365 days after death: Remembering Ras Kimono
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die
Okeleke Elumelu better known as Ras Kimono bowed to the pressure of death on June 10 2018. His immense contributions to the Nigerian music ecosystem will remain indelible.
The ‘Under Pressure’ singer used reggae as a tool to speak without ceasing about the the ills in Nigeria.
He started out his career as a student of Gbenoba Secondary School Agbor and later as a member of the Jastix Reggae Ital, alongside Majek Fashek, Amos McRoy Jegg and Black Rice Osagie. His music was greatly influenced by the poverty, inequality and hardship he witnessed in his early life. He released his solo debut album Under Pressure on the Premier Music label in 1989, which propelled him to instant continental stardom.
At a memorial lecture recently held in his honour ,Prof Duro Oni, a former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Management Services, University of Lagos said: “There is no denying the power of music as a revolutionary weapon and social commentary.
“Kimono is undoubtedly one of the best reggae musicians in Nigeria who used his songs to combat social injustice and inequality.
“The content of his lyrics is such that the listener is able to fully appreciate the creativity and imagery associated with the lyrics; hence, facilitating his awareness of what is going on in the society.
“His creative ingenuity and digital prowess has left a growing legacy on the sand of time,” the professor said.
Before his death, the music icon had lamented over the quality of present day Nigerian music.
”Music is supposed to be a weapon of social change. A musician is supposed to be a prophet who speaks the truth as it affects everybody in the society. But can you tell me what these young artistes are preaching about. They do nothing but sing about butt, boobs and other mundane things that do not add value to anybody.
“It is not a bad thing to sing party or dancehall music but there is a problem when 95 per cent of the music out there sound the same and don’t even have any meaning. Most times, I listen to these songs and get angry. Look at the musicians of yesteryears, the songs are still relevant today, decades after they were originally released. But if you listen to a song that was released just last year, you may want to throw up. That’s because those songs have very short life-span.
“After people dance to it for some time, they dump it in the trash bin of time and move on to the next song. That is not what music is supposed to be about. People still play Fela’s music today because it still has something to offer. Reggae music, which I do, dwells on topical issues bothering the society. I really want the younger artistes to have a change of heart and think of the future; it is very important”.
His wife, Efe Mena Okedi, passed on three months after his demise. Okedi was the third wife of the music legend. She once described Kimono as “the most gentle and kind Rastaman I know”.