RUB-a-dub master, Ras Kimono, is one of the greatest Nigerian reggae stars ever. His music shook the whole of Africa and beyond in the 90s when he released his hit album, Under Pressure. He relocated to the United States of America (USA) after some other hit albums. Kimono is back again to promote his new album and reggae music. He revealed to ENCOMIUM Weekly how musicians should relate with politicians, what life has taught him and more.
How would you describe your career at the moment?
It’s blossoming. Lovely everyday. People have been saying, ‘No more reggae music since I went foreign.’ But I am back now to rejuvenate and revive it.
So, what you’re working on at the moment?
I have just dropped two singles, Veteran and Wicked Politicians. But they are not out yet. What we have are promotional copies. I am fully back as a veteran and that’s the reason one of the singles is entitled Veteran. I am hoping and praying to get a marketer when the full album is released.
What really inspired the second single, Wicked Politicians?
The whole album was recorded in the US before I came back to Nigeria two years ago. So, I have done it already due to what is happening in the world. The politics going on in the world is nothing to write home about. Politicians everywhere are fraudulent. So, it is not only a Nigerian factor. Even in the USA where we think they are alpha and omega, there is fraud in their elections. It’s not peculiar to Nigeria or Africa alone. Most of them are liars and hypocrites and that gave me the idea of writing Wicked Politicians. For instance, see what is going on in Ivory Coast where somebody has been declared a winner and the incumbent president said he is not stepping down.
So, what is your take on some of your colleagues who are supporting politicians?
People do things for some reasons. Probably they are doing it for money. But, truly, if a politician is doing good things, there is nothing wrong supporting him. However, the majority of the politicians are not doing good. They are all liars. They use musicians to get to power and after that what happens? They dump them. The only governor that has really done good as far as I am concerned is Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim. He appointed an artist to his cabinet. If a governor could do that, I wouldn’t mind to support him without charging money if an invitation is extended to me.
Which means that if you’re called to support politicians, you’ll join the train?
No, don’t get me wrong. I can’t join. For instance, a couple of days back, my friends called me to sing for some politicians. I said to them, ‘I am sorry men, I can’t do it.’ What am I going to say if people accuse me of playing for politicians who steal our money? I can only do that if the politician has shown good examples. For example, if a friend comes to me and says let’s play for Governor Fashola of Lagos State, I will support him because he has done well for Lagosians and we want him to do more, that is why we’re going to support him. There is nothing wrong in celebrating good politicians even without monetary compensation. Ras Kimono will not support any governor or politician because he wants N10 million.
As a stakeholder in the industry, in what way do you think musicians should relate with politicians?
Positively. As a stakeholder, musicians are the mouthpiece of the people. We’re in one corner and politicians are in another corner. So, if they are not doing good or what we want, we have the right to criticise them because we (musicians) are close to the masses and we should be for the masses. If I don’t criticise them because of money, they will lead us astray. That is why I say in the album, Fire born wicked politicians. Take for instance, the two past governors of Edo State have not done anything good to the people. The development in Edo State before Adams Oshiomhole emerged as the governor was nothing to write home about. Imagine a young governor like Lucky Igbinedion could not do anything for Edo State. It’s a big shame to him. So, musicians should be closer to the people than the politicians.
Since you left the country years ago, reggae music is believed to be dead. What are your plans to rejuvenate or revive it?
You’re right. In fact, a lot of people have been accusing me and Majek (Fashek) for running away. Apart from that, there are more than a million artists who could not carry on the banner. But now, I am back to pick up the banner where I left it and contribute my own quota to reggae business till the day I will fly away. That is why I am back to rejuvenate reggae and I believe when my album is released, it’s going to shake the industry.
Why do you think young Nigerian artists could not carry the banner from where you left it?
Most of them want quick money, that is why they go for music that brings quick money. However, music shouldn’t be seen in that direction. That is where the youths of today get it wrong. Music is a passion and not majorly for money. They can’t get the type of money they want when playing reggae. I am back now to carry on the crusade.
With the type of music we have now, do you think Nigerians will accept reggae like they did in the 90s?
Most definitely, because reggae music is a legacy that has nothing to do with money or whether Nigerians will accept it or not. Early last year, I did a show in Abuja with some artists, and when I stormed the stage, people received my music and the kind of ovation I received indicated that people still love reggae. Sincerely speaking, Nigerians love reggae music, only that nobody to play it for them the way it should be played. But our young artists are afraid whether people will buy it or not, that is why they go for the alternative (hip-hop, R n’ B, etc). I am sure that a lot of people will buy my album when it is released.
Can you tell us your experience in the United States of America?
It was a nice experience because I left the country for the United States to broaden my knowledge musically. It was indeed a lovely one. I played shows here and there, but the reception was not like where the people know you. Really, it has been a wonderful experience for me and my going out of the scene for years has been a blessing because I have come back now and it has not affected my popularity. Everybody is now looking forward to my next album. I give thanks to Jah for the journey.
There were reports that things were not fine for you in the United States?
Which report? I have not come across such report. But basically, I didn’t come home because things were not easy for me in the States. I was living fine, doing shows and I decided to come back home because it’s time. I don’t regret going to the United States. I just decided to come back home.
What about your family, particularly your wife and children?
They are doing fine in the United States. My wife and kids are there now.
What part of your body do you cherish most?
I cherished my face so much that while I was growing, I didn’t want anything to strike it. But at times what you cherish most may eventually harm you. In 1999, my band members and I had an accident which resulted in me putting on glasses. That was where I got all these marks on my face. In fact, I was almost blind, but I thank God. I once had a good face that I cherished so much, but the accident marked it.
What about your dreadlocks?
Don’t go there because somebody once asked me if I can cut it for a million dollar. I told him it’s not going to be the reason why I should cut it. The devil is a crook. My dreadlock is my symbol and what happens if I cut it for a million dollar and I am involved in an accident. The money will be used for my treatment and the dreadlocks would be gone. That is the wish of the devil. Jah gave me the dreadlocks and it must be used the way it should be used. So, I am not going to cut it for any amount for money.
As a veteran in the industry, why do you think young artists are living recklessly?
I don’t really know what to say because we didn’t live this type of life during our time. Maybe they think some of us use drugs on stage. For instance, I don’t smoke, take alcohol, but when you see me on stage, you think I have taken ganja. So, if I could be where I am today, they too can get there without taking drugs. I am thinking of organising a seminar where I will tell them to slow down with their reckless life. Music, today, is all about alcohol, women and ganja. These should not be so. Music is not done in this manner and they don’t have musical tunes. But when you talk to them, they will say, ‘You’re old school.’ So, I beg them to take it slowly.
Can we put the blame on the musicians or the regulatory body for not doing their job?
The artists should be blamed because the body only regulates lyrics and I don’t think the body is working effectively in Nigeria. Today, people are just singing rubbish and the regulatory body is not doing anything to arrest the situation. Television, especially foreign programmes, have also affected their thinking. They are not learning good things from TV. In this case, I put the blame on parents for not guiding their wards. Today, parents don’t have time for their children. They have contributed to their reckless life by encouraging them to imitate foreign culture.
What are the lessons that life has taught you?
Life has taught me to know that all that glitters is not gold. Many of us think America or Europe is heaven, but it’s not so. As a journalist, don’t go there to work because you’ll kill your career. So, stay in Nigeria and I am sure you’ll make it. My going abroad has taught me that all that glitters is not gold.
What is your candid advice to our young musicians?
I am begging young musicians to leave drugs and reckless lifestyle, if they want to grow in the industry. They should learn to play at least one musical instrument. Those who are Christians should read at least a chapter of the Bible in a day and Muslims should read their Qu’ran. Music should not be competitive, but a mission. For instance, the beef going on between Ruggedman and 9ice is not music. I beg them to stop now.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, January 25, 2011