By Aj Dagga Tolar

Perhaps Zion will welcome a new soul into its abode… This is the defining essence of the celebration of the passing of Ras Kimono from the face of the earth. Bob Marley sang in ‘Rastaman Chant ‘ One bright morning/ When my work is over I fly away home/Fly away home to Zion/ Fly away home”… So is Kimono work over?

How do begin we begin to answer for Kimono, the pain in our hearts at his passing, is death in any form any less violent, the absence of his presence and being is a revolt of pain inside members of the family and all those who loved the music and message he dished out. How will Marley himself had answered to the question dying at the age of 36, even with the best of intention in the above quoted lyrics, was Marley’s work real over, or Peter Tosh assassinated, Lucky Dube, how is Kimono’s death any less violent and expected, even when he was more fortunate to count himself to be 60 years on earth.

So Kimono at heavengate, how will he answer to the question, of his work on earth done and over? Who will look at Africa and the state of the world, the growing poverty, in the very face of all of the means and human knowledge to end it and have a better life for all, and really and truly answered that Reggae Music’s work is done and the icons can fly away home to Zion and go rest and be unbothered at the worsening living condition on earth for the suffering masses.

Okay, the best of his music was done already and will continue to be there for posterity. ‘What’s Gwan?, “Under Pressure” these albums were title songs that spoke of the failure of the ruling elites to resolve the contradictions plaguing the working masses….. not least were songs like ‘Gimme Likkle Sugar’ … the songs were not only dance floor hits, his plea to the military rulers to give likkle sugar into the tea of the people was a metaphor for a bettering the lot of the masses fell on clear deaf ears.

There is no denying that Kimono had already recorded for all times his best. There was nothing new on offer, if ever there was anything else to beat the list of songs from his albums of decades ago, this had not been delivered. Yet Kimono cannot be accused of running out of stem, the times or tide had not changed. With Apartheid brought to an end and Mandela sworn in as the first Black President, our friends from the other divide had joked that the wind had done out of the sail, and Reggae Music was surely to die.

Yes Reggae Music itself was suffering from a hemorrhage. A generation of youths have been stoned on lyrics that can be better be described as trash, gangster lyrics, guns and violence were the dominant lyrics. The Rub a Dub era was ended. King Yellowman, Peter Metro, and the likes Freddie McGregor, Gregory Isaac… the Raggamuffins were birth and were home to lyrics of the self and ego tripping of their prowess and skill at mic. With the drum and bass still the defining line for the music, the dance hall was crowded more than ever before. The new names on the block were Shaba Ranks, Ninjaman, Flowergan, Super Cat, Cutty Ranks, Buju Baton, Mad Cobra, Terror Fabulous, Benie man, Bounty Killer, Spragga Benz… and they invaded Nigeria with all of their songs…

Could this possible be the reason for the displacement of the Nigerian brand of Reggae Music… Of all the fellows, who rose up on the heels of the sound, Kimono stood to the end. Managed fame in away that saw him identifying with reggae music till his last breath… Or is that life was more fair to him than others.

‘Lamentation of Sodom” by Tera Kota began the home grown reggae industry in the mid I980s, before the tides of waves rose to greater heights with the Rain Maker Majek Fashek, an extraction from the Jastix Band made up of himself, George Orwells, Black O’ Rice, McRoy Gregg, The Mandators, Ras Kimono, Orits Wiliki registered on the world map that Nigeria was not just an importer but she could also brew and export reggae music to the world. Fed by military dictatorship, reggae music gave open room to take up all of the issues of misgovernance, as the country moved from Buhari to the IBB era.

“Babylon system is the vampire”, Marley sang, but it was not a falling empire has Marley had predicted, if anything the Vampires were in full control in Nigeria with an iron grip to impose draconian Elizabitch policies of SAP dictated to them from Babylon. With deregulation and devaluation; the economy was in spin dive to the abyss, falling, falling…and falling. Marley “falling empire” turns out correct only in the reverse. And before long the record companies and labels, who had given muscle to an industry, were one after one, gradually squeezed out of existence, even when they clearly failed to deliver the necessary royalties to their artists. Profit was no longer abundantly super to feed the need of greed for super profit.
And so began the checking out… The Mandators, lead by Victor Essiet was gone, Majek, Kimono all joined in a craze for survival outside of the shores. Music was not completely the motive to behold and hit Babylon in its very heart with songs of its way and inevitable downfall. A menial job was the lot, the Pangolo exponent was rumoured to have cross over from the herbs to coke and crack… Another was a taxi driver all completely lost and missing in the webtrap of Babylon and the glitter of its cities.

Perhaps they could not match the flood of songs pouring into Babylon from Jamaica; the home of reggae music. Not with all of the names and new acts mentioned above and Capleton leading a brand reinvention of raggamufin sound in defence of the ideas of combating the Babylon system which was what originally gave reggae music its world wide fame….. The Ragamuffins had taken over; it was strictly all dancehall affair. The roots music old school reggae style that gave them their fame was gone. None of them could compete with the fast speed delivery of lyrics on drum and bass.

So once again Lagos, with Ajegunle giving the lead and Port Harcourt, provided fertile grounds from the 1990s down to give reggae music from Jamaica a new lease of life in the country. The Raga Dub Chapel gave us the Daddies and Pupas, Fresh, Showkey, who gained national limelight with dancehall signatures tunes, and many other on the long list included of Pupa Mike, who earns the credit to have hosted the first sound system in Ajegunle at his residence in Agugu (with the support of Ebiki), Pupa Sonny, Papa English, Pupa Irie, Segun Ranking, and many others, of course not leaving out MJ and the iconic Johnny Nabena, the dance hall don himself Daddy Ranking, the founder of RDC.

PH gave the country Daniel Wilson, but trust the economy, and its mono product of oil, with Babylon Slave Master through the IMF and World Bank instructing their schoolboys cronies at the helms of affairs to disinvest the Nigeria state and the resources and wealth of the country from all economic activities. And true to type, their words were heeded to the last letter. So all of the country wealth that could easily have been invested in as many sectors of the economy, music not excluded was excruciatingly denied the available funds. And the stage was set for a looting spree that the country could never have guessed will happen, with Soldiers who had forced themselves to power on a rescue mission. Kimono could not have captured it more better with the lyrics of all of his signature tunes “Under Pressure” and “What’s Gwan?” albums. And the new labels so called private investors like the Felin Records and their likes soon closed shops like EMI and Premier records before them.

The big boys with cash enough would not lend their funds to lyrics that questioned the state of how things was run, since this very disorder and misgovernance was the basis of their wealth.

Rather than Big it up, for Ras Kimono, and his exist from Earth, a country whose presidents past and present will rather fix the economy to function to meet the greed need for more profit and wealth for international capital and their cronies few members of the billionaire club as oppose to meeting the needs and wellbeing of the suffering masses.

Instead of employing the wealth of the country to providing all of the necessary medical facilities here, this president counting the last ten days in London, has spent close to 200 days for medical reasons out of the country. The cost of this alone is enough to provide a state of the art medical centre that will cater for him and allow the rest of us to also enjoy these facilities.

Yes Kimono celebrated his 60th Birthday and I was in attendance, indeed he called me the next day to apprecilove my presence at the event. So me caan tell no lie. Kimono was not telling us farewell at the event of a celebration of life. It was this damn country that took his life, both directly and indirectly as it waits to also take us out in turn, if do not March down dem cheatus Babylon system

Kimono no doubt is a success, one of the very few in his generation that stood till the end with the music, the Rhumba man is no more, but dem caan kill the sound. Kimono dey here so… ami say so. Kimono stand to represents the thousands of songs recorded but never got to be played or work on, or the millions of songs written and never recorded. This is the fate of the art here, of songs against the continuous worsening living conditions, of reggae lovers and artists that failed to become, given their refusal to trade songs for Babylon and its decadence as a way and trend of life.

Kimono is there, shines through for all time, one of the lucky few that weathered through all of the hurdles to put his songs into our hearts as against the thousands and thousands of other unwritten songs, unplayed songs… ‘Kimono no dead’ me hear the Rasta dem say, “him no dead/ him no dead/ the man are live on earth still…” so sang Peter Tosh, I will rather say yes the man conquer with him songs, but still Babylon is strong as ever, and is this country that in the end killed Kimono.

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