African Roots, Global Fruits

Celebrating Our Own

One of the things that I have observed of our kindred is a failure to recognize and celebrate our living icons. It is only when you hear the eulogies that you learn the departed was so great. I wrote an article last year about the late Ray Charles who overcame blindness to become a global icon in the area of music. This week, I felt the urge to write about one great African whose contribution to music places him in a class of a maestro. South Africa did not honour Lucky Dube for his musical and artistic contributions especially during the apartheid era. He risked life and limb fighting apartheid through his music. Just look at how Britain knighted Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney et al. They know how to celebrate their own while they are alive. Lucky Dube who passed on this week after a botched hijacking attempt is one African musician who is known across the globe. If the day you pass on, the news of your death is aired on BBC, CNN, Sky News and Reuters, then we all know you have made a difference. His music transcends time and space. But what made him so great?

Stop Blaming Your Circumstances

Single mother, black young man under apartheid, little education, garden boy, absentee father (abusive when present). This is Lucky Dube’s short CV. Does not make for an international music artiste, huh? He could have easily blamed any of those circumstances and sat on his laurels. He didn’t, and that’s why we all know him today. How many times do we blame it on the government, environment, family background, education? When we do that we basically delegate and surrender our destiny into the hands of others. You might come from a broken family, even orphaned early in life, little or no education, dysfunctional economy, so what? Your destiny is too precious to have any of these circumstances interfering with it. Lucky once worked as a garden boy, but still managed to educate himself (he spoke such flawless English for an ex garden boy, with an English accent too!). An excuse is escapism, just seeking to shift blame and absolve ourselves of responsibility over our personal affairs. This does not take us anywhere. You need to release your stubborn faith over the rebellious circumstances in your life. A faith in your destiny that does not give up or give in. Great rivers cut through a great rock terrain.

Be Different To Make A Difference

Reggae music, which is the genre which Lucky chose, is basically protest music. The birth of reggae is steeped in conditions of slavery and colonialism and is meant to interrogate political and social conditions. The musical arrangement and lyrics is all inspired by the desire to communicate social justice, emancipation, equality, among other human virtues. This is what Lucky sang about. He used to sing ‘mbaqanga’ (a traditional Afro music genre). This kind of music was just for fun, and had a huge following in South Africa! In 1984 he then made the decision to switch to reggae. Professional suicide? He was right! He had a conviction to sing about what was happening around him. Living under apartheid he felt he had to highlight this injustice through music. After 1994, when apartheid was gone he started to sing about black on black injustice, crime and violence. Talk about conviction and consistency! This is what makes Lucky an icon. The spirit of his songs did not change, just the lyrics. Since 1984, he had released 22 albums, the majority of which made record sales throughout the world. The way to create a lasting legacy is to do something for humanity. He had a deep desire to touch lives through his music. The money just followed. If he had stuck with singing ‘mbaqanga’, he might never have become a global icon. He went against the grain, and everyone noticed including the apartheid government which banned his music. When you dare to be different, you make a difference, because soon your tune becomes either sweet music to the ear, or such an irritant it cannot be ignored.

Your Gift Makes Room For You

“A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” Proverbs 18:16. Your gift or talent opens a door for you. You cannot be blessed outside your area of gifting or talent. To be great, you need to stir up your gift. As your gift flourishes, your doors begin to open for you. There is nothing called luck – luck is when ‘opportunity meets with preparedness’. You cannot say Lucky was one luck guy? No way. He worked hard, was focused and stirred up his gift. In spite of confessing to be a Rastafari, he did not smoke weed, nor was he given to intoxicating drinks and drugs. I cannot vouch for his private life, but what is in the public domain points to a man who led a clean life. I might have long stopped following his music, but what I vividly remember is that the man was serious about his music. The arrangement, quality, excellence and handling of his affairs was world class. He performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting among other world renowned musicians. He hardly performed in South Africa because he was always on international tours. He was no longer a village player, but a global player! His gift took him places and I have no doubt that although he died at a young 43, he lived a full 43 years and his legacy will live on through his musical gift. A time for you to reflect on your gift and talent. You do not know what you could be sitting on.

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