Africa found another reason to celebrate the life of top South African reggae act, Lucky Dube, after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] announced on Thursday, November 29, 2018 that it had accepted a proposal from Jamaica to add the Reggae music genre to its Cultural Heritage list.
The UN Agency selected Reggae from a list of about 40 proposals- including South Korean wrestling, Irish hurling, Bahamian strawcraft and French perfume making- after applications were submitted at a conference on the Island of Mauritius.
Reggae emerged in the middle of the 20th century and became popular in the late 60’s in the UK and USA after being promoted by Jamaican immigrants after World War II.
And Jamaican singer, Bob Marley, rightly earned legendary status globally for how he helped export the genre. Reggae was often championed as music for the marginalized, oppressed and denied. Its lyrics often focused on addressing sociopolitical issues, incarceration and inequality.
The genre’s strong musical elements of intelligent offbeat rhythms, other worldly drumline, staccato guitar or piano chords and matched with a heavy bass line also influenced numerous music genres and artistes around the world.
Music genres such as the Dub, Dancehall, Reggaeton and West African AfroPop directly or subliminally borrow from Reggae, as has globally renowned music acts such as Jay Z, Lauryn Hill and Chris Brown at different times.
The UN endorsement of Reggae along with the impact the genre has had on the world also brought another late Reggae artist, the South African Lucky Dube into perspective across the continent for something he said nearly 3 decades ago.
Lucky Dube’s iconic song, Nobody Can Stop Reggae, released in 1989 on the Prisoner album made certain bold predictions. It claimed that reggae would become a global phenomenon- featuring in all aspects of human life, invincible, appreciated by all groups of people all over the world and its strong, growing appeal would result in assassination of ‘prophets of reggae’.
Sadly, that last part proved somewhat true when Dube himself was killed in October 2007, over a decade ago, by alleged carjackers after dropping his kids after school. They had not recognized the legend and mistook him for a Nigerian. The culprits ended up sentenced to life in prison.
So the legend died, and the genre found life, as the prophecy had claimed. In prison, Dube’s killers may hear, just like the rest of us now have, how far reggae has gone since his demise.
And if they have any taste at all for irony, they would be awed that they had to find out from prison how the profound prediction from the reggae superstar’s Prisoner album proved true… Nobody can stop reggae!