Lucky Ranku

Lucky Ranku was an extraordinary man who had two great passions in his life.   The first was his love of music, and the second was his hatred of apartheid in his homeland of South Africa.   Lucky used his extraordinary talent as a musician to rally people in the battle against apartheid.   In exile in the UK, he, along with Julian Bahula, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa, Marah Louw and a host of others, introduced audiences to the sheer joy and exhilaration of kwaito, of township jazz and of South African music.

It did not matter to Lucky what the size of the audience was, whether it was in a small club somewhere in London or in front of 70,000 people at Wembley Stadium.   Lucky always made himself available in the cause of destroying apartheid, and of liberating his people from its tyranny.   This was something that he was absolutely passionate about.   It was something to which he committed his talent and his life.   For Lucky, this was not a sacrifice.   It was simply something that he had to do.   And he did it with great aplomb.   Anyone who heard him play was truly lucky.   This was especially the case when he was playing with his great friend Julian Bahula.

My best memory of Lucky however came after the end of apartheid.   1997 was the 30th anniversary of the murder of Steve Biko, and Action for Southern Africa’s south-east region decided to organise a commemorative concert at the Union Chapel in Islington.   Lucky was one of the first people to come on board, helping to organise the music for the evening.   Others followed his example.   Felix Cross organised a choir to sing “Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika” to open the event.   Donald and Wendy Woods gave us a photograph of Steve Biko for the front page of the concert programme.   So many people helped.    But it is true to say that without Lucky there would have been no music, and without music there would have been no concert.

Lucky helped us to organise an extraordinary evening, as he had done so many times.   Music played a huge role in organising the opposition to apartheid worldwide.   It was people like Lucky and his friends who made their music available in the battle against the evil of apartheid.

I am very proud to be able to pay tribute to an extraordinary musician, an extraordinary man.   I am so grateful that I had the privilege of knowing him.

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