S. African Reggae Artist Lucky Dube Killed

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South African reggae singer, Lucky Dube, was shot and killed in suburban Johannesburg on Thursday. Lucky Dube started off singing in traditional South African style, but turned to the appealing rhythms of reggae, which he thought could better convey his social commentary.


Across Africa, shocked fans are mourning the death of South African reggae star Lucky Dube. He was shot and killed on Thursday in Johannesburg. The crime was apparently witnessed by his teenage daughter and son. Dube's murder has again raised concern about the high rate of violent crime in South Africa.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton looks back on the life of Lucky Dube.

(Soundbite of music)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: With his long rusted dreadlocks shaking in the wind, 43-year-old Lucky Dube was a captivating reggae performer on stage. Though South African, Dube had a huge and loyal following around the continent and beyond. He grew up poor and was brought up by his mother. And Lucky Dube often repeated the tale of how he got his name.

Mr. LUCKY DUBE (Reggae Singer): When I was born, I was sick so they thought I'm going to die. Then when I didn't die, they said, wow, he's a very lucky boy, and they called me Lucky.

(Soundbite of music)

QUIST-ARCTON: But that luck ran out on Thursday night on the streets of Rosettenville in suburban Johannesburg. Lucky Dube was attacked and shot by carjacking suspects.

Radio stations in South Africa and all over Africa have been inundated with calls from tearful fans expressing sorrow and outrage. They regret there will be no new songs with Dube's trademark strong social commentary.

South African music critic Peter Makurube remembers Lucky Dube in the early years before stardom.

Mr. PETER MAKURUBE (Music Critic, South Africa): Very strong, very determined, never-give-up kind of artist because he was looking under very difficult conditions. In fact, when Lucky became a professional musician, South African politics was at its most violent and most vile. So you can imagine what artists were going through.

QUIST-ARCTON: Lucky Dube started off singing traditional Zulu mbaqanga music but switched to reggae in the late 1980s. He said he felt reggae's universal appeal matched his message and his opposition to apartheid. That was then. Now, it's high crime that South Africans are fighting against in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Music producer Thembinkosi Nciza who toured with Lucky Dube says his friend's murder was tragic.

Mr. THEMBINKOSI NCIZA (Music Producer, TS Records): The whole continent have lost a performer, a musician, a guy that fought for freedom in his own way, in his own right, was just shot by some guy who wanted to take his car.

QUIST-ARCTON: Africa has indeed been robbed of a reggae giant. But Lucky Dube's music and this message live on.

Mr. DUBE: In the past, we've talked about togetherness. We talked about one love, but we forgot to talk about respect. You cannot love a person if you don't respect them.

(Soundbite of song, "Respect")

Mr. DUBE: (Singing) Come on, show me respect.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Respect.

Mr. DUBE: (Singing) I can sing from a respect.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Respect.

Mr. DUBE: (Singing) Show me, show me, show me respect.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Respect.

QUIST-ARCTON: "Respect" was the title of the last of Lucky Dube's 22 albums. He said that's what the world needs most right now. But the South African reggae artist got no respect from his killers.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

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