Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 11/13/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s mission is to get out of France, and out of classical music for bit. So instead we go to South Africa for some roots reggae and album #808:

Lucky Dube – Captured Live

Reggae triumphantly made its way home to Africa: some of the greatest roots artists have come out of that continent. Arguably the finest artist singing in English was Lucky Dube, who was already a mbaqanga star in his native South Africa when, inspired by Peter Tosh, he decided to switch to reggae in 1984. Dube, a talented keyboardist, built his signature sound with swooping, pitch-bending organ and synthesizer lines over a traditional roots rhythm section and horns. Released stateside in 1991, this towering, majestic live set was the band’s international breakthrough, capturing them at the peak of their trance-inducing power. It doesn’t have Dube’s biggest hit, the wrenchingly poignant Victims, but the set is still first-rate. Many of these songs clock in at close to ten minutes or more: the insistent Going Back to My Roots; the bouncy, swaying Together As One; the gospel-infused Born to Suffer and the catchy, anthemic The Hand That Giveth. Dube’s defiant anti-apartheid message comes across powerfully in Slave and Prisoner; the album ends with a sixteen-minute, dub-infused version of the anthem Truth in the World. He would live to see apartheid dismantled, go on to tour with Peter Gabriel and Midnight Oil before being murdered in a carjacking in 2007. Here’s a random torrent.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucky Dube: An Appreciation

It came as a shock to us to learn that international roots reggae star Lucky Dube had been murdered in an attempted carjacking in Rossetenville, South Africa this past October 19, leaving behind seven children including one born just this year. Dube was 43. Born to a woman who had been told she could not conceive – hence the name Lucky – Dube would release five mbaqanga albums in Zulu before turning to reggae, where he would find a vision and create a body of work that would reach pantheonic proportions. It could be said that he was the king of African reggae, although he would undoubtedly scoff at that title. Dube was a pure embodiment of the roots reggae esthetic, a champion of the underdog, passionate supporter of democracy worldwide and crusader for equal rights for people of all races. He did not merely pay lip service to these ideals: he lived them and breathed them through his music, all 22 albums recorded in Zulu, English and even one (a platinum-selling ep of satirical songs) in Afrikaans. While roots reggae, as played with a traditional band including bass, drums, guitars and keyboards, may be a rapidly dying genre, Dube remained faithful to it all the way through his final cd, Respect, issued earlier this year. While he did not play on his recordings, Dube was also an outstanding keyboardist particularly adept at the organ, something his fans would discover at live shows (his 1990 album Captured Live remains one of the best reggae albums and also one of the best live concert albums ever made). His heartfelt, sometimes anguished, Peter Tosh-influenced vocals and magisterial stage presence made him one of reggae’s most dynamic performers. Although Dube didn’t speak English until he was 18, his lyrics are terse and often even poetic, a mix of fiery political broadsides, social commentary and longing, spiritual meditations.

Considering that Dube was hardly materialistic and deplored violence, it is cruelly ironic that he would die murdered by a stranger attempting to steal his car. In his best song, Victims, Dube offers a poignant and insightful look at the effects of random violence through the eyes of a grieving woman:

Dear lord, she was crying until now
As she turned to move her head
She said boy oh boy it brings tears to my eyes
I said why

She said boy it brings tears to my eyes
Bob Marley said, how long shall they kill our brothers while we stand aside and look?
Little did he know that eventually the enemy will stand aside and look
While we kill our own brothers
Knowing that already they are the victims of the situation

Still licking wounds from brutality
Still licking wounds from humiliation
She said these words as the wrinkles on her face
Became perfect traces of the tears of a race
We are the victims everytime

We got double trouble everytime
She took me outside in the churchyard
Showed me graves on the ground
And she said, there lies a man who fought for equality
There lies a boy who died in his tracks

Can all these heroes die in vain while we sit back and kill our own
Knowing already that they are the victims of the situation
Still licking wounds from humiliation
We are the victims everytime
We got double trouble everytime

Lucky Dube was an artist we’d planned on featuring here for sometime. It’s tragic that we were never be able to do anything on this great songwriter and performer while he was alive.

November 27, 2007 Posted by | Music, obituary, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment