The New European: The man who planted roots in Africa

Sophia Deboick on Lucky Dube, the South African reggae star who made his life a mission, until it was cut tragically short.

It was just one murder among thousands. The shooting of a 43-year-old man in a botched carjacking in a Johannesburg suburb in October 2007 was barely worthy of note given that 18,487 killings were recorded by the South African Police Service that year, a figure that itself represented huge under-reporting.

This was ‘a country at war with itself’, as the title of Antony Altbeker’s book of the same year put it, and in an atmosphere of rampant violence the man who had been shot twice and crashed into a tree in his desperation to escape could have been just another faceless victim.

But this was a death which sparked a massive outpouring of grief. The man who had died at the wheel was pioneer of South African reggae Lucky Dube, whose breakthrough album Think About the Children was released 35 years ago this year.

Twenty years after the violent murder at his Jamaican home of Peter Tosh – the man who Dube modelled himself on, with his socially-conscious yet life-affirming roots reggae, beguiling voice and energetic stage presence – history had repeated itself and, like Tosh, Dube’s death was devastating not just as a loss to music but for all he had stood for…

The New European, 6 August 2020, pp. 31-35.

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