Lucky Philip Dube was born on the 3rd of August in 1964. After a few failed pregnancy attempts by his mother Sarah, Lucky came into the world. Giving birth to a boy was considered a blessing and his mother considered his birth so fortunate that she aptly named him 'Lucky'. His birth took place on a small farm outside the town of Ermelo, a dry, unspectacular area some 150 kilometers west of Johannesburg. Born into a single parent family, times were tough for a black boy born into poverty and with the Group Areas Act and the Pass Laws of the time, many families relocation was restricted, therefore children grew up not knowing their fathers at all, as they were often forced to leave home to find work in the cities.

People always think that the grass is greener. People I’ve come across in my tours overseas always aspire to be African. They want a piece of Africa, and people in Africa always aspire to be overseas. It’s a song about discovering the truth for yourself and not being deceived by what you assume.

They’ve never seen you on TV, your little contribution makes their lives a little bit better everyday. -- Lucky Dube on perception and heroes


Lucky Dube - Recording ArtistLucky Dube has been hailed as 'The shining star of African reggae (afropop.com) and 'South Africa's biggest selling contemporary artist' (Mail & Guardian). However, he isn't merely this, he's a modern day hero with a message that has touched millions of people's hearts around the world. With an incredible 21 albums under his musical belt, he has proved himself one of not only South Africa's, but also the world's greatest reggae superstars. A man with superb musical taste and genuis, an artist with a message, with a reason and a rhyme behind everything he does.

As one can judge by listening to his music, he has a message on every album. His songs are based on three main things - political issues, social issues and personal issues - things that play an important role in everyone's lives. When asked what inspires him (Lucky), he humbly notes - 'People! Looking at people, watching people's movements, the things they do. My songs are based on real life situations and experiences.'

From the release of his first reggae album in 1984, to his present superstar status today, Lucky has maintained the humble nature that brings him closer to the people that so inspire his music. He has toured the world more times over than anyone could dream of and shared stages with names such as Maxi Priest, Sinead O-Connor, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Seal, Ziggy Marley, Celine Dion, Sting and many, many others. He has raked in over 20 local and international awards for his music and videos, yet as a person he is unaffected by his success. Still living in the country that gave him birth, he records with his original sound engineer and belongs to the same record comany. A true gentleman, Lucky's down-to-earth nature is one of his finest qualities.

His music is riddled with the desire to make the world a better place.

Massive hits such as Taxman, Prisoner, The Way It Is, Victims, Trinity and many others have catapulted him into the homes and hearts of people all over the world. He sees through the ridiculous, the injustices, the everyday problems we all have to deal with as human beings, and slices through to the heart of it. His incredible repertoire is a cornucopia of mixed emotions, questioning attitudes and a simple love of a good melody and a good vibe.

Finding Reggae

Lucky Philip Dube was born on the 3rd of August in 1964. After a few failed pregnancy attempts by his mother Sarah, Lucky came into the world. Giving birth to a boy was considered a blessing and his mother considered his birth so fortunate that she aptly named him 'Lucky'. His birth took place on a small farm outside the town of Ermelo, a dry, unspectacular area some 150 kilometers west of Johannesburg. Born into a single parent family, times were tough for a black boy born into poverty and with the Group Areas Act and the Pass Laws of the time, many families relocation was restricted, therefore children grew up not knowing their fathers at all, as they were often forced to leave home to find work in the cities.

Lucky's parents had separated before he was born. His mother was the only bread winner in the family and was forced to relocate to find work, leaving Lucky and his siblings Thandi and Patrick to be cared for by his grandmother. Unfortunately for Sarah, work was scarce and survival became her objective as she took a job as a domestic worker, barely able to send money home for her children.

With a father who drank heavily, Lucky is somewhat relieved he did not get to know his father when he was younger as he is certain it would have influenced him and swayed his career. To this day Lucky has only been drunk once, as a young boy, after being tricked at a party. So awful was the experience that he now swears off alcohol, cigarettes and drugs completely.

Lucky began working at the age most western children enter school. He worked for a few years before joining a school himself out of neccessity to provide for the family. He began by working in gardens around the white suburbs in the town.

Although a clearly under-priviledged child and despite being taught in Afrikaans, Lucky excelled at school and although his situation at home was dire, he started finding a new reason to attend school - music. As part of the choir, he was a natural performer and when the choir master walked out of their practise one day, Lucky was forced to take on the role as the choir leader, even being placed third in an inter-school competition, something that had never happened to the choir before. His popularity amongst his teachers and peers grew dramatically and Lucky was now finding school to a safe haven in his life.

By chance one day Lucky stumbled across some musical instruments at school in a cupboard and his curiosity was piqued. He and some friends decided to start experimenting and before long they had arranged times to meet and 'borrow' the instruments. The formed what was to be Lucky's first official band - The Skyway Band, and genuinely believed that they would find stardom. Unfortunately that all fell apart when they were discovered playing the instruments by a teacher who locked the instruments away from then on.

But Lucky was now 18 years old, and although still in school due to starting late, he had found his passion.

Cool down baby everything is under control, It doesn’t matter where I get my appetite, I will always eat at home. - Lucky Dube on love

Early Recordings

Lucky Dube

1982 was to become an important year in Lucky's life. He was 18 years old and still in school. Nevertheless, it was then he joined his first real band. His cousin Richard Siluma had formed a band called 'The Love Brothers' and when Lucky arrived in Newcastle where Richard lived, he wanted to join them. Lucky had already formed a reputation as a strong singer and the group allowed him to join. They began touring around the district playing community events and school halls. The Love Brothers played a traditional Zulu music known as Mbaqanga, and this genre was to become Lucky's future for a while. It is also one of the most influencial musical styles in South Africa, blending uptempo rhythms with social commentary. Two of the more famous Mbaqanga groups are the Soul Brothers and Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens - both musical ambassadors for South Africa.

Richard Siluma had taken a job packing the warehouse of the record company Teal Records. Through hard work he moved through the ranks from driver to sales representative to eventually record producer. He then turned his attention towards the band he had originally formed - The Love Brothers.

They got together with the view to record and Lucky signed with Teal Records, which later became Gallo Record Comany - which to this day is still his record company.

The album was recorded during Lucky's school holidays and Lucky made his first trip to Johannesburg to begin working on it. The album, although recorded with The Love Brothers, was released as 'Lucky Dube and The Supersoul' and Richard produced the record. Lucky was the lead singer but did not write any of the material on that first record.

The second album came soon afterwads and Lucky was far more involved with the writing. It lead to a increase in record sales and Lucky began to earn some decent money. By his third album he could actually afford to purchase some instruments as well as a recording desk. Already the sales figures were beginning to hit gold status and people had begun to notice him. His mother showed great concerns for the uncertainty of a life made of music and Lucky swore to complete school. He also made the important decision to learn English in order to handle the record executives and media with more confidence. His fourth album was now released and Lucky was beginning to save some money, looking to the prospect of moving out of home.

Moving into Reggae

It was around the time of his fifth Mbaqanga album that Lucky met Dave Segal. Dave was to become his long-time engineer, recording every one of Lucky's albums in the future. Dave and Lucky formed a working relationship that has never been rivalled. Richard had started concentrating solely on Lucky's career and dropped the 'Supersoul' element of the name. All albums were now being recorded purely as 'Lucky Dube' and all the focus was going Lucky's way.

His performances were getting more recognition as well. His dance moves were really something spectacular and his ability to get the crowd going made him a sought-after performer.

One of the highlights of Lucky's performances seemed to be the reggae tracks he would perform - 'Reggae Man' and 'City Life'. Initially only slowly introducing them into a set, it soon became apparent that the crowds were more responsive to these songs. Lucky and Richard decided it was time to record a full album of reggae songs and judge the response to that. What started there set Lucky's career as we all know it in motion.

Lucky had been listening to much reggae at the time. The lyrics particularly intrigued him as they were social messages aimed at the struggle of the black man, whilst still maintaining a commercial sound. Lucky felt it was the perfect medium for the South African political situation.

The team that was Lucky, Richard and Dave went into the studio and began work on their first reggae release - 4 tracks later, the mini-album 'Rastas Never Die' was ready. Lucky had played all the instruments himself with only Dave using studio effects to back him up. The record was released - and it completely bombed, only selling on average 4 000 units when his Mbaqanga records were peaking around 30, 000 units.

The record company was not happy about the reggae idea to begin with, and now they had even more reason to keep Lucky singing in his familiar style. However, Lucky was not discouraged. He continued to perform his reggae tracks, and started writing more, slowly introducing them to his live sets. What happened was the public slowly started to associate him more and more with this new sound, and audiences that understood English grew particularly fond of the reggae songs.

It was time for Lucky to try again. The record company were adamant that he should record another Zulu record but when he emerged from the studio, his second reggae album was complete. The album was called 'Think About The Children' and went on to be the breakthrough record that would establish him as one of South Africa's biggest stars. The record continues to sell to this day and has reached more than platinum status in South Africa alone.

And that was how the legend Lucky Dube was created. Through his countless sensational reggae albums, Lucky went on to build himself into one of the biggest names in South African music.

Originally appeared on luckydubemusic.com.


Knowledge Project

Africa Knowledge Project is an academic resource that offers journals and databases. Check them out at AKP.

Upcoming Deadlines

CALL FOR PAPERS

Columnists

LivewireRasta Livewire is a leading blog that provides in-depth viewpoints from Rastas in Africa and African Diaspora.

Africa Knowledge Project (AKP) publishes peer-reviewed journals and academic databases.

Ojedi is an online retailer of fine art and exceptional handcrafted pieces from around the world.

Africa House is an Africa and Diasporian gallery. Africa House accepts proposals for submission on a rolling basis.

African Event Posters show posters of events at Africa House.

African Gourmet Dinners shows images of African gourmet dishes.