Reggae superstar and Rasta prophet, Bob Marley remains one of the main icons of the contemporary world. Passing away prematurely in 1980, he transformed a musical style from Jamaican popular culture into a major movement.
A rather rare phenomenon, Bob Marley is adored both by the general public, who discovered reggae thanks to him, and by the most demanding connoisseurs.
His real name Robert Nesta Marley, he was born on February 6, 1945 in St-Ann, in the parish of Nine Miles. Son of a white sea captain who fled once his misdeed was accomplished, and of a black Jamaican peasant woman, he experienced the difficulties of being mixed race, caught between two worlds that did not know each other.
As a teenager, he left the countryside for Kingston, like many Jamaicans driven to the cities by poverty. However, work is rare and Bob lives in Trenchtown, a sordid ghetto where poverty, crime and filth are concentrated, in a promiscuity that is not very poetic at first sight. It was there that he met Bunny Livingston, then Peter Mackintosh, both passionate about music. Peter plays a little guitar and the three friends sing the rhythm’n’blues hits broadcast on Miami radio.
Bob Marley recorded his first song, “Judge Not”, at the age of 16, in 1961. In Kingston, a music industry began to develop in a chaotic way. The unemployment rate is then 35%. Having given up his job as a welder, he perseveres. In 1964, he formed the Wailing Wailers.
Bob Marley, a misunderstood prophet
Outstanding artist of his time, Bob Marley continues to live while it has been 35 years since the whole world mourned the disappearance of the one who can now be described as a living legend.
This May 11, 1981 remains engraved in all memories, especially among us, Africans. Thus, every May 11, commemorations are organized in almost all of Africa and even beyond, with the exception of Jamaica, his native country.
But what do we actually remember from the life of Bob Marley?
What memories do we keep of all his messages? What do we do with his prophecies? Are his ideals often present during these commemorations that we organize? Besides, do we really understand the meaning of his songs that we sing? I cannot answer for you.
Any observer, whether informed or not, knows that when we talk about Bob Marley, the first images that come to mind are his hair (Rastafari) and the smoke (cannabis). Thus, in our society, there are people who adopt his hairstyle and who smoke without embodying the values of life defended by Bob Marley. And of course, how often do we celebrate May 11?
Going clubbing reggae, smoking more than ever, trying to transform our hair to look like Rastas, even though we’re not Rastas. Some smokers even admit to having started smoking on May 11.
Unfortunately, this is the part of Bob Marley’s legacy that we have chosen, while completely ignoring the most important aspect. It is sad to see that we Africans have such corrupt minds that we often admire the dark side of things and people.
Bob Marley’s messages originally expressed an affirmation of the dignity and valorization of black identity for his people, who had been oppressed for centuries because of slavery. Let’s remember his songs “Slave Driver” and “Redemption Song”. Bob Marley also denounced colonialism and economic oppression.
He embodied the awakening of his people to a cultural and spiritual revolution against the oppressor, which he first described as being the fruit of a Christian imposture, even pagan, capitalist, corrupt, racist and hypocritical at the same time. Thus, he called on Africans to go beyond religious considerations to take their destiny into their own hands.
It is this reality that he expressed in “Get Up, Stand Up” when he said: “Stand up, fight, stand up for your rights… Never stop fighting… Most people think that the good God will come down from heaven, take all the trouble away and make everyone feel good… And now that you see the light, you stand up for your rights.” Yet we, who celebrate his memory every year, mean nothing to us. We don’t even talk about it. Besides, are we even aware of all this?
Bob Marley always attached great importance to African unity
For him, it was an essential condition for African descendants to return to their country and live in peace, far from all racism and all discrimination. You only have to listen to his song “Africa Unite” again to hear him say: “Africa, unite for the benefit of your children… Africa, unite because your children want to go home… Africa, unite you because we are moving straight from Babylon to the land of our ancestors”.
What do we do with this recommendation of the one we celebrate on May 11? What action do we take on a daily basis to make African unity a reality?
The dimension of Bob Marley is much larger than what we give him today.
Every time we think of this gentleman we must remember that he is first and foremost a symbol of emancipation and freedom. I suggest you make his song “redemption song“ your favorite of all his songs. It will shape your vision of Africa, it will give you courage, hope for the liberation of Africa.
Thanks to the internalization of the message of this song you will leave the field of inaction to become very active Africans for the development of Africa because you would have understood that to remain with folded arms while we assassinate day by day our prophets is high treason. Above all, you will realize that our mentality is our worst enemy.
Bob Marley understood this very early on.
This is what he is referring to when he says, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, no one but you can free your mind. Do not be afraid of atomic energy because none of them can stop time. How long will they kill our prophets? While we’re right by and watching? Won’t you help me sing another freedom song? ‘Cause all I’ve ever had is songs of freedom.”
Clearly, you now understand better Bob Marley and the best way to celebrate him so that he is proud of you by seeing you from the afterlife if he has the possibility. We others, we have not done the rasta but we are already walking in the footsteps of Bob Marley. We defend the same values as him.