When I was a part of the Uhuru Movement here in Oakland Ca, back in the late 1980s, I was introduced to alot of powerful protest music, and most of it was Roots Reggae. I was already familiar with Bob Marley, since his hit Roots, Rock, Reggae was played “on the R and B” here in California, U.S. But I started getting a fuller understanding of the power of this roots music as I was exposed to other artists. This black liberation music taught me alot about who I am and the struggle that I find myself in. It also taught me that I and all black people should be involved in the fight. Get in where you fit in!
There was one album that stood out for me. It was titled, “Liberation” by Bunny Wailer, who was one of the original members of Bob Marley and the Wailers. In the beginning they were simply called The Wailers. But stuff happens, and eventually they separated and Bob Marley became the most well known and famous of the three, which included Peter Tosh.
Every song on the Liberation album is powerful and spoke to our struggle as black people! I especially like “Rise and Shine”. The song is classic for the bassline intro alone, but the beginning chant (lyrics below) along with that powerful bassline ought to move you! I remember how this music encouraged me and propelled me to continue struggling for black liberation and my own mental freedom!
I’m wondering, is this type of powerful liberation music still being made anymore?
This is the cry of a people
who were robbed and raped from their homeland
and their loved ones.
A people stripped of their culture,
their dignity, their liberty and their rights
and by the cruel and presumptuous
hands of the colonial and imperialistics slavers
were cargoed into the west,
where for over 400 years they have toiled and laboured,
and with their blood, their sweat, them tears and hands
they have built the great city of Babylon,
only to be paid with the wages of the taskmaster’s whip,
torture and death. continue
Then the lyrics to Bunny’s song “Ready When You Ready” is another powerful one, speaking directly to the people about revolution of the shitstem.
Mi ready when you ready fi go chant down Babylon, dutty system.
Mi ready when you ready fi go lick down Babylon, in a rhythm.
Mi ready when you ready fi go tear down Babylon.
Mi ready when you ready fi go mash down Babylon.
Them nah do it like how dem say dem plan
dem just a dash it out dey in a foreign land.
A hungry nation is a angry one
and it is bound to cause a revolution.
Power struggle a bubble it a bubble
and starvation is on the double.
The ghetto children don’t seem to stand a chance
instead of opportunity it’s self reliance. cont.
As the last surviving member of the original Wailers, Bunny Wailer is that unsung giant of the black liberation struggle. He’s only 63 years young and is still fighting through his music. One Love!
A Luta Continua!
I’ve been vibing to Bob Marley all day, as sort of a tribute to the man and an acknowledgment of the influence of his music on my life.
As I listen to song after song, it takes me back… waaay back to my yout’… growing up in Jamaica, coming to Canada, struggling through adolescence and young manhood… into adulthood… until today. Through the various stages, however I want to divide and define them, the music of Bob Marley has been there for me. There was a time when I listened to Bob everyday. He was the musical prophet who soothed my raging soul. Even today, when the daily grind of life seems to be taking it’s toll… a pound of my flesh, as well as a quart of my spirit… I throw on some Bob and I am rejuvenated and empowered once again by “don’t worry, ’bout a ting, ’cause every li’l ting, gonna be awlrite”.
It’s interesting how life and time changes perceptions. Today, Bob Marley is a revered icon in Jamaica and around the world. As a yout’ in Jamaica, back in the seventies, he was seen as a rebel and his music a bad influence on us young’uns. In fact, Rastafarians in general were looked down upon… their hair (it still somewhat amazes me that dreads are now fashionable), dress, religion, music, the ganja smoking, etc.
As a child, living with my grandparents in rural Jamaica, I remember the only records we listened to were Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jim Reeves and Bing Crosby. There may have been a Mahalia Jackson gospel album too… but there was certainly no RnB, Motown and absolutely no reggae. My grandfather was so conservative that as a teenager, if I returned from the barber and my hair wasn’t cut “down to the wood”, he would escort me back himself and get it cut lower. The first time I heard the word “nigga” used was by him, in reference to poor Jamaicans… those not in the same economic and social class as we were.
Jamaica at that time was a very class conscious society, with a heavy dose of “colourism” that was added to the mix. The lighter you were, the higher social status you had, regardless if you had the economic/financial resources that went along with this social status. Whites, Mixed #1 (White and Black/Chinese/East Indians), Chinese, East Indians, Mixed #2 (Chinese/East Indians and Black) and then Blacks… was the basic colour induced pecking order. My grandfather was a dark Black man, but because he had made a lot of money and was in the upper middle class of Jamaican society, his economic class trumped his colour based social status… to some extent. He considered himself equal to the Mixed, Chinese and East Indians, but showed a subconscious, but obvious deference to Whites, regardless of their economic status.
This is the societal backdrop to Bob Marley’s music when I started listening to it on the radio and at school. “Baldhead” was a term Rastas used to signify those of the “establishment”… i.e. those with short hair… who oppressed, looked down upon and took advantage of the poor… those like my grandfather. It wasn’t based on colour… it was based on economic class, neo-colonialism and imperialism. That is why there is no White vs. Black rhetoric in Bob Marley’s music or reggae music in general. That is why a song like “Get up, Stand up, for your rights“, transcends race or colour and speaks to anyone around the world who find themselves oppressed by a political, economic, religious or social class.
Once I came to Canada in the late 70’s, going into my late teens, to my university years and into my 20’s, Bob’s music sustained me. He was about spiritual revolution and African consciousness. A young Black man of Jamaican heritage growing up in cold, white Canada, developing a revolutionary spirit, his words kept me grounded. Yeah, I was seen as a rebel by my family, especially after I started growing dreads (when it wasn’t acceptable or fashionable to do so among, especially among Black people) and began advocating for the less fortunate… the “niggas” as my grandfather used to call them. In Canada I was now the “nigga”… but called “nigger”… based solely on the colour of my skin, regardless of the economic class of my family.
But Bob saw me through it all. He brought clarity to my mind and calm to my spirit. Today as I listen and reflect… and go forward… I share him with my 2 year old son. He will certainly have his trials and tribulations as a Black man within this society. Undoubtedly, the legacy of the rastaman vibration will live on.