Ras Kimono…Remembering the rub-a-dub master
Just like yesterday, it’s already a year since the passing of reggae music icon Ras Kimono. The dreadlock-wearing singer died few days after celebrating his 60th birthday in Lagos. An advocate of social change, he was known for his patois styled music.
In memory of Kimono, who was a board member until his death, the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), on June 10, hosted a memorial lecture at the COSON House, Ikeja, Lagos. As a sign of respect, everything froze in the COSON Arena at exactly 12.30pm; everyone stood still in silence. It was exactly at 12.30 pm on June 10, 2018 that the much beloved Nigerian reggae toaster and the Rub-a-Dub Master passed on.
Despite the morning rain, friends, colleagues, family members and showbiz reporters from far and near showed up at COSON House to be part of the Ras Kimono Memorial Lecture, the first of the two big events organised on a day that henceforth will be known as Ras Kimono Memorial Day in celebration of the revolutionary musician, who touched the consciousness of many.
The Memorial Lecture was a serious event articulated in a very special way by Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman of COSON. Amidst lights and sounds, the event was entertaining, educating, informative and so intricately woven that its many colours gripped everyone.
Prof Egerton Uvieghara, the nation’s Doyen of Labour and Intellectual Property law and the first Chairman of the NCC, who chaired the lecture, said that he was present to identify with a fellow Delta man and a remarkable Nigerian, who left a glowing impression in the hearts of his countrymen.
The multi-media citation that brought to the podium the Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof Duro Oni, who until recently was a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lagos, was so electrifying.
In his lecture titled Revolutionary Music for Equality & Justice, Prof Oni said that throughout history, artistes and songwriters have used music to express their feelings for equality and justice in the society. He noted that, “as far back as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the ‘spirituals’ of the Negros were songs of emotions and ‘protest’ that gave a voice to their oppressions. Revolutionary music gained a platform through popular culture. It offered an awakening and reckoning of the times and has continued to have a renewed relevance and resonance today. There is no denying the power of music as a revolutionary weapon and social commentary in the society. These songs are often situational, sometimes abstract, or cognitive in content. On a whole, the artistes are in opposition to thestatus quo expressing, in more general terms, opposition to injustice and support for peace and justice.”
On Ras Kimono, Prof Onisaid, “the dreadlocked legend lived and breathed reggae in all of its entirety. He used the genre to speak, without ceasing, of the ills of the land and to fight the cause of the oppressed. He spoke of the need for Africans to intellectually repel colonialism and its arbitrary boundaries between tribes. Most controversially, he was not averse to naming directly those in power he saw as synonymous with backdoor imperialism. Ras Kimono was a great influence on the ‘generation next’ of reggae musicians. In spite of the dwindling fortune of reggae in the twilight of his life, he kept the flag of reggae at bay like a blind loyalist, continuing to charge the young ones to use the genre to speak truth to power. Kimono was an advocate of the people.
“He was the mouthpiece of the common man in all ramifications. He had a grasp of the pulse of the tribulations of the downtrodden. He once said in an interview that ‘I live where the people live, so I can see the tribulation they are going through; suffering and the humiliation, so we can put it into our music and expose it.”
Anchored by comedian Kofi, some of the highlights of the Memorial Lecture were the presentation on the COSON House mega screen of Good-Bye Ras Kimono, an updated version of the much talked about multi-dimensional documentary on the life and times of Ras Kimono scripted and produced by Chief Tony Okoroji. There was also a passing of the torch as a new era of the Kimono legacy with the launch by multi linguist and iconic broadcaster, Prince Bisi Olatilo of the 1st ever album of Kimono’s daughter, Oge Kimono, Good Ole Days.
Oge had effusive praise for all the people who had come together to honour her father. She promised that she would not let them down or denigrate the legacy.Done with the intellectual aspect of the memorial ceremony, guests moved to the popular Niteshift Coliseum, Ikeja, Lagos, for a special Music Jam in honour of the late reggae artiste. The evening, which started with a red carpet reception, played host to stakeholders in the entertainment industry, especially close friends of the late singer who came to pay respect.
With Ras Kimono’s Massive Dreads Band on stage, there were no dull moments, as guests were treated to loads of reggae beats. Popular DJ Covenant Child, who anchored the gig, was in his elements as he belted out hits that took many down memory lane.
The first major performance of the night was from singer Buchi, who treated guests with his unique blend of gospel reggae, before paving way for King Wadada to perform his evergreen track, Holy Holy. Though an old song, the track was all it took for many to recall the exploits of the award-winning singer, who is currently struggling to match that hit.
Next on stage was talented singer Design, who did justice to Kimono’s hit, What A Gwan. He was followed by Ego, who performed yet another Kimono’s hit, Babylon Burning. A powerful vocalist, Ego, a one time backup artiste with Lagbaja, showed her versatility on stage. Dumebi took to the stage next and performed Jah Guide, before veteran reggae artiste and close friend of Kimono, Oritz Wiliki, came on stage to deliver Gimmie Likkle Sugar. If there’s one man badly hit by Kimono’s death, it’s Wiliki; they were like twin.
The crowd roared in excitement as reggae singer Righteousman mounted the stage to perform his special tribute track to late Kimono. Half way into his performance, the hefty singer invited Afrobeat artiste and former member of Fela’s Egypt 80 Band, Dede Mabiaku, to join him on stage. Together with the Massive Dreads Band, they delivered a super performance that saw Dede turn to orchestra director, even as he played his sax.
Highpoint of the evening was performance by Oge Kimo backed by his father’s Massive Dreads Band. From Kimono Dem Want to Rastafarian, Rhumba Stylee, Under Pressure and others, Oge got many on their feet, digging in small group. She wrapped her performance with her new song, which she performed alongside Naija Ninja, Sound Sultan.
The event featured the formal presentation of Oge Kimono’s album, Good Ole Days, which she dedicated to her late father. It tells the story of the good old days where everything was nice and smooth; good nightlife, god music, near sincere government, who cared for the people and a communal society where we looked out for each other.
According to Oge’s media team, “the event is to commemorate the one year anniversary of Ras Kimono’s death and formally launch the taking over of the Massive dread band by Oge Kimono. Ras Kimono was one of the greatest musicians of the reggae genre that Nigeria ever produced; we cannot just forget him like that. There must be some sort of honor done him every year to mark his transcending to the glory beyond. This concert and memorial lecture is to keep his memories alive in the hearts of music lovers both home and abroad.”