Nigerian Reggae Master, Ras Kimono, Is Dead!

The news reaching us has it that Ras Kimono is dead.

He was to travel to United States last night when he complained of feeling funny. He was rushed to a hospital in Ikeja, from where he was later taken to Lagoon Hospital in the Lagos island.

He died today.

As you read this, Tony Okoroji, Sir Shina Peters and others meeting now for next moves.

Ras Kimono is a Nigerian reggae artist whose debut album Under Pressure, led by the single “Rum-Bar Stylée”, was a big hit in the Nigerian music scene in 1989.

He served a long apprenticeship on the Nigerian music circuit, experimenting with a number of styles, before making his late 80s breakthrough as a reggae singer. Together with his Massive Dread Reggae Band, Kimono released his debut album.

This revealed both a Jamaican and native African influence (the latter particularly evident in his ‘patois’ delivery, as frequently employed by Fela Kuti to communicate with the urban underclass). His strongly polemical lyrics produced album sales of over 100, 000 copies, and a fervent following for his advocacy of social change. What’s Gwan proved even more successful, with the topics selected including legalisation of marijuana, and 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.

Socially, the late singer said that he was not reckless as a young man, even at the height of his fame.

In one of the many interviews he gave, “I have never smoked and I don’t drink alcohol. I tell people I have been a vegetarian for 37 years. Even when my friends were having sex with two girls at the same time in those days, I didn’t join them. I have never done what these girls and boys call threesome despite being famous and I am sure there are other people who have never done that too.

“When people attribute recklessness to youthful exuberance, I get worried because I once passed through that stage too. I believe it is all about your upbringing. The fact that you are young doesn’t mean you should be wayward.”

Speaking about his unwillingness to change his music to appeal to a younger audience, Kimono stated, “I have been playing reggae music for years and I don’t plan to change my style or dilute it. Those who want to listen will surely do. The truth is that you can force a horse to the river, but you can’t force it to drink from it. We still have a lot of youths who know my value. I don’t believe that all the youths are senseless.

“I believe two million youths out of five million youths know the difference between good and bad. If I had changed my style, I would probably not be here talking to you. I am certain the media would have crucified me that I did it for the love of money. My brand of music has kept me alive and still makes me relevant.”

However, the reggae exponent released some songs last year, which didn’t have much impact. He says it is because they weren’t accompanied with music videos. “I plan to shoot videos this year. Though people think CDs don’t sell again, I belong to the school of thought that believes that CDs must sell. The Internet is still not available to everyone in the country, especially for people in the North. Many people in the rural areas still prefer buying CDs,” he said.

These videos may never be as he is no more. May his soul rest in peace.


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