Nkulee Dube Expands Father’s Legacy
18th October 2015 would mark eight years since the murder of Lucky Dube, arguably one of the most successful artistes Africa has ever produced. Dube was killed by a group of thugs in a Johannesburg suburb in 2007.
The legacy of Dube, who pioneered a distinct variation of reggae-enriched with traditional South African music, has been passed on to his daughter, Nkulee Dube, who recently performed at President Jammeh’s 50th birthday anniversary.
Nkulee has picked up the baton and carrying on the family traits. She is a singer and songwriter, who blend soul, jazz with the familiar reggae and dancehall. She tours with her father’s group, the One People Band, the same 10 musicians who made Dube’s stage shows some of the most electrifying performances on the international circuit.
She gained her experience as a back-up singer and dancer for the late South African jazz performer Lebio Mathosa and Afro-pop singer Ntando Bangani. South African record label Native Rhythms Productions signed her for the release of her 11 song debut album My Way in 2011.
Besides shows in South Africa, Nkulee has appeared at major festivals in Australia, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, French Guyana, and Suriname. She has also performed in the U.S, Europe, the South Pacific and Namibia.
Her shows are never complete without a tribute to her dad’s memory and she usually picks some of his best-known songs like Prisoner whose lyrics are familiar to the crowds wherever in the world she performs. Nkulee’s half-sister, Bongi Dube is also a recording artiste; though her jazz and house music style is markedly different from the rest of the family’s reggae staple.
Bantaba this week sat down with Nkulee so enjoy the conversation.
Bantaba: You are in the country courtesy of President Jammeh’s invitation, what is your impression about him?
Nkulee: I did not know much about President Jammeh before coming to The Gambia. Having President Jammeh approved our request and perform on his birthday made me learned more about him and he is a cool person.
Bantaba: When did your music career started?
Nkulee: It started when I was sixteen, don’t ask me how old I am (laughs). I was more of a dancer from a very young age and travelled the world through dance.
Bantaba: You produced several albums including ‘My Way’ tell me more about others?
Nkulee: I have three Albums, My Way, The Journey and the Beginning.
Bantantaba: What message do they contain?
Nkulee: The Message is mostly for the youth, obviously there are songs that are of funs, and party club. But then the entire message of the whole movement in terms of my career will be like respecting our elders and going back to the elders finding out what is real.
Bantaba: In 2012 you top the list of nominees of six categories for the 31st International Reggae and World Music Award (IRAWMA) how did you made it to the top?
Nkulee: Ah Wow! I mean, I was very fortunate to have made it outside Africa than having in Africa. Not lot of people in Africa know Nkulee’s music but in America and Europe that where most of my fans are instated like the Lucky Dube fans. So my fans voted me on and to be part of world music award to be nominated six times it was a humble experience.
Bantaba: You became first non-Caribbean entertainer to have been nominated in many categories. Best female vocalist, best song, best album, best video, best new entertainer and most promising entertainer, what made you stand out?
Nkulee: Of course my father was huge part of it, my father is one thing I will never take away from myself, his name and hands are always been in my career. And the secret is also finding out what one like and been interested in that rather than mastering it.
Bantaba: Nkulee you picked up the baton and carrying on the family traits why did you choose singing?
Nkulee: Well it is really not a choice; it’s who I am like breathing is like giving me life, so music has always been part of my life and family as well.
Bantaba: Lucky Dube your father gained fame with songs of political and social resistance, you prefer to sing about issues that surrounded you as a young person; is it that you are not interested in politics?
Nkulee: You know my father’s music was more political as you say, and then the apartheid now we are somehow liberated with the works of my father and Bob Marley type of movement have done before. So now we have it as young people we are now dealing with different issues that has nothing to do with politics. We have issues that I can talk about with my peers because I don’t really know anything about politics.
Bantaba: Obviously he is remembered for his trademark melodious reggae with the social conscious edge of timeless songs like Slavery, Prisoner and house of exile which one among these songs is your best?
Nkulee: I will say prisoner, because I love the video, (laughs)! The video was amazing as side of the pizza is that message on that because he was talking to more of the youth and directly to adults and empowering the youth in school are not rather in school but in prison. I love that song because he was like a parent talking to kids.
Bantaba: It seems you were Daddy’s girl?
Nkulee: Yes I was.
Bantaba: What name do you used to call him, Lucky, Daddy or Philip?
Nkulee: I just called him daddy, even when he passed away; I took time to call him Lucky Dube because he is the elder.
Bantaba: Hardly you perform without remembering him?
Nkulee: I never perform without remembering him, because everywhere I go in the world his music is part of me because he is part of who I am. Without his music I cannot just do mine so I invite him on my stage I always have him with me?
Bantaba: What message do you have for upcoming artistes on the continent?
Nkulee: Find your craft and learn and master it. Because if you are just doing it because you saw others doing it and want to do it with something then is not for you, if you are doing it because you are.
Bantaba: What do you make up of the recent xenophobic attack on other African emigrants in South Africa?
Nkulee: Xenophobia is one of the most ‘Stupid’ idea and viruses that ever inflicted Africa. As a South African this things are happening but then they are nothing in the whole country, they are happening in some Townships. Many are fighting because of monetary but when the media comes in that story just diluted in to something as well as South Africans when we are there we watching in the news like all this is happening. South Africa is the most culturally diverse country if xenophobia idea is actually that means no one will leave in South Africa.
Bantaba: Who do you hold responsible for triggering the attack because many blamed apartheid but it ended more than twenty years ago, and others blamed poverty and lack of employment, but there is poverty in Nigeria and Ghana big countries but they did not attack other Africans?
Nkulee: I hold people who are ignorant and people who are selling the story. The South African government should be harsher, if things like that happen those behind it should be punished.
by Omar Wally & Musa Ndow