By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
The bravura and symbolism of June 12, and the elements that coloured its significance, made this tribute impossible to produce last week – contrary to the ideal. Friday, last week, June 10 was exactly three years since the indefatigable reggae maestro and copyright activist, Augustine Onwubuya, the colourful son of Ekeleke Elumelu, in Delta State, danced off stage in his usual lumpy-slumpy ambling steps.
This was my tribute in the same week he died in 2018: “Barely two weeks ago, we were celebrating the shining star of one 60-year old…and about ten days after (on Sunday, June 10), Life happened to another 60-year old, Okwudili Ukeleke Elumelu Onwubuya, whom we all love to call Ras Kimono. Both were born in the same month and year (May, 1958 – Ras on May 9 and Shina Peters 30th).
I remember on the day SSP was being celebrated at Federal Palace Hotel, VI… the top management staffers of COSON were abuzz about plans to storm the venue with a powerful delegation in solidarity with one of their non-executive directors. Of course, Tony Okoroji was the chief organizer of the party-going ensemble…but Ras Kimono, also a director at COSON, appeared to be delaying the trip… And it was well past 4pm…in Ikeja…for a 5pm event on the island.
When Tony eventually got the man with the longest dreadlocks I’ve seen on any man (or woman sef) on the telephone… he assured Tony not to be UNDER PRESSURE… that for that day, he was a LONE RANGER…as Lagos traffic had made him RUN FI COVER… But Tony wanted to know WHAT’S GWAN?…and the RUB-A-DUB master immediately BROKE THE BARRIER… revealing that he was storming the venue in a RHUMBA STYLEE and wasn’t going to GIMME LIKKLE SUGAR… since it was KIMONO DEY WANT. Well, Tony didn’t want BABYLON BURNING…he agreed with him to let NATTY GET JAIL… And surely, it wasn’t a day to chant WE NO WAN war!
Never a man to cling to the vanities of life…a deeply motivated pacifist who somehow separated his professional struggles from age-long friendships and camaraderie. One of his best pals and music soul mates is Orits Williki, the then chairman of MCSN – the other collecting society that has been in bitter, court-strewn battles with COSON, and its predecessors, for over 20 years! Yet, Ras Kimono, undazzled and undaunted, has been fervent as a member, and for many years, a director at COSON!
Incredible humanist. Always in tune with old comrades…before he shattered our ignorance in 1989 with his massive album, Under Pressure (which housed the evergreen Rhumba Stylee), Ras was peripherally associated with the rave Reggae band of the early ‘80s, Jah Stix – but he wasn’t a member (the original members were the lavishly talented guitarist and composer, Amos McRoy Jegg (now Pastor Amos Osifo), the inimitable Majek Fashek (who died two June’s after Kimono – on June 1 – when we all thought he had been rehabilitated from drug abuse), the frenetic drummer, Black Rice Osagie (now a sage) and, later, George Orwell.
A great lover of the downtrodden… An unashamed talented voice for the ghetto dwellers; infused with a near idyllic romance with the concept of people power – a universal template where the Black people all over the world believe in the oneness and completeness of their genesis and civilization; and therefore interface so deeply and intricately that poverty, diseases, corruption, misgovernance and all the ailments besetting the black race would be eliminated. He believed in the capacity of the black man to evolve into a greater space and activity than is allowed by the shackles of neocolonialism and seemingly friendly imperialists.
I salute a good friend, brother, and kindred spirit…you have fought a good battle…be sure that you have finished your race with great aplomb. Your fans and music lovers will miss you greatly. Fight on…!
POSTSCRIPT: I, therefore, dedicate the following article (published in 2010) to the memory and exertions of Okwudili Ukeleke ‘Ras Kimono’ Onwubuya… the rub-a-dub grandmaster… Watch over your legacy! Maybe the living will embrace wisdom, and do the needful.
To read the full article: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/06/19/kimono-3-years-after-nigeria-is-still-under-pressure/