Bob – legend, musical icon, husband, father, mixed- race boy from the inner city & country. Perhaps most important of all, depending on how you look at it, he was undoubtedly, unapologetically Jamaican. One person, many sides and all of them portrayed in the documentary set for worldwide release April 20th – Marley. Last night the Jamaican population was given the distinct honour of sitting with musically royal Marley family to share their stories, thoughts and moments with Bob (image borrowed from net, no copyright infringement intended).
The venue – Emancipation Park, in the heart of New Kingston – was packed to overflowing as thousands of Jamaicans came out to see their beloved. Most sat or lay on mats, cushions, blankets, sprawled on the damp grass, beneath the night sky and the large screens. Complete strangers, through their love for the man and his music were united in this droplet of time. Two ladies I never met before offered my friend and I a seat on their red blanket. Adults swayed and young ones bobbed to the lure of the Bob’s voice. Scents of boiled corn, pan chicken and other street delicacies filled the night air with, of course, the inevitable smoke of herb.
My pores raised as the song “One love” was sung by various persons around the globe – from South Africa & the Congo to California, and on to India & Nepal. No greater reminder was needed of the far reaching tentacles of the message Bob had to share. As the documentary opened we were taken to Elmina Castle, Ghana – site of slave trade. We were walked to the “Door of no return” where slaves were stripped, branded and taken to waiting slave ships. As we went through the door we exited to images of Bob singing “Exodus”. The journey had truly begun.
Depending on how good a student of history you are, you may well find that not too many “new” details were given, but for many I am sure it was a riveting and very moving experience. Seeing Bob’s first teacher sing his favourite song about a donkey, hearing the reason for the choice of name “Wailers” – because they came from a place where people were always wailing and bawling – and finding out that part of the the group’s preparation for success involved performances in the dead of night for duppies (spirits) in the cemetery – all added to the tale. Read between the lines and it is easy to see where the man who gave himself to the world fell short in being father and husband. Perhaps most priceless of all was the slight tremor when his cousin and half sister publicly admitted that the boy who had been shunned by his father’s family had indeed become the cornerstone of the Marley name.
As images of Trenchtown 50 years ago and at present flashed, one couldnt help wondering whether much had changed in the inner city since Bob moved uptown to 56 Hope Road. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture in her speech described Marley as the consummate student of the sidewalk university. Certainly an apt reminder that in life it’s not so much where you came from but where you are headed. Thanks Bob for sharing one night with me.