There goes Kimono – the rub-a-dub master

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On Friday, June 8, 2018, we spoke on the phone for quite a while.

He had planned to travel that evening to Atlanta. We spoke the way boys do.

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I teased him about Efe, his heartthrob of many years and mother of Dimma, his beautiful daughter born September 5, 2013.

Kimono knows that I like Efe.

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He chuckled and said that with the rainy season, it was getting quite cold in Lagos.

He joked that I should take care of Efe and to make sure that she remained warm while he was away.

Following Day, Saturday, June 9, my phone rang and who was on the phone? Efe; something had gone wrong. Kimono did not make the trip.

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He was in hospital. I rushed to Lagoon Hospital in Ikoyi. I was by my guy’s bedside in the ICU.

As soon as he saw me, he threw away the oxygen mask that was assisting him breath, shouted Presido, that’s what he always called me and we chopped knuckles and joked.

On Sunday, June 10, I was at the Airport in Ikeja to board an Air Peace flight to Owerri. I was with Bernice, the COSON Head of Finance & Admin.

After check-in, I called Efe and she kept muttering, “we lost him … we lost him”.

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We lost who? Nothing she said made sense.

I had to abort my trip, called my colleagues on the COSON Board and once again headed for Lagoon Hospital.

My guy, my colleague, my brother and friend I was bantering with the night before did not shout Presido.

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We did not chop knuckles. He was gone. Kimono was gone not to Atlanta but to a place I do not know for a period I cannot tell.

That Sunday, June 10, 2018, the media in Nigeria practically exploded.

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Ras Kimono was a giver. He always gave his heart, his smile, his immense talent and his love to one and all. He had no angst against anyone.

Kimono was totally dedicated to the COSON cause. He was not just a COSON member but a 100% committed COSON activist.

As a hyper creative person, he fought against anything that he thought would bring COSON down or drives the music industry apart.

He saw in COSON a watershed institution for the development of the Nigerian creative industry, which must be nurtured for the next generation.

Until he passed on, Ras Kimono was a key member of the COSON Board and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the society through every challenge. Anywhere COSON went, Kimono went.

Oseloke Augustine Onwubuya known to many around the world as Ras Kimono was born on May 9, 1958 in Onicha Olona about 20 Kilometers from Asaba, which became capital of the oil rich Delta State of Nigeria.

His father was Onwubuya Amafuibe and his mother, Elizabeth Nwaugha. Between Amafuibe and Elizabeth, they had two sons, Uzumefune and Augustine.

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The music bug caught the young Augustine while he was at St Mary’s Catholic School, Onicha Olona.

Try as he did, the bug would not let him be. He started showing the signs of what was to come when he began performing around his hometown.

It was the music bug that took him to Agbor, base of the famed highlife musician, coincidentally known as Saint Augustine popular for his highlife song, Ashawo no be work.

Young Augustine learnt the rudiments of live performance from Saint Augustine whose Rovers Dance Band he joined.

After a while, Agbor became too slow and not quite big enough for the dreams of the young Augustine.

So, in search of the real deal, he set out for Lagos, Nigeria’s headquarters of showbiz, the city of fast traffic, heavy nightlife, enticing gals and never-ending entertainment.

If the young Oseloke Augustin Onwubuya thought that Lagos was going to be his to conquer, he was mistaken.

It was tough, really tough. Lagos did not care who you were or were you were coming from.

To survive, he tried his hands at all sorts. In between his different runs, the young son of Onwubuya Amafuibe played with the Afro Vibrations band of Perry Earnest Okocha and actually lived with Perry Ernest in his modest Nnobi Street Surulere Home.

Perry Earnest was the sweet voice that led Sonny Okosun’s first ever-hit song, Help.

At some point, Augustine became a Disc Jockey at Floating Bukka, and with the likes of Buchi Atonwu, entertained at the once famous nightclub on a boat moored to the Lagos Marina.

After a long battle with Lagos disappointments and hard knocks, Augustine hooked up with the group, Jastix Reggae Ital made up then of some other young aspiring musicians such as Amos McRoy Jegg, Black O’ Rice, George Orwells and Majek Fashek.

Jastix, which had its base at Japex Studios in Anthony Village area of Lagos, was a major driver of the reggae revolution in Nigeria.

The likes of Victor Essiet of the Mandators fame, Evi Edna Ogholi, Orits Wiliki, with whom Kimono had a long relationship, drank from the vibes of Jastix. Amos Mcroy Jegg is now a minister of the gospel, but he does not forget those days with Kimono.

Also pushing the reggae movement was an organisation known as Rainbow Organization of the Rastafarians of Nigeria (ROOTRON) propelled by Jastix front liner, Black O’ Rice.

With the reggae influence in Lagos, the mostly shy and self-effacing Augustine Onwubuya, with his unique dreadlocks truly became Ras Kimono, upped his game and began to create his peculiar brand of revolutionary reggae music, very rich in social commentary in which he relived his life experiences and mocked Nigeria’s oppressive political environment.

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As the likes of Majek Fashek went solo, Ras Kimono began his own solo recordings.

The result of Kimono’s work was his 1989 master blaster debut solo album titled Under Pressure.

The album churned out several hit songs loved across the continent such as “Natty Get Jail”, “Under Pressure” and the monster hit “Rhumba Stylee” and the legend of Ras Kimono, the Rub-A-Dub Master was born.

The Kimono legend continued with the release of a string of hit albums such as: We No Wan also in 1989; What’s Gwan in 1990; Rub A Dub also in 1990; Run Fi Cover in 1992 and Lone Ranger, thereafter.

Ras Kimono was in demand and the demand cut across. With his Massive Dread Band, Kimono toured all over West Africa and Europe and played alongside many legends of popular music and was pursued by the media everywhere

Behind the rise of Ras Kimono was the managerial skill of his girlfriend of the time, Sybil Amuta.

As Kimono did the show, his Navy gal, Sybil, took care of the business.

The love affair between Kimono and Sybil took a new turn when they got married in an elaborate ceremony at the University of Lagos in 1990 after their big traditional marriage on December 8, 1990.

Of Kimono’s five daughters, three: Senami, Nehita and Somnebi are fruits of his marriage to Sybil.

At home, as the decade of the 90s began, Kimono was a dominant figure in the entertainment scene.

While Shina Peters held sway with Afro Juju, Ras Kimono was the King of Rub A Dub, his own brand of reggae that drove everyone crazy.

At the big wave making Nigerian Music Awards, the battle line was between Kimono and SSP.

While SSP was the undisputed King of the NMA in 1990, Kimono cleaned up the awards in 1991.

Kimono simply had many friends across the industry and beyond.

Ogechukwu Nwamaka Onwubya known to many, as Oge Kimono, is the first child of Ras Kimono born August 14, 1985 before Kimono’s marriage with Sybil. Oge has since taken to music after her father.

In 1997, Kimono immigrated to the United States, promoting his brand of reggae music.

This was not long after he lost his only brother, Uzumefune, who passed on in the US on November 13, 2005.

Kimono, the quintessential family man had challenges in America.

Maintaining a family, the African way and keeping up with the demands of the music profession that asks all of you, was really-really tough.

Between 1997 and 2005, Kimono struggled with these challenges.

Speaking with the Nigerian Music Machine, the Special COSON Week Magazine in 2015, Kimono relived some of his American experience as follows:

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“My kids are all girls. I clean them, dress them up, take them out everywhere, which most American men probably won’t do for girls.

They will say: I won’t touch them. They have this mentality of madness that if you touch your daughter, they will get something but we are Africans.

As a matured man, yes I shower my girls, then I dress them up proper; take them to school.

Sunday, I will take them to church, take them to the park”.

The reality of life in America put a severe strain on Kimono’s marriage with Sybil, which eventually gave way.

In 2005, Ras Kimono left America, came back home, re-assembled his Massive Dread Band and picked up his Rub-A Dub groove.

Anyone would have thought that after 8 years away, Kimono and his music would be history.

No Sir! Ras Kimono continued to rock the people and the legend of the Rub-A-Dub Master continued to hold sway.

Long after reggae was supposed to have lost its groove, once Ras Kimono went on stage, he drove everyone crazy.

On his return, Kimono fell in love again. Efe Okedi, the singer, became his mother, sister, friend, lover and inseparable partner.

You did not see Kimono anywhere without Efe – not on stage, not off stage.

It is possible that Ras Kimono Oseloke Augustine Onwubuya somehow knew that the time was up.

Weeks before that fateful day on June 10, 2018, Kimono appeared to be everywhere saying bye-bye to one and all.

The self-effacing Kimono who does not celebrate birthdays made sure that his 60th birthday was heavily celebrated.

On May 9, he brought his friends from far and near to come make merry with him at Times Square event center in Ikeja.

Present were the likes of Daddy Shokey, Dede Mabiaku, Ken Calebs Olumese, Bisi Olatilo, Chief Tony Okoroji, Sir Shina Peters, Edi Lawani, Orits Wiliki, Capt Emma Anyanwu, Kenny Saint Best, Agatha Amata, Lekan Ogunbanwo and many others.

Next day, June 10, at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja the entire COSON family joined in cutting a cake in honour of Kmono, singing and dancing with him.

At the Federal Palace Hotel on May 30, when Sir Shina Peters celebrated his birthday, Ras Kimono was everywhere hugging and waving to everyone, of course with Efe by his side.

Who knew that the Rub A Dub Master, the great Ras Kimono was embarking on a long journey and like the gentleman he was, he had to say bye-bye to his friends and fans?

-GUARDIAN-

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