By Ajibade Morakinyo
When the reggae legend, Ekeleke Elumelu (Onwubuya), popularly known as Ras Kimono, was born on May 9, 1958, little did his parents knew that he would be one of distinct and exemplary influencers of the world. The family, friends, and well-wishers at the naming could not paint his future, but he prevailed in the fight to woo success to his side in the entertainment industry.
A native of Onicha Olona in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State and who recently clocked 60, Ras Kimono was known for his Rastafarian oriented music – an Africa-centered religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930 – reggae music.
He started his music career in the present Delta state, Nigeria, while he was in secondary school – Gbenoba Secondary School, Agbor. During this time, his music was greatly influenced by the poverty, inequality and hardship he witnessed in his early life.
Kimono’s songs are embodiment of unfadable words of truth and wisdom. It came as shock to many when the Nigerian reggae artist, Ras Kimono, debut album Under Pressure on the Premier Music label, which was accompanied by the popular song, “Rum-Bar Stylée” made unexpected hit in the Nigerian music scene way back in 1989, when the likes of Lucky Dube, Bob Marley, and many others were making waves in the reggae world.
This album propelled him to instant continental stardom, where he influenced many into his kind of music, and mentored many young reggae stars. The album revealed both a Jamaican and native African influence, Rum-Bar Stylée particularly, evident in his ‘patois’ delivery as frequently employed by Fela Kuti to communicate with the urban underclass. However, before making his late 80s breakthrough as a reggae singer, Kimono served a long apprenticeship on the Nigerian music circuit, experimenting with a number of styles.
With his Massive Dread Reggae Band as a signature, his strongly polemical lyrics produced album sales of over 100, 000 copies, and a fervent following for his advocacy of social change like legalisation of marijuana, the need for Africans to intellectually repel colonialism and its arbitrary boundaries between tribes. Kimono was not averse to naming directly those in power he saw as synonymous with backdoor imperialism.
Before his 1989 album, he was in a group called The Jastix Reggae Ital along with ace reggae artistes, Amos McRoy and Majek Fashek and Black Rice Osagie. Thereafter, Kimono released a string of hit albums such as, “Natty Get Jail” and the massive hit “Rhumba Style”, touring all over Africa, Europe and the United States, promoting his brand of reggae music. His effectiveness in the field brought him strings of classic awards, and the like of Nigeria Music Awards, Fame Music Awards and many more made his library.
In the 2000s, Kimono still maintains such agility and energy his fans are used to seeing in his music videos, while performing on stage. The popularity he has gathered throughout West Africa, Africa, and the world is overwhelming, thereby attracting mammoth of crowd to his 60th birthday bash that held at the Time Square, Ikeja, Lagos. Unfortunately, 31 days later, the legendary reggae singer reportedly slumped at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while waiting to board a flight to the United States, on Saturday night.
Kimono was immediately rushed to an unnamed hospital in Ikeja and then taken to another hospital on Lagos Island where he later died on Sunday morning, 10 June 2018. His, fans and other esteemed personality of the world have poured out their heart as he lives on. The world would miss you Ras Kimono…
He was a distinguished board member of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and is survived by humble family including his daughter, who is also making waves in the reggae music industry.