Nigeria and, indeed, the reggae world on Sunday June 9, 2018, lost the reggae legend, Ras Kimono. Born Ukeleke Onwubuya on May 9, 1958 in Agbor, Delta State Nigeria. He was 60 years old.
The late singer started out his career as a student of Gbenoba Secondary School Agbor, Delta State and later as a member of the Jastix Reggae Ital, alongside, Majek Fashek, Amos McRoy Jegg and Black Rice Osagie.
An advocate of social change, Kimono was known for his patois styled music.
In 1989, his band, Massive Dread Reggae Band, released an album titled, “Under Pressure.”
Ras Kimono rose to stardom after the release of that debut album.
His style of music was significantly influenced by the hardship he reportedly experienced in his early life.
The late reggae music icon won several awards, including the Nigeria Music Awards and Fame Music Awards among others.
In October 2017, he released a new single after many years of hiatus from the music scene.
His former record label, Premier Records Limited, released the single titled, “Blessed Africa”, digitally. The song was a reflection of what Nigeria and Africa have been going through despite the rich mineral, human and natural resources in the country and the continent.
He sang about social consciousness, especially the socio-economic and political challenges of not only Nigerians, but Africans in general and other deprived communities around the world.
His was music with a mission and a message.
He was able to identify the problems of the society and drew attention to them through his music. He was a quintessential reggae artist in the mold of the Late Bob Marley and Late Peter Tosh, who popularised Jamaican reggae and took it to the rest of the world with the message of love, peace and freedom.
Unlike today’s musicians that sing mostly about fashion, women, drugs, cars and money, Kimono wrote and sang songs that most Nigerians can relate with, dance to and enjoy with their families. His songs were devoid of vulgarity, abusive words and celebration of questionable wealth.
His style of reggae was aimed at liberating the people from poverty and deprivation.
He was also a decent family man and was married with children, some of whom have taken to music as a career, which is in contra-distinction to many of today’s musicians who celebrate what they call ‘baby mamas’ and having children all over the place with different women without being married to them. One of Kimono’s daughters, Ogechukwu Onwubuya a.k.a. Oge Kimono, has already taken to music putting out a few reggae singles.
He showed that one could be a successful musician and a gentleman. He once revealed that he was a vegetarian and had never indulged in any affair that went against his upbringing, including smoking and drinking.
He inspired a generation of Nigerian and African musicians. His music will continue to influence generations to come and be enjoyed by his millions of fans around the world.
Kimono reportedly died as he was getting set for a medical trip to the United States.
His death was therefore another sad reminder of the poor state of the health services in the country. Perhaps, if our political leaders had paid attention to the provision of health facilities where Nigerians can be adequately diagnosed and treated, many lives that had been lost before being flown abroad for treatment, including that of Ras Kimono, would have been saved.
We, therefore, advice the authorities including the states and federal governments to prioritize the improvement of the health facilities in the country and bring them at par with the rest of the world that enjoy the best of health facilities. This will save many lives and several billions of naira spent annually on ‘forced’ health tourism abroad.
Perhaps, Ras Kimono may have been alive today if we are a country that its leaders care about the health and wellbeing of its people.
He was relatively young at the time of his death and had many more years to contribute to the growing music industry and to national development through his craft. Before his death he was elected director at the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and was said to be present at any stakeholders meeting of the society. That was an indication of his commitment to the growth of the music industry in Nigeria.
We have lost him like several other Nigerians who were victims of our leadership ineptitude and lack of focus on the critical sectors like the health services.
As Nigeria and the music world mourn Ras Kimono, let us as a nation say, no more to the neglect of the health sector.
Given that we are now at another election cycle, let Nigerians in unison support only candidates and political parties that have well-articulated and implementable plans that can improve the nation’s health services and stop preventable deaths. That is the way to show that Ras Kimono, did not die in vain.
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