interviewBy Florence Amagiya
More than 25 years after he ruled the stage as reggae star, Ukeleke Umwubuya, aka Ras Kimono is back on stage again. He sojourned in America for many years with his wife and two daughters. He returned in 2009, and he's already doing what he knows how to do best.
Ras kimono remains ageless and when asked what has kept his youthful looks; he attributes it on his clean lifestyle, revealing that he is a vegetarian. In this interview, he talked about his just released album titled "Matter of Time", one of his songs he titled, "Fire go burn them", his two daughters in America, his wife and his collaborations...
Where have you been since your return from America?
At the moment, I am in Asaba, Delta state; I was in Port Harcourt, Rivers state last December for their Carnival known as Carniriv. The Carniriv was awesome; it ended with reggae all night for Christmas celebration.
Your latest album as usual was message bound; would you do a collabo with one of the new artistes or upcoming artistes around?
I would definitely do a collabo if there is a new artiste with a Reggae hit or track that wants to feature me.
Does that mean that you won't change your style of singing; you were known as a reggae artiste?
Yes l am a reggae artiste. Reggae is not just about singing; it is more about preaching a gospel for change. Reggae is all about using music to pinpoint the anomalies in the society. The album l released last two years called "Matter of Time" had all the quality of good reggae music.
What was the market like when you started compared to now?
When I started music, I never saw it as a means of generating money, it was all reality and singing was not just fun because I was preaching reality not fiction or tales by moonlight... Money comes and it goes but spreading my music around the globe was my priority and spreading good tidings in every of my tracks was all l wanted to do.
Was it just music you were spreading or there is a gospel to that music?
My songs are filled with messages; there must be a reason for passing out any message, so in other words they are gospel I am preaching one way or the other. My latest album 'Matter of time', on one of the songs I did, I titled 'Fire go burn them the wicked politicians'. That's gospel!
What inspired that song?
It is amazing the type and amount of theft going on in this country. The way and manner the Nigerian politicians are going about issues show that they don't have the interest of the masses at heart. I get my inspirations by what is happening around. And that's what reggae music is about.
Would you say that the present day artistes /musicians are gaining credit for their music compared to when you started as an artiste?
Most definitely, the artistes nowadays are making some much money than when we started. Shamefully, most of their songs don't go with heavy or raw messages like ours back in those days. Back then, every family wants to buy Ras Kimono, Mandators or others, but not all families can go out to shops for all the available artistes we have on air today.
The reason is because the artistes most times don't write songs that are loaded with messages, or dwell on songs that will elevate someone that is depressed or uplift a poor man's spirit, just to be happy and have hope for the future, but these days, it's all about merriment and party, drinking and all, no proper message.
Do you think Nigerian music these days have some negative influence on our youths when compared to your time ?
Some of them are, but I cannot tell you that all the music done in Nigeria today is bad. The problem is that l do not think people still check these music before it is allowed free passage to the masses. That also is a way for the youths to be influenced negatively.
Where will you say Nigerian music have gotten to if you have to rate it?
Nigerian music has gone far and wide, if you travel to Europe, America, China, India, you hear Nigerian music, and it's been aired over and over again, but airing Nigerian music is not enough, because there should be some sense of Positivity in it, not the other way round... Most Nigerian artistes are not singing reality, so rating them will be a bit difficult because most of them sing what tends to favor them and not facts.
The truth is that Nigerians sing about other people's culture these days because they feel that it is what its in vogue; the Americans can sing about Samba and Sambo. It's part of their culture and they could dwell more on it and do it well. We have a culture we can also promote it for the world to see and teach them a little about Africa, but the case is different here because most of us Africans are not proud of our culture.
We know about your daughters, but we don't know when you got married!
I was married and still married officially, my wife used to be my manager before we left Africa for America. Right now, she is there with the rest of my kids.
You had a controversy with Majek Fashek recently. What brought about this exchange of words?
Well, Majek Fashek is my younger brother in the industry and in age; we sometimes talk playfully; we give each other names without meaning to be rude. So he called me an obese Rastafarian and I called him a drunk. But we are not quarrelling or anything. I even spoke to him today.
Would you say Reggae is dying in Nigeria?
Reggae music is all about truth and rhyme, the youths these days don't have those values to consider, all they think is party and all that. In one of my tracks in my recently released album; I did a song titled "Fire go burn them all... the wicked politicians...". What I am saying is that most of present day reggae artistes are scared of singing about crimes, corruption, killing, rape and other bad stuff, so many of them are shying away from the truth and when they make money from those corrupt minded people, it is as bad as you being the robber who stole money to grease your palm when you sing his praise or something else
You have a very long thread locks; how long have you been growing your hair?
I have been growing my hair for about 30 years now and in those years I have remained a vegetarian.