Chiedu Uche Okoye
According to Webster’s New Encyclopedic Dictionary, “Music is the art of combining tones so that they’re pleasing, expressive or intelligible.” And Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary defines music as, “the science and art of the rhythmic combination of tones, vocal or instrumental, embracing melody and harmony.”
To me, I subscribe to this definition of music, which says that music is a universal language. A piece of music which is pleasant to the ears is enjoyed by millions of people(s )of the world, irrespective of the language in which it is rendered.
That is why I do tap my foot in time to the songs of Brenda Fassie, although the language which she used to sing most of her songs is unintelligible to me. And millions of Nigerians dance to the Makossa music owing to its rhythmic euphony. Today, in Nigeria, most Igbo people are fans of Yoruba musicians, who are exponents of the afro-juju genre of music, although they do not understand the language in which the songs are rendered.That is a proof that music is a universal language.
More than this, music has a therapeutic property. It ministers to our existential needs. For example, Don William’s songs contain philosophical messages, which serve as a guide and compass to us in our tortuous earthly peregrinations. The thematic concerns of his songs, which range from love to death, and to other issues, contain wise sayings, which instruct and teach us on how to live right. And our own Osita Osadebe produced pieces of music, which have philosophical bent, too.
But music can be put to other good and noble uses other than giving us immeasurable pleasure and offering us solutions to our diverse individual problems. Bob Nesta Marley, the Jamaican-born reggae star, used his reggae music to fight western imperialism wherever it existed under the sun, then. In South Africa, Lucky Dube effectively deployed music to fight Apartheid, which was instituted and entrenched in South Africa by the Afrikaans, that is, the Dutch people. Sadly, Lucky Dude was mowed down by armed robbers in his native country, South Africa.
Back home in Nigeria, the Ozidi king, King Sunny Okosun, used his melodious songs to call attention to the leadership problem in Nigeria, which stunted our national development. Okosun sang this: “Many years of our independence, we still find it hard to start; how long shall we be patient till we reach the promised land? Which way Nigeria, which way to go? I love my Fatherland . . .”
Many years after we had attained self-rule, the ship of state is still listing dangerously as Okosun sang in his immortal and evergreen song. Okosun belonged to the class of Nigerian musicians, who produced protest music. Others in the revered class include popular music acts like African China, Orits Wiliki, Majek Fashek, Eedris Abdulkareen, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and others. Back then in our country, music was used as a tool for effecting social change, for upturning bad political order, and for molding the personalities of our young people.
It was in the late 1980s and early 1990s that Ras Kimono came to national limelight. Then, his danceable reggae songs filled with didactic, revolutionary, and social messages ruled the airwaves. He used his reggae songs to question the status quo ante bellum, then. I still remember the lyrics and title of his song, “What Gwam in this country?” In the song, he said, “See them flying in the skies; see me walking on the land.” He used his song to tell us that while the thieving ruling political elites are living in opulence, the rest of the people in the country are impoverished and living below the breadline. More so, one’s listening to his piece of music can take one to the summit of ecstasy. And his virtuoso live musical performances were delightful.
That’s why the name, Ras Kimono has been imprinted in the minds of millions of Nigerians. Those who were in their early teens when his music ruled our airwaves grew up listening to his melodious songs and adoring him. And the songs had a great influence on them, too.
However, now, reggae music is no longer in vogue. I doubt if it can make a comeback to Nigeria, again. Today, it is the hip pop songs that enthrall and fascinate us, both young people and old ones.
Again, in Nigeria, some today’s musicians glorify the smoking of grass. Many musicians puff away Indian hemp and marijuana in their musical videos. Smoking grass or doing drugs is a harmful anti-social act which can alter the smokers’ minds, predisposing them to suffering mental imbalance. And, our young people, who do watch the musical videos, see the musicians as their hero, heroines, and role-models.
So, I urge our rising musicians and the established ones to emulate the positive attributes and good side of Ras Kimono, who left this physical dimension recently. His death jolted us, no doubt. But, it is unwise for us to remain disconsolate over his death. A native of Onitsha Olona, Delta State, Ras Kimono was a detribalized Nigerian and global citizen, who believed and worked for the unity and progress of our country through the instrumentality of reggae music.
A revolutionary reggae icon and exponent of protest music, he deployed music for the enthronement of social justice and egalitarianism in Nigeria. And, millions of people in the world derive pleasure from listening to his politically relevant, immortal, and melodious songs. Ras Kimono’s name is forever etched in our collective psyche and he has entered the pantheon of musical greats through his melodious and evergreen musical masterpieces, although his sojourn in our terra firma is brief.
Adieu, Ras Kimono, the songster par excellence
Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State