After the death of South African reggae legend Lucky Dube last week in an apparent hijacking attempt in Johannesburg, much was said about the singer’s worldwide appeal — and a flood of responses to a blog on the Mail & Guardian Online‘s Thought Leader website was further proof of his star quality.
Ivor Haarburger, CEO of Gallo Records South Africa, told the M&G Online on Friday morning: “We are in shock; not only me but the whole company. He has been with us for over 20 years. It’s a real tragedy, not only to those in South Africa, but also Africa and the rest of the world. He was a star in his own right.”
More than 100 comments were left on a blog written by Arthur Goldstuck on Thought Leader — by many South Africans, as well as fans from across Africa: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Tunisia, Ghana, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Goldstuck’s blog post, which registered thousands of views, comprises a poignant interview he conducted with Dube at the time of the release of his 10th-anniversary album, Serious Reggae Business, in 1996.
From Europe came messages out of France, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and Portugal; also represented were Central America, China, Canada, the United States and Australia.
From further afield came heartfelt comments from Grenada, Fiji, Belize, St Lucia, the Solomon Islands, and even the tiny Turks and Caicos Islands (located north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti).
“Farewell, Lucky Dube. A victim of the circumstances he tried so hard to convince our leaders to acknowledge,” wrote “Wayne” in a comment on the blog. A fellow blog visitor, Ray Mwareya, simply said: “I feel very ashamed to be a South African today.”
“There’re only other two instances when I was ever moved by the death of a star in the past 10 years: when Mafikizolo’s Tebogo Madingoane and football player Gift Leremi died. Only these two deaths of prominent persons had previously moved me to tears and lumps in my throat. But I was angry with those two for wrong decisions that led to their deaths; generally, I’m moved by deaths of ordinary people who in one way or another I know personally,” wrote another fan, Mduduzi Dlamini.
“But for Dube I was angry at my country for letting the moral ground to slip so much out of our cognition. I was angry because the safety and security policies are too idealistic and not sufficiently home-grown to recognise a peculiar reality informed by a century of impoverishment and illiteracy. Greed is affecting the rest of us and corroding the morals of self-restraint and self-control in our public morality,” he added.
With Dube’s death, “a part of humankind is gone with him”, wrote “Sampa”. “I spent this morning sobbing on the phone with friends and family in Zambia as if we lost family. Most difficult was delivering the news to my two small kids, for whom Sunday afternoon means watching Lucky Dube’s documentary about his songs and life. I am so bitter with South Africa. I cannot find words. Where is the funeral house for the millions of us outside South Africa? Where shall we mourn Lucky Dube?”
Casper Erichsen contributed this anecdote: “Five years ago, I was travelling through northern Ghana. Working for a local NGO, I was issued with a driver who slalomed through crater-like potholes at blood-curdling speeds. His English was rusty and my Bimoba was non-existing. Tired of listening to the radio, which emitted erratic burst of high-life music and static, I held up a tape in the hope that the driver would catch my heavy drift. He did. On it was a compilation of Lucky Dube songs; songs that reminded me of my adopted home in Namibia, Southern Africa.
“Dube’s mild, swaying reggae with its characteristic synthesiser rhythms boomed through the car speakers. All of a sudden the driver gave out a loud yelp. Startled, I looked over to find him in tears. To my utter surprise this proud man, of whom I knew very little, was half humming, half singing along to the lyrics — in a language he did not speak.
“Passing villages, goats and people on the roadside at an unremitting pace, my anxieties passed as we both crooned along to the music. We had found a common denominator, a common voice, in the music of Lucky Dube. I never thought that his music was popular in Ghana, but I guess true quality knows no boundaries. Dube, rest in peace! You will be sorely missed, but your legacy will live on.”
And, as a final tribute, “Miatta” wrote: “Although Lucky has left us, I know that he is in the company of all the prophets before him. Let us imagine him laughing with the great Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Fela [Kuti], Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Madilu System, Pavarotti, Elvis, George Harrison, John Lennon, James Brown, Janis Joplin and all the other great musicians that have gone before him. He will not be forgotten.”