By Fred Iwenjora
Umar Baba Ahmed was the man on the bass guitar who created the infectious dubs that made late ace reggae musician Ras Kimono the Rub a Dub master.
Ahmed who now lives in Ghana in this encounter with FRED IWENJORA relieves the good and bad times with Kimono. He also talks about his latest musical activities and more.
How did you receive the news of the death of your brother man Ras Kimono?
The sad news was shocking to say the least. The news came to me via social media and I wept. Kim was a brother.
What has been happening around you since the Massive Dread Band disbanded so to speak?
Since the Massive Dread Band of Ras Kimono disbanded with all the musicians going their separate ways, I returned to Ghana and resurrected my band Kutashe and Ogya Band again with a new crop of musicians. We play what we call the Kusuntu beat which is a fusion of rhymes and traditional beats. We still tour with the band. Currently we perform regularly on Dodi Princess, a Cruise boat on the Akosombo Dam on the Volta Region of Ghana. It is under Volta hotel Akosombo.
In fact whenever we are performing on Dodi Princess, I always remember my cherished years at floating Bukka Marina Lagos.
How and when did you meet Ras Kimono?
I met the late Ras Kimono through one Oba Bade, at the floating Bukka, Marina Lagos. He was also regular at Caban Bamboo owned by Late Bobby Benson at Onipanu, Lagos.
Kimono was a reggae DJ way back in 1983. Our relationship grew as he used to visit us at Agege in our family house. At that time my elder brother Mohammed, a lead guitarist who is now in the US and I took interest in his DJ work. I quite remember vividly. My elder brother and I saw big potentials in Kim that was very promising as an upcoming reggae artiste. Then we had our reggae band in Surulere at one Mr. Ogunade’s house, a musicologist. He is a well celebrated professor in music who was putting us together as a band.
When Kimono was starting his rehearsal at a studio in Oregun, he invited my elder brother and I to join him. We went on with him but soon left him to join Tera Kota, Sonny Okosuns band and a little bit with the legendary Fela. We also put a band together for Alex Zitto.
However, when Kimono’s time came to shine, I found my way back to him through a divine call in 1991. We had a very fantastic energetic, determined and disciplined reggae band I can tell you. We played across the nation and toured the world. The biggest tour for us were our days in Papua New Guinea. It is very unforgettable.
What do you think is the secret of the Massive Dread band’s successes?
Our secret of being the hottest reggae band at that time from Africa was through intensive rehearsals. We were all high class music professionals. We were coordinated and tight. Let me attempt a role call. I remember the Kimono Angels Toyin, Joanne, I remember Kunle on drums, Olowo on keyboards, I recall our tight horns line of Papa Tino and Jeano, May be one day we will organize a reunion of the veterans of Massive Dread band.
Sometimes the Massive Dread band had a near fatal accident that rocked Nigeria. What do you recall of that day?
This happened after we had finished a command performance in Port Harcourt and returning to Lagos. It happened at Shagamu Expressway. It was a Federal Government command engagement.
On that faithful trip, we were supposed to travel by air to Port Harcourt, but they said there was shortage of aviation fuel so we were compelled to go by road. A brand new vehicle, a J5 was allocated to us for the trip to and from Port Harcourt.
My comrade, that remains the saddest testament in my life as a top member of a big band in Nigeria. There was nothing like compensation for us band members. It means the vehicle was not insured. If the vehicle was insured, then we would have been compensated from the insurance company. if we died nko? we die unlawfully. But, thank God for His mercies. I’m still alive to give God all the Glory. I’m a living testimony. I can’t stop worshipping my all Beneficent and Merciful God, I always give him the Glory. In real fact, I remember and continue to respect the role Pretty Okafor played during that crucial moment. This is very crucial and vital.
Pretty was the one who was taking good care of me, because I couldn’t do anything while recovering from the crash. He was feeding me and my family by then. At that time he was just an artiste struggling to excel. But he did his best for me. I pray that God continues to richly bless him wherever he may be. However I feel pained that till today, nothing has been done by the musician’s body known as COSON led by Tony Okoroji about our case. It is rather unfortunate that he has not remembered this matter of how we sacrificed our lives for the late Kimono and his family. You also know that Kimono was with Tony Okoroji and his team before his death and he did not remind Okoroji of the welfare of his band members and Okoroji couldn’t even ask Kimono about us that were severely injured.
Don’t you think that if you were still based in Nigeria, you may have keyed into the COSON benefits?
Well..May be. When I visit Nigeria, I will commend him for what he is doing and ask for more.
Music seems to run in your veins; how did you start your musical journey?
I started music in Ghana during my secondary school days. That was before coming to Nigeria. I was part of the school band in the1970’s. I also studied event management to HND levels at the British Council Ghana. I went into event management and also formed my Band Kutashe and Ogyah Band. We traveled and toured in both Africa and Europe with the band until I came to Nigeria.
With your elder brother Mohammed playing guitar, it seems like music runs in the family?
My father was a police officer, not a musician, but my maternal Uncle was a local musician in Niger where my mum came from. My uncle played local instruments, called the Goge, Kuntugi, kora and moolo. He was a very popular local musician in Niger.
Also, my uncle from my father’s side also was a local musician, he played the Kalangu and the Ganga, that is the talking drums.
Any of your children following your footsteps?
None of my children took to music, my daughter is a police officer, my first son is a lecturer, a professor. My second son is a mechanical engineer. My third son is a businessman, a successful business elite. And the other two are footballers.
Any plan of coming to Nigeria again?
Well.. if God permits. We have a peace song we are currently promoting. May be soonest we shall visit Nigeria to promote it. We need peace in Africa and the entire world now more than ever so the song is relevant. So I pray it will be accepted by peace-loving people of the world.