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(photo credit: AP)
Music and tears flowed at the memorial service for slain reggae star Lucky Dube, as friends, family and fans expressed anger and sadness at the death of the artist who sang about the crime ravaging South African.
Dube, 43, was gunned down in front of two of his children last week in an apparent carjacking attempt in Johannesburg. Four men, arrested in connection with the murder, appeared briefly in court Tuesday.
"I regard Lucky Dube as a national symbol. If people can kill him, then they can kill Nelson Mandela," said Linda Xulu, a dedicated Dube follower.
Posters of the star with his trademark waist-length dreadlocks covered the walls of the packed Bassline, a popular downtown music venue. Seated on the floor, barefoot and dressed in white, were members of the Shembe, a Zulu Christian sect to which Dube belonged.
Outside, up to 1,500 or so fans - many wearing the Rasta colors of green, gold and red - gathered to watch Wednesday's service on a large screen.
"Today we are here to mourn, but also to celebrate the life of someone who made us very proud as South Africans," musician Sipho Mabuse said.
Dube, who launched his career in the 1980s with criticism of the apartheid regime, went on to become a huge international star recording more than 20 albums and sharing stages with the likes of Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Sting.
Ivor Haarburger, chief executive of Gallo Records, described Dube as an "enormous talent" who was a quiet and reserved man, but whose stage performances were "amazing."
"We as a nation are shocked and saddened at the news. With this senseless and disturbing act a great spirit has been taken from us. It is a loss felt by millions throughout the world," he said.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, recording an average of 50 murders each day. UN crime statistics say one in three Johannesburg residents has been robbed. Rapes and assaults also are common.
Dube's murder marked "a sad day in the history of the country," arts and culture minister Pallo Jordan said in a statement that was read out while Dali Mpofu, chief executive of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, said South African society was "rotten at the fundamental bowels of itself."
"We have lost a legend, an icon," said Skipha Shabalala, lead guitarist with Dube's band. "Why was this man killed in such a brutal and barbaric manner?"
Dube expressed his concerns about crime in his lyrics, most notably his 1999 song "Crime and Corruption," in which he wrote: "Do you ever worry about leaving home and coming back in a coffin, with a bullet through your head?"
Quoting from this song, Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said: "Violent crime is robbing us of our finest sons and daughters. Criminals are threatening all the gains we have made over 13 years."
Messages of condolences, which continue to pour in, were read out including statements from Peter Gabriel and the presidents of the Gambia and Senegal.
The three-hour service was broken up by performances from some of Dube's fellow musicians as well as the artist's band.
"I am sad. Even if the people who did this are arrested, they will still live," said musician Bhekumuzi Luthuli, barely able to sing for the tears choking him.
In another heartbreaking moment, two of Dube's seven children took to the stage at the end of the service to read out a statement from the family.
"We are going to miss you forever," said a sobbing Laura, holding on to her elder sister Bongi.
Then as Dube's band broke into song, the crowd outside paid tribute to their hero the only way they knew how - by taking to their feet and dancing.
"Love those who gimme war," they cheered as the band played the title song from Dube's latest album "Respect."
"I love those who hate me. I bless even those who curse me. Gimme, gimme respect," they sang.
A funeral was planned for Saturday.
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