As I look at the reggae industry today, it’s hard not to hark back to reggae’s heyday, when Bob Marley ruled the airwaves with his positive conscious music.
Bob Marley, part of the singing trio The Wailers was discovered by Island Records CEO Chris Blackwell when Blackwell took a chance on the unknown group and funded the production of their first album for Island Records – the 1973 Catch a Fire, the fifth album by the group. Coincidentally Blackwell had previously released Bob’s first record, One Cup of Coffee.
Bob Marley arguably went on to become the face of Reggae and Jamaica becoming a reluctant unofficial spokesman and cultural icon. He was definitely prophetic in the contents of his lyrics and represented the suffering of the oppressed – the poor man’s griot.
Reggae has gone through many twists and turns, from its zenith as a leader in world music in the 70s and 80s to its evolution spawning the dancehall sub-genre which created a raft of colorful characters like Ninja Man, Eek-A-Mouse, Pinchers, Elephant Man et al to the lull created by a lack of creativity and crass lyrics with small pockets of hope flowing from the pen of artists like Assassin to the mash up phenom that led to dubstep out of England to where Reggae stands today.
If Bob Marley were still alive, I wonder what ten things about reggae he would be happy to know, I can hazard a guess and perhaps say he would be happy about:
1. The fact that as he prophesied in song, “None of his Children Would sit by the Wayside and Beg Bread”. The influence of the Marley offspring, from their earliest beginnings as The Melody Makers, headed by Ziggy to their current stature is the continuation of a musical dynasty. The Marley children are all pretty much successful in their own right as musicians, entrepreneurs or activists. Between them they have won a whopping 10 Grammy awards collectively.
2. Reggae music, from humble beginnings, and once considered ‘sufferer’s music’, now has an international reach, Bob Marley is a household name world-wide. Indeed Bob Marley, the Rastafarian frowned on by some of his own countrymen probably had glimpsed his own destiny when he sang “Dem Ah Go Tiyad Fi See Mi Face”
3. Having been an early and fervent advocate for the Rastafarian way of life and having been ostracized for that faith and even discounted as a musician, I know Bob would be pleased to see the respect and credence now being given to Rastafarian adherents.
4. Pushing the One Love philosophy in his music, Bob would definitely be elated to see that the messages contained in his lyrics have been used by countless other musicians who have cited him as a major influence.
5. Bob would no doubt be elated at the doors that have been opened to Jamaicans because of the cultural importance of reggae music on the wider world.
6. Bob would definitely have been standing in solidarity with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters in New York’s Zaccoti Park proud to be part of a movement that celebrated the 99%. I’m sure he would have orchestrated fundraising concerts for the OWS coffers.
7. I know that Bob would be glad that music as social commentary and protest is alive and well in the new crop of musicians, those singers and players of instruments who firmly believe that change comes through enlightenment.
8. While some would say Reggae is a Jamaican innovation and as such only Jamaican reggae is authentic, I believe Bob’s character being what it was, he wouldwelcome and embrace reggae belonging to and being performed by artists all over the world.
9. I think Bob as a pragmatist would see the crux of the issue to be the spread of reggae music and I know he would be happy to see the disparate races and nationalities who are reggae lovers and advocates for the music.
10. As humble as Bob was, I find it hard to believe that he would not be pleased that 35 years after his death, he is still regarded as the King of Reggae.
About the Author
Sheron Hamilton-Pearson hosts and produces The Conduit Show at www.e2onair.com or alternatively ustream.tv/channel/reggae-nation every Sunday between the hours of 6-9 pm EST. Sheron P’s Conduit Show is a popular magazine-style internet radio program where her quirky personality leads to lively and insightful conversations with celebrities and unknowns alike – giving voice to the ordinary and extraordinary in equal measure. Playing music that inspires – her playlist is widely divergent from week to week. Encompassing gospel, world beats, reggae, pop and soul and R n B classics, she also is passionate about introducing new voices and uses her platform to showcase artists whose music would not normally get airplay on terrestrial radio airwaves.
She is a community activist with particular attention to youths, mental health and fundraising for projects that spark her passion. She has worked with the Family Unification & Resettlement Initiative (FURI) and Padmore Primary School to source much needed assistance