Born to be lucky

With of one his videos having been nominated for the prestigious Channel O musical video awards, his stature as a guru on the world music platform continues to grow.

Everything that Dube ‘ who first launched his career as a mbaqanga singer in the-mid 1970s in Johannesburg ‘ touches has turned into gold.

Gifted with a smoky, silky and lilting voice, Dube has always been described as an eclectic cut of the late Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and legendary Bob Marley.

Born on August 3 in 1964 in Ermelo in the then Eastern Transvaal province of South Africa, Dube, who is currently riding on the crest of a wave with his latest album titled Respect, first exhibited his exceptional music panache at the age of nine when he surprised many by conducting his choir.

After primary school, the young Dube was fired by an inner thirst for success that he alone felt within himself. He always believed he would one day sail on top of the musical cloud and for him to fulfil this dream he got employed as a library assistant while he was in high school.

Although the type of music that he first dabbled in was pure traditional mbaqanga, his voracious appetite for reading exposed him to literature on the Rastafarian movement, an influence that was to shape his future as well as music.

In mbaqanga, Dube first made a mark for himself when he recorded his debut hit single Lengani Ngeyetha that went gold. Surprisingly, his second release, Kukume, also scooped gold, establishing the dreadlocked artiste as a new exceptional talent to seriously watch.

Then in 1985 Dube’s burgeoning reggae roots spawned his first reggae production aptly titled Rastas Never Die, which also broke new ground as the first reggae album ever to be recorded in South Africa.

However, the album failed to make an impact as the artiste and his fans had expected following its ban by the apartheid regime.

It carried messages that inspired militancy, hope for black freedom and the end of the colonial system.

But this did not stop accolades for Africa’s latest find from pouring. In 1986, Dube received the Best Selling African Reggae Artiste Award presented in Monte Carlo. His music continued with the campaign of inculcating hope not only in black South African communities but also across many societies that were under the imperialist yoke.

Slave was one album whose title overtly reflected the tribulations of a people deprived of their freedom, and for its articulation of issues that were close to the heart of the people, the album went gold, further elevating Dube some rungs up the music ladder.

Prisoner, House of Exile, Captured Live, Victims and Trinity followed with success because of the way in which they tackled social and political issues.

The reggae trend that Dube embraced made him a household name across the globe, and more specifically in the Caribbean, Europe, America and obviously his motherland Africa.

This wider appeal was probably because his earliest beat was a rich melting pot of music genres ranging from inflections of his traditional mbaqanga and West African soca with roots rock reggae.

In 2000, Dube ‘ who also diversified into film acting when he starred in two South African movies Getting Lucky and Voice in the Dark ‘ further enlarged his stature as a polished reggae doyen in the same mould with the legendary Marley. He released three albums in a row, starting with The Way It Is, then the dreamy Soul Taker and the exhilarating The Other Side. He was also to become a permanent feature at the Reggae Music Sunsplash held in Jamaica, the ceremonial home of reggae.

Today, decades after he launched his career with scant resources (a single threadbare acoustic guitar but loads of talent), the youth from the dusty streets of South Africa has blossomed into a reggae icon touted as Africa’s Bob Marley.

September 2006
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