Lucky Dube,
The Rough Guide to Lucky Dube
(World Music Network, 2001)

Lucky Dube is, deservedly, one of the top African reggae artists, and this album is an excellent introduction to his music. The fifteen tracks make up over an hour of music and demonstrate why he may be the best-selling reggae artist worldwide.

The songs on Rough Guide follow Dube's career, and it's very enjoyable to hear how his style has evolved over time while still retaining a distinctive flavor. Dube's integration of African rhythms into reggae works brilliantly, and I prefer this evolution to the dancehall style with its hip-hop influences and cross-pollination. I also love the positive and often socially-conscious lyrics -- a focus that much modern reggae has abandoned.

The liner puts these songs into context, both of Dube's career and the political climate in which they were written and released. For example, the third track, "Together As One," was written in South Africa's apartheid days and was his first album to be played on South Africa's white radio stations, while a previous album had been banned from play altogether. It was a sign of the changing times, too, since he had not softened his message to achieve this acceptance.

All the songs here are excellent choices. The first, "Reggae Man," sets the tone for the album and his career, and is a lively traditional reggae tune with fewer of the specifically African influences of his later work. "Prisoner" mourns the society that "doesn't build no schools any more, don't build no hospitals ... all it builds are prisons." "Feel Irie" has a slight dancehall flavor along with some rock influences, and "Crime and Corruption" has some of dancehall's heavy bass but in a somewhat traditional roots context -- an interesting blend, and followed by the very traditionally roots "The Way It Is," originally from the same album. And these are just a few examples from all the excellent songs here.

The liner notes are excellent, with an interesting essay that puts the album's music in context while it details Dube's career. Lucky Dube's music has had an enormous impact worldwide.

If you're a reggae fan at all and aren't familiar with Lucky Dube, get this album. Reggae fans that prefer roots styles to the dancehall type will also love it -- if they don't already have a bunch of Dube's albums! I also recommend it to anyone curious about reggae or about an artist who has had a gigantic impact on the worldwide music scene. We often get locked into narrow musical genres, and this is a good choice for exploring new horizons.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002

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