By Gloria Okezie-OKAFOR
I didn’t meet him until his birthday last May 9th to be precise. But I’ve always known him –I know his music and I can sing nearly all of them word for word. I’m a reggae freak, to say the least. Reggae music inspires me, and helps me look at the world critically –especially the ones with meaning.
At the world level, I know a couple of them, and this is how I list them –Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube, and Ras Kimono.
Ironically in Nigeria, we boast of a lot of them: Majek Fashek (The Rain Maker), Daniel Wilson (the ragamuffin guy), Orits Wiliki, The Mandators, Alex Zito, Evi Edna Ogholi and maybe quite a number of others. In the later years Dr. Alban and Daddy Showkey joined the train. And currently we have the likes of Patoranking, Burna Boy, Orezi, Faze (one of my new generation favorites), King Wadada, and maybe others too.
But this is not the issue. The issue is that just one month ago, we –music lovers, fans and friends of the Nigerian icon, family and others –had converged at the Event Centre in Ikeja Lagos in honour of Kimono @60, and 35 years of sustaining his brand of music. King Kimono is unabashedly fanatical of his music style, whether or not it corresponds with the current demands of vulgar and bare body branding rave currently rocking our airwave.
It was a very momentous event, with Kimono religiously flaunting his yellow and red apparels. He was energetic, and the smiles never left his face. Everyone was welcome for a picture with the veteran. If anyone had prophesied that exactly one month from that day (June 10 2018) Kimono would go to the world beyond, the rest if us would have shot that person in the leg.
Kimono belied sixty, physically speaking. He was praised by his comrades for his achievements. It was Dede Mabiakwu who reminded us that Ras Kimono suffered an accident which would have left him crippled. On that day of his birthday we had all looked forward to more years of continuing in his career –atleast Ras Kimono assured us that. Now, just exactly four weeks after, he has joined the list of the Late.
This brings me to wonder. Great stars, especially reggae icons who have made forceful impact as far as this genre of music is concerned, don’t really last long. Whatever killed Ras Kimono –health or otherwise –we wouldn’t know. But the world have witnessed the likes of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube –and maybe others I don’t know — had their lives cut short for whatever reason.
Incidentally, these men are still very much remembered –and sometimes it feels like they are still here with the rest of us. Kimono may have joined the list of those whose afterlife becomes popular far more than they were while they lived. Kimono can be called the Nigeria prophet who captured the Nigerian situation, and years down the line those message still remained relevant. Not to mention that his music inspires dance and fun.
A peek at Ras Kimono, his ethnicity and religiosity does not come to fore. What we see is a man who stands for a cause –the cause of the blackman; the free spirit of Africanism. Even in reggae, Ras Kimono was distinct in his style which have a taste of Nigerian blend.
Ras Kimono has done well not just for himself, but for the rest of us both here in Nigeria and beyond. Artistes who had paid tributes to Kimono at his birthday all made one remark in common –the fact that he does not discriminate amongst people. To Kimono, everyone counts.
Given his enormous contributions to music and the Nigerian brand, would we as much as have a national honour for a man who dropped his own identity as a native of Delta State to represent the singular entity as a Nigerian? It is about time we accord huge national honours to our entertainers who have made this country proud, irrespective of whether they are alive or dead.
If truth be said, the real ambassadors to our collective existence as Nigerians are the entertainers who have done remarkably well in their arts. Ras Kimono is even more popular than some of our political office holders. We would only pray that the good works of the Dub Master lives on.