It was through music that slaves communicated, the drums warned other slaves and motivated them toward rebellion and change. Reggae music with its origin in Jamaica was one of the most effective tools in advocating for peace and unity, challenging political movements and creating change.
Today February 6th, the iconic Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley, would’ve been 73 years old, burning a big head spliff and spitting truth, enabling unity and preaching responsibility and love….regardless of who liked it or not, or how dangerous it proved to be.
Bob Marley’s mettle was noted in the early genesis of political tribalism. A 1970’s Jamaica was very violent, with opposing political leaders, Michael Manley (PNP) and Edward Seaga (JLP), saw to the creation of many methodologies employed to secure their victory at the polls and implement their agendas. Manley’s socialist agenda was least favored by the USA, as his alliances with Cuba and other nations at war with the US, was evident and a threat for the capitalist intention at the time. Jamaica was in a vulnerable but attractive situation, and the opposition leader, Edward Seaga was sure his capitalist agenda supported by the powerful United States of America, was one that would secure a bright future for Jamaica. This opposition created a war, and the soldiers of the war were poor black people, who were facilitated with guns and money via the cocaine and gun trade. These soldiers were friends and family members, who were incited to fight for or defend their respective party leaders and promises.
Bob Marley’s music sought to illuminate the manipulation behind polytricks, preaching love and unity all the time, highlighting the social injustice that was being projected onto his people. Waging a conscious war of his own, Bob Marley grew his ‘natty’ and smoked copious amounts of marijuana, at the time when the war and condemnation of the medicinal herb was very high. Rastafarians were denied social and economic mobility to say the least, but Bob, continued with his music and message that was very relevant at the time.
Determination and Selflessness
Bob Marley’s music advocated strongly for communal living (another feature of Rasta). Being neither black nor white, in a system that forces us to choose sides, Bob never advocated choosing sides, but more supported unity .
In the heat of the political violence, Marley believed that if given the opportunity to address a large group of people in one place, with his music, he could contribute to a raising of consciousness and hopefully stop the bloodshed and violence. So he approached the government with the idea of a massive free concert, SMILE JAMAICA. A leader of masses in his own right, both political parties wanted to hold Bob Marley as their own, a position which Bob Marley avoided, clearly disinterested in choosing a political side. The PNP however, the ruling party at the time and the one to give the approvals for the concert quickly took advantage of the opportunity to promote the event in support of their policies.
This ofcourse, led to the public opinion that Bob Marley had aligned with the PNP to the JLP and capitalist detriment. Marley had chosen a side! 2 days before the concert, Bob Marley’s home and home to other poor people, children and Rastafarians in the midst of the political warfare, was ambushed in a brazen but unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the Legend.
Despite his injuries and the obvious fear in his camp, BoB Marley performed at the Smile Jamaica concert on Sunday as planned, defiant in his message, as he revealed his wounds, to end the violence, risking his life and that of his family and friends for what he believed in.
Marley left Jamaica, soon after the show but was invited to another Peace Concert in 1978, ironically organised by leaders of 2 warring gangs, who had grown weary of the blood shed, Massop of the JLP and Brucky of the PNP.
The one love concert of 1978 was iconic, as the brain-child and desperate call for help from 2 dons, as a call to unity where both political and gang leaders shared the same stage and held hands in a symbol of peace, unity and love for the Jamaican people. Unfortunately, the war was bigger than its slave opponents, and Massop and Brucky were murdered in the war that ensued beyond the 1980s.
Grinding slow but grinding still – What has changed?
Jamaica has retained its violent history, with barely any breaks, the poor and even the said communities still largely at the centre of the reports on violence. Guns and drugs are now an entrenched part of our culture, the same poor inner-city communities are on the surface, still reminiscent of the 1970’s violence. The difference is that no one can honestly directly associate this wave of violence to political affiliations, but more so to individual greed and corruption at all levels.
Bob Marley’s messages of love and unity was perhaps not as successful in the 1970s because our violence was imported and managed by and for external interests. As Babylon prepares for its fall, its hold on Jamaica is compromised, and this is the right time for the Rastafari messages of love and unity. Consciousness and liberation are still some of the messages we associate and expect from Rasta, unfortunately, it would appear that Rasta has lost its value locally and as an agent of change in our society.
Bob Marley, Reggae music and Rastafarianism represents a few of the most renowned parts of Jamaican culture, it seems however that the Marley legacy is busy chasing Grammys as opposed to using music to create change…as was the real impassioned legacy of Robert Nesta Marley, Reggae and Rastafari. We are left with Capitalist Rastafari, token international Grammy awards, and an ailing culture directed by dancehall music, reversely influenced by Hip-hop and the American lifestyle!
GET UP! STAND UP!