He lived large, even, and carved a larger-than-life celebrity figure out of his music, but Lucky Dube’s parentage largely remained a closely-guarded secret.
While his parentage might have influenced his thinking and lyrics, Lucky Dube never made a public fuss out of his upbringing, probably because he feared it could affect his music career.
To those in his inner circles, the hit song Remember Me; gave probably the closest hint of his childhood.
You left for the city many years ago
You promised to come back,
But you never,
Many years have gone by now
Still no sign of you, Daddy
Mother died of a heart attack
Many years ago when she heard
That you were married again
Now, I’m the only one left
In the family
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Daddy where ever you are remember me
In whatever you do I love you
Daddy where ever you are remember me
In whatever you do I love you
Wandering up and down
The streets of Soweto
No place to call my home
I tried to find you
Many years ago
But the woman you’re married to was not good at all
Although the issue of Lucky’s parentage remained a guarded secret, save only to say that his parents separated before his birth, he could have been a member of the Chibwana family, who hail from Chiwundura communal lands in Gokwe.
Lucky was in 2007 killed by a group of thugs in what many believe to be a botched car-jacking attempt in Johannesburg.
The Herald recently tracked down the Chibwanas in Chiwundura and Gokwe, who affirmed that indeed Lucky Dube was one of their own, although they never had an opportunity to meet him, save for a few letters exchanged in an attempt to organise a reunion.
That never came to fruition because he died before they could arrange anything, they say.
Speaking on behalf of the Chibwanas, in Chiwundura communal lands, Thomas said his brother Boniface Sivahle who was known in the area as Mujubheki, sired the reggae artiste.
“Mukoma vakaenda Joni kare vakanorova. Vakazodzoka mushure mekunge vadhipotiwa nevarungu nenyaya yemhirizhonga, munhu aida zvemutsimba,” (Boniface
joined the great trek to South Africa and lived there for a long time. He was however deported in the late 1960’s because of his violent behaviour)
“Asi pavakadzoka, vakasvikotaura kuti vainge vasiya vana vavo vaviri, mukomana nemusikana, nemudzimai.” (When he came back, he gathered the whole family and told us he had left behind his two children in South Africa,” he narrated.
He said Mujubheki, constantly talked about his children and had plans to bring them to Zimbabwe.
“One day, he came back from the shops, literally flying waving a page from Parade magazine, shouting on top of his voice, “Machiona here chikomana changu!
Tembo vemutsara vavakuimba, Zvino ndichakusvikirwa nani, kwamave nhai Mazvimbakupa! (That is my boy I have always been telling you about! And come to think of it, he is now a singer. How will I be able to talk to you now Dube?)
“In the picture, was Lucky Dube and there is no way he could have mistook someone else’s son as his boy,” Thomas recalled.
For years to come the fading picture plucked off from the Parade magazine was among the few possessions that Mujubheki guarded closely up to the time of his death in 1997.
“When he came back from South Africa, he re-married, but he never had a child with his wife.
“But you could tell that he was not a happy man. He needed to see his son and tell him how sorry he was about his unceremonious departure from their life.
“He kept on hoping that my late brother’s son, Nelson Chibwana (the artiste famed for the Mamoyo Follow Me hit song), would eventually lead him to his son.”
Collaborating Thomas’s story, Mujubheki’s mother, Chiwaya Dube Chibwana, said his son spent the better part of his life in South Africa, only to resurface decades later, claiming that he had left behind two children.
“Boniface, waiva chichoni cheJoni. Wakainda ukarova kwemakore, ndokuchidzoka achiti, mhai ndakasiya vana vangu.
“Kusvika pakufa kwake, vana ivava vaive vongogara varipamuromo. (Boniface spent the better part of his life in Johannesburg and when he came back he informed me that he had left behind his children whom he often talked about,” said the visibly ailing octogenarian.
Although the doyen of reggae is long dead, the Chibwanas feel he remains one of their own.
Speaking from Gokwe, Boniface’s uncle Freddie Daniel Chibwana, reiterated the link between the late artiste and the Chibwanas.
“He (Lucky) died at a time when efforts to re-engage him were now bearing fruits. However, we are not talking about it now, because we believe there are financial gains to be realised, but we are doing it for the records and future generations,” he said.
Lucky Dube was born on August 3 1964 and was married to Zanele Mdluli, and they were blessed with three children.
One of the most successful African reggae artistes of his generation, Lucky cut a sprightly and warm-hearted figure on the world stage.
Inspired by Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff’s messages of black pride, and with a vocal style largely modelled on that of Peter Tosh, he pioneered a distinctively South African variant of reggae, which while not musically radical was lyrically progressive and politically informed.
His songs were spiced with dashes of soul, gospel and the occasional power-ballad flourish, but also influenced by the local style of mbaqanga (“township jive”), which he began recording in 1981.
Singing initially in Zulu and even Afrikaans, but later almost exclusively in English, he switched to reggae in 1984, and by the early 1990s had eclipsed Ivory Coast’s
Alpha Blondy to become Africa’s biggest selling reggae artist. He found his first success outside Africa in France in the late 1980s and then the United States, soon after establishing a devoted and very wide-ranging international fan base through tireless touring.
Dube released more than 20 studio albums and was a frequent visitor to the UK.
During his career, he visited Zimbabwe three times to stage shows. His debut show was held at Rufaro stadium in 1988. In 1990 he had another show and two others in 2004 at the City Sports Centre in Harare and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Grounds in Bulawayo.
During his career, he toured the world and shared the stage with renowned stars among them Maxi Priest, Sinead O’Connor, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Sting to mention just a few.
Known as the “Shining Star of Reggae”, Dube recorded more than 20 albums in a career spanning over two decades and was credited as one of the first artistes to introduce reggae in South Africa.
Sadly nearly everyone, who at one time tried to establish a rapport with Lucky Dube, is now dead, taking with them the shreds of evidence in the form of pictures, letters and email, that could have shed more light on the issue of his parentage.
“One of the Chibwanas, who had established a good relationship with Lucky, a former lawyer, who once worked for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is also dead
“You see, the issue is very delicate because we are talking of dead people here. In as much as we might have been making headway in solving the issue, we suddenly realise that we are stuck in the same way.
“But of course, one thing that we don’t doubt is that Lucky was a Chibwana,” said Pastor Chibwana, in a telephone interview from his base in Gweru.
Lucky Dube, the biggest-selling reggae artist in South Africa, left an indelible mark on the music scene. His album “Prisoner” became South Africa’s best-selling album of the 1980s and 1990s. Dube’s musical journey began when he discovered legendary artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, leading him to make the transition from mbaqanga to reggae, a genre that would define his career.
Dube’s compilation album titled “Serious Reggae Business” achieved phenomenal sales in Ghana, further cementing his status as a global reggae icon. He racked up an impressive collection of over 20 awards, both in South Africa and internationally, a testament to his immense talent and contribution to the music world. Throughout his life, Lucky Dube was a touring artist, sharing his music and message with audiences around the world.
Tragically, Lucky Dube’s life was cut short in a horrifying incident. He fell victim to an apparent carjacking attempt. On that fateful night, the 43-year-old musician was fatally shot in a suburb south of Johannesburg. This shocking event shook not only South Africa but reggae fans worldwide.
In connection with his murder, five individuals were arrested, with three of them eventually found guilty on March 31, 2009. These three gunmen admitted that they had not recognized Lucky Dube as the reggae singer. They had mistakenly believed he was a Nigerian and tragically shot him as they attempted to steal his car.
South African police revealed that Lucky Dube was shot by these three assailants as he was dropping off his son in the Rosettenville suburb of Johannesburg. A state witness, Mpho Maruping, came forward with critical information about the botched hijacking that led to the untimely death of the multi-award-winning reggae superstar.
As Lucky Dube’s relatives mourned their loss, Mpho Maruping, the wife of Thabo Maruping, a co-conspirator initially charged with Dube’s murder, testified in the Johannesburg High Court. She provided chilling details of the night when Dube was shot while dropping off his son and daughter in Rosettenville. Thabo Maruping had ultimately turned state witness, shedding light on the tragic events that took the life of Lucky Dube, leaving a void in the world of reggae music and in the hearts of his fans.