By Norm Dixon
Audiences in three states will have the opportunity to see and hear South Africa's number one reggae and recording star, Lucky Dube, and his 13-piece band, when they tour in late September and early October.
Lucky's performances combine the irresistible reggae beat with biting social commentary on the evils of apartheid in South Africa and racism throughout the world. He reminds his audiences wherever he tours: "We must realise that until all Africans are free, we are still slaves".
The synthesis of entertainment, rebellion and empowerment explains this artist's overwhelming popularity at home and throughout Africa. Dube is South Africa's biggest selling recording artist ever.
Slave, his third album, has sold over 500,000 records, and it is estimated that, counting bootlegged copies, more than 1 million South African possess a copy of that album. Dube's concerts in South Africa attract crowds in excess of 70,000 people.
Dube's unique blend of South African Mbaqanga (a blending of traditional Zulu and urban jazz influences) and Soukous (west African Soca) with the more familiar reggae form is beginning to be noticed on the international reggae scene. He regularly appears in the top 10 reggae charts in the US and was the hit of Jamaica's Reggae Sunsplash '91 in July. The rave reviews from Jamaica's press likened Lucky to the great Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. He has been described as Africa's Peter Tosh.
Dube began his career singing commercial Mbaqanga music in 1979. In 1984, after several gold albums and despite fierce opposition from record company executives, he switched to reggae because he felt it was "the one and only way of sending a message to the masses ... I finally just could not keep silent with that message." Reggae is "the music of liberation and unification, not just in Jamaica or Africa, but everywhere. It is music to bring people together."
His first reggae album, Rastas Never Die, was banned. Ignoring the instructions of his record company to immediately make another "safe" Mbaqanga album, Dube recorded another reggae album, Think About the Children. It was an immediate success.
In South Africa, all his songs containing the word "apartheid" have been banned, and all his lyrics and performances are scrutinised closely by the apartheid authorities. The title track of the Slave album was released as
"Liquor Slave" but, he explains, "my people know what the real message is in that song".
Free from restrictions in his homeland, Dube's concerts in Australia should prove to be a celebration of the rights of all people to live free from discrimination, especially the people of South Africa. They should not be missed.
Lucky Dube's dates in Australia:
Perth — Friday September 27 at the Fremantle Town Hall; Saturday September 28 at the Ozone Bar, Northbridge.
Brisbane — Thursday October 3 at Club Afro-Carib.
Sydney — Tuesday October 1 at the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle Hotel, Rozelle; Friday October 4 at the Paddington RSL; Saturday October 5 at the Balmain RSL; Sunday October 6 at Campbells Cove, the Rocks (a free concert, part of the Carnivale festival).