Born Ukeleke Elumelu Onwubuya, Ras Kimono was 60 years old, when he passed away on Sunday, June 10 2018 after he slumped and was rushed to a hospital in Ikoyi, where he gave up the ghost.
Though, while he may not be too familiar with followers of modern day Nigerian music, lovers of the genre called Reggae will eternally remember his contributions, personal struggles, legacy and the music he left behind.
Kimono alongside his Massive Dread Band came into prominence following the release of his debut album, Under Pressure under the label, Premier Music in 1989.
Here are six things you need to know about the late reggae icon;
Ras Kimono Inspired many Musicians
Ras Kimono inspired many musicians, some of which include Austin Peter, Daddy Showkey, and Kenny Saint Brown who once described him as the “the superstar of the superstars when we were growing up”.
During his 60th birthday, which would be his last, Showkey had spoken of how Kimono hugely impacted and inspired his music and lifestyle.
He was effusive in praise of the man he called “father”.
“He gave me the platform that made me the Showkey that I am today. He is my father, I carry dreadlocks because I want to be like him,” Showkey had said.
Born in May 1958, Ras Kimono, real name Okeleke Elumelu, had his first musical exposure with The Jastix, a group which comprised Amos McRoy, Black Rice Osagie and Majek Fashek.
The musician would later, on his own, release a debut album Under Pressure, led by the single ‘Rhumba Stylee’, a massive hit in 1989.
He Kept dreadlocks and Didn’t taste alcohol for decades
Ras Kimono has a discipline worth emulating. All his life in music, he never tasted alcohol or smoked despite being surrounded by both.
He often told anyone who cared to listen that “I have never smoked and I don’t drink alcohol”.
Kimono said he never partook in the sexual orgies and booze benders associated with the celebrity life.
The peer pressure and overwhelming urge to indulge never broke Kimono. Such was his discipline.
The same discipline could be seen in his devotion to his locks, which he maintained for over 36 years.
The dreadlock was in existence for as long as his career as an entertainer lasted, and throughout that period, Kimono was an ardent vegetarian.
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti inspired his hit song ‘Natty Get Jail’
Kimono, a few years ago, revealed that one of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s many incarcerations inspired ‘Natty Get Jail’, a major hit song of his.
On how the song came to be, Kimono said he wrote it when Fela was locked up, but the Afrobeat maverick secured bail before he could put out the song.
It was originally titled ‘Fela Get Jail’ but had to be renamed after Kimono insisted on its release.
He was an advocate of the people
Kimono was a mouthpiece of the people in principle and in practice. To have a firsthand feel of the tribulations of the downtrodden, he never strayed far from them, no matter what fame brought his way.
In multiple interviews, he listed his musical inspirations as Jehovah and the suffering of the common man.
“I live where the people live so I can see the tribulation they are going through; suffering and the humiliation, so we can put it into our music and expose it.”
Kimono was no self-serving, all mouth no action conscious reggae musician. He truly believed in what he preached and lived by it.
He once said If he does not expose hardship and injustice, “who will do it for the people?”
He differentiated reggae from dancehall
Like a mother hen protects her chicks fiercely, jealously and lovingly, so did Kimono care for and tend to the genre called reggae.
His was a life of sacrifice; sticking to pure reggae and churning out pro-masses songs, defeating the temptation of crossing over to the dancehall of luxury.
Hence, he made sure to succinctly and effortfully point out the difference between reggae artistes and dancehall artistes — at any given chance.
“A lot of reggae musicians like us, were not rich because we don’t sing what they want us to sing.
“Reggae artistes are Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek; apart from that, other youth dem are dancehall artistes. They just want to have fun and make money.
“But reggae, you have to deal with truth and wrong and face the government squarely.”
He gets pissed when he’s called a ‘Legend’
Legendary status is attained through years of consistent success and longstanding influence, and while Ras Kimono can be rightly considered a legend, the late singer will protest at being given the title if he were alive.
An interviewee once called him a legend and he replied, saying: “If you’re calling me legend, then what will you call Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey who are alive? The ones that are dead, Sunny Okosun, Oliver De Coque, Osadebe, what will you call them? Icon?
“Nowadays everybody is saying he is a legend, legend, legend and that word is pissing me off. So, at the end of the day, people don’t even know the worth of a legend. When people call me legend I’m indifferent about it.”
Kimono may have been indifferent about the word, but when the cap fits… the cap fits.