Ras kimono, the reggae legend who stormed the limelight in 1989 with hits such as ‘What’s Gwan’ and ‘Rhumba Stylee’ died Sunday at Lagoon Hospital, Ikoyi, Lagos. He was aged 60. His death was confirmed by COSON Board Chairman, Tony Okoroji. “Kimono was not just a great musician but a truly fantastic person. He had no angst against anyone and stood for truth and justice at all times. I have not just lost a colleague but a valued friend. This is absolutely devastating.
” Kimono who was scheduled to travel to US last night was on his way to the airport when he complained of uneasiness. He was quickly rushed to a hospital in Ikeja and was later transferred to Lagoon Hospital where he died. Okoroji who was with him by his hospital bed before he left the earthly plane said the icon was still in good cheer despite his ailment. “We even shared jokes. I spoke to the doctors who expressed the view that he may have passed through the worst.
I was at the domestic terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja on Sunday when I got the devastating phone call that got me screaming like a mad man. I was already checked in for a flight to Owerri. That was the end of the trip and the airline workers had to go to the aircraft to retrieve my already loaded baggage.” Okoroji was joined by veteran musician Shina Peters, and other members of the society to condole with the family and ensure that appropriate arrangements were made afterwards. The news came as a shock to friends, family and loved ones.
“Alex Zitto and I just spoke about him on the phone yesterday,” said Azuka Jebose , a veteran entertainment journalist. “Both of them planned to visit me in North Carolina when Kimono arrives only for me to wake up to the sad news of his demise.” Born Okwudili Onwubuya, Kimono was very popular in the late eighties and nineties. He was a jolly good fellow whose passion for reggae music was unrivalled. Back in the day, he would hang out in Japex Studio, a popular reggae spot in Anthony Village, Lagos. There he would watch reggae artistes performed and was soon given the chance to hold the microphone. With his dreadlocked hair and facial beard, Kimono carved a niche for himself as the King of reggae with hit songs such as ‘Rhumba Stylee’, ‘What’s Gwan’ and ‘Under Pressure’.
He was among the generation of musicians who sang protests songs to checkmate the government of the time. Through his music, he addressed various social issues in the country; from poverty to indiscrimination, and colonialism in African countries. Kimono soon became a voice to the disenfranchised Nigerian whose daily life was a struggle. His songs became the ‘hard rock café’ for city dwellers. He had his big break in 1989 when Polygram Studio released his first album, Under Pressure. The album was very successful and had raving hits such as ‘Natty Get Jail’ where Kimono taught his fans the swing dance. Rhumba Style was the massive hit of that album, receiving generous airplays.
The following year saw the release of What’s Gwan, another album that proved to be even more successful. With topics that tackled legalisation of marijuana, colonialism and ethnic wars, the album fetched greater fame for the artiste. He toured Africa, Europe and USA. His style of music was heavily influenced by Jamaican and native African sounds. His fame fetched him the moniker ‘Rub-a-Dub Master’. As protests music declined in the new millenium era, Kimono evergreen sounds still resonated among the youths. He never failed to wow the audience each time he grabbed the microphone. At the last edition of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) Song Awards, he captivated the audience with his popular hit songs that many doubted if he ever left the music scene.
Till his passing, he was an unflinching member of the society and frontline member of COSON. In honour of the late reggae star, Okoroji said that flags will fly half mast from Monday morning, at COSON House in Ikeja. “A condolence register will also be opened at COSON House for the many-many lovers of Kimono to personally express their feelings at the loss of the Rub- a- Dub Master. On the many TV screens at COSON House, there will be continuous replay of the many great performances of Ras Kimono including his unforgettable performance at the last COSON Song Awards.
“I can assure everyone that COSON will ensure that Kimono is buried like the great star that he was and that his memory is never forgotten.” Kimono who hailed from Onicha Olona in Delta state was said to have suffered from respiratory problems and apnea over the years.