MY earliest encounter with the late radical Jamaican singer, Robert ‘Rasta’ Marley (1945-1981) was in the late 1990s through his oral poems (songs). I was enthralled by the sheer aesthetics of his music. The rhythmical flow, refrain, the reinforcement of alliterations, assonance, the sheer lyricism, the sublime thoughts, the metaphorical elegance of his reggae music and, deftly handling of his guitar and scintillating reggae dance steps. Today, the famous singer is still remembered, celebrated and canonized for his highly poignant songs that have inspired, edified, and empowered millions world-wide with confidence and knowledge. The late 1990s I encountered him, his music was one of the idioms that was used, and played to fire-up the minds of Nigerians to disgrace the repressive military government that held sway then out of office in 1999.
The word “radical” I earlier used according to my redoubtable teacher, Professor G.G. Darah of the Delta State University, Abraka in its scientific sense is “someone who naturally and instinctively favoured fundamental and thorough overhaul of… unjust and oppressive situation…”. The late singer was an exemplar of the foregoing radical instinct. He was a paragon of radical ideas. His music conveys the central messages of freedom and humanism. His music is suffused with radical thoughts. What one, or better put, listeners encounters in his music is the palpable proletarian streak that runs through. Maybe it is due to the fact of his peasantry background. He was a singer of the oppressed, peasants, wretched of the earth who sung about the plight, predicament and experience of the wretched of the earth, and for the wretched of the earth of the world to unite and free themselves from all forms of slavery.
The messages of liberation and justice for all black people are adumbrated by the symbolic titles of his songs: No Woman, No Cry, Africa Unite, Could You Be Loved, Get Up, Stand Up, I Shot The Sheriff, One Love, So Much Trouble In The World, Stir It Up, Is This Love, Concrete Jungle, Three Little Birds, Turn Your Light Down Low, Sun Is Shining, amongst other lyrics. These redemption and freedom songs identifies with the oppressed, are masses-oriented, and are clarion calls for social change.
Bob Marley’s iconoclastic and rebellious exuberance that pervades his music was influenced by the profound thoughts and philosophies of radical thinkers and liberators such as the versatile Jamaican orator, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Leonard P. Howell, the founding father of the radical Rastafarian Movement, Winster Peter Tosh Mchintosh, a Jamaican musician, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary Medical doctor. These avatars and fearless fighters are renowned for their messages of freedom, democracy, equity, justice, fundamental human rights.
infused in his music rastafarian ideas and doctrines. Rastafarian is a movement that frowns at materalism and avaricious tendencies. Again, Rastafarian embraces Afrocentric and pan-African social and political aspiration. A member of the movement is called “rasta”. Bob Rasta Marley was the best exponent of Reggae style of music that began in the late 1960s in Jamaica. Mob Marley’s Nigerian kindred spirits of the Reggae style of music are Majekodunmi Fasheke (Majek Fashek), Daniel Wilson (Ragamuffin), Orits Williki, Ras Kimono, Jerri Jheto, Alex Zitto, De King, Daddy Showkey (my ‘jaguda’ kinsman from Isoko in Delta State). These Nigerian reggae musicians have charmed lovers of music with their spellbinding Raggae beats, and their rastafarian lifestyle has inspired and spurred youths.
Today, the world is remembering and celebrating the “life and times” of Mob Marley, the iconic reggae musician because he put his art (music) in the service of humanity. His ideas are still celebrated. His songs are still on the top of most playlists. The central message of liberation and justice for the black people in his music that spurred the black people of the world more into action to end colonial misrule continue to inspire and spur us here in Nigeria in our fight for the restoration of fundamental human rights and dignity.
Oreh, studying English and Literary Studies at the Delta State University, Abraka
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