Lucky Dube’s daughter holds up the musical legacy

The 24-year-old Nkulee Dube, daughter of the late South African Reggae artiste Lucky Dube. Photo | CD COVER 

This August, South African music star Lucky Dube would have celebrated his 47th birthday. Sadly, the most successful African reggae artiste of his generation was killed by thugs in a Johannesburg suburb. That was in 2007.

Today, the legacy of the late Dube, who pioneered a distinctively African variant of reggae, rests on the shoulders of his 24-year-old daughter, Nkulee.

The singer and songwriter blends ethno-soul, jazz with reggae and dancehall tunes and has launched her international career with her father’s 10-piece outfit, The One People Band. Last year she toured the world with the tight group of musicians who made Lucky’s stage shows. These are some of the most electrifying performances by any African artiste.

“I only toured with my father’s band after his death because during his career, he wanted to keep his family and his career apart,” she says.

Her experience with the band has made her realise that their success was brought about by a very professional leadership, which has stayed with them beyond the death of Lucky.

Own sound

“They say he was a very strict boss and none of the musicians could get away with things that were not for the benefit of the band,” she says.

While Lucky Dube is remembered for his trademark reggae sound with socially conscious and timeless songs like Slave, Prisoner and House of Exile, his daughter performs a smoother contemporary brand of reggae, sometimes veering towards R&B and soul.

Nkulee prefers to talk about the issues that surround her as a young person. “There are different concerns for the youth today,” she says.

Carrying the name of Africa’s most successful reggae superstar must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of the young Dube during her sessions in a studio in Johannesburg where she worked on her debut album.

For the 11-song debut album My Way, she was signed by South African record label Native Rhythms Productions. Besides the obvious influence of her father, Nkulee draws from an eclectic musical background ranging from South African jazz great Lebo Mathosa to soul and dancehall.

“Working with some of the greatest musicians from South Africa and Germany made me feel like a real artiste,” says Nkulee when asked about the highlights of working on the album.

Her debut single Who Dem, a bouncy dancehall groove, written by Jah Seed of the South African kwaito/reggae group, Bongo Maffin, had its video shot in Johannesburg before Nkulee embarked on her current tour. The song is a tribute to Rastafarianism and the group’s values of peace, life, humanity, tranquillity and love. Images of Bob Marley and Lucky Dube grace this video.

“I want to do things my way. My sound is unique and I want people to understand and appreciate it,” she says. “I am creating new trends in the world of music.”

However she acknowledges the pressure that comes with being her father’s daughter and managing the expectations of her music. “It is amazing and very scary at the same time b

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