most exciting shows on the road. He embarked on his first major tour of South America, performing on THE RUFFLES REGGAE CONCERTS with BIG MOUNTAIN, INNER CIRCLE and ZIGGY MARLEY in Brazil to crowds of over 60,000. He broke his tour to fly to Monte Carlo to receive the WORLD MUSIC AWARD for BEST SELLING AFRICAN RECORDING ARTIST and then flew straight back to finish the tour in Surinam and Belize. Lucky performed to 60,000 people in Uganda, toured Europe for the second time this year, and was the first South African artist to perform in Rwanda, where he witnessed first hand the terrible suffering of the people. SERIOUS REGGAE BUSINESS was released at the end of the year to mark his tenth anniversary as a reggae artist. It is also the first album from Africa to include an interactive CD track. January of 1997 saw the first legitimate sales registered from West Africa, with 20,000 copies sold in Ghana. In February Lucky was nominated for INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR. In April Gallo released TAXMAN and Lucky flew to Ghana to receive his award.
A promotional tour started in May, with 6 weeks of shows in the United States, shows in Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Namibia, South Africa and Europe. In Novenber a long cherished dream comes true when Lucky performed with the 48 piece National Chamber Orchestra in a classical reggae concert at the Standard Bank Arena in South Africa. The show was filmed. February 1998 saw Lucky in Tahiti for the first time and a return visit to New Caledonia. March takes him back to Brazil and earns critical praise. In April he triumphed at the annual South African Music awards, scooping BEST POP PERFORMANCE and BEST PRODUCER and BEST REGGAE for TAXMAN. June and July were spent in Europe for an extensive tour and in August Lucky embarked on a six week tour of the United States with SHAGGY, BUJU BANTON, STEEL PULSE and BERES HAMMOND on the SPIRIT OF UNITY tour. In October Lucky performed at Midem Miami for the music industry. In November TAKE IT TO JAH was released as a single in South Africa with a live recording with the orchestra and two previously unreleased tracks. Later that month he flew to Kenya and performed the headline spot at Nairobi Racecourse to an estimated 80,000 people. January 1999 and it was back into the studio to start work on a new album. Lucky recorded a track with Sinead O’Conner using innovative computer technology. In June THE WAY IT IS was released.
The last trip to the South Pacific was in 2005 when he performed live at the National Stadium in Suva (Fiji) and other Pacific Island countries.Source: Newvision online