Sunday,May 11th,2014 will be my hero’s day.
The true essence of my life has always revolved around music and its beauty.
We don’t always know why destiny brings us to the paths we take, or the people it propels into our lives.
I never formally met Bob Marley.
But from the fateful moment of my first musical encounter,I knew Bob was, and is, an integral part of my life and my identity as an African.
Yes, that’s right. Bob spoke to me…literally through his music.
For that, I consider myself one of the privileged few to have lived during his time on earth.
I loved his music.
I still do.
I loved his image.
I loved what he stood for.
As a child growing up in the 70s Africa(and Kenya borders Ethiopia,considered to the cradle of Rastafari Movement), Bob was, and still is, a legend.
He is, and will forever be, the king.
Aside from his music, it was his love for football that always kept bringing me into proximity of his presence as I played a ball made from rags with my fellow boys.
My pre-match nerves and butterflies
approached heart attack proportion after listening to his music in my transistor radio.
All the boys in my village tried to emulate him both in his musical prowess and his love for football.
Well, at least I tried.
But you have to understand.
This was Bob,a living legend.
And in our very own minds, we were in the presence of a living legend.
Who could perform under such immense pressure?!
In those days, my young life seemed to revolve around his next concert or the release of his next album or “Forty-five” (yes, I bought vinyl records in those days, not CDs or mp3 downloads).
And I bought them all; Burning, Catch a Fire, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, among other iconic works of the lyrical genius, often sacrificing lunch money to obtain them.
His words and music were life and
My gurdian-priest- father could not understand why I was always so hungry after school in spite of giving me lunch money.
I remember that staggering moment on TV when Bob
called Jamaican political leaders, Michael Manley and Eddie Seaga on stage and issued the proclamation
of what has become Jamaican anthem of unity…One love, one heart, let’s get together and
feel alright…I remember the atmosphere, the vibes and this magical moment that I shared with my friends and twenty thousand Jamaicans far away from my continent in the stadium that unforgettable evening.
Jamaica,the home of my musical icon, would rise above its pain and shortcomings and fulfil its potential after such an amazing display.
He did the same thing in Zimbabwe during its independence inauguration in 1980.
Yes, Bob was king.
And as king he was commanding his subjects, Michael and Eddie
counted among them, to unite for a cause.
As an enthusiastic 15-year-old, I didn’t quite fully appreciate the real significance of this great moments,but they inspired magic.
I was truly inspired.
And I mentally followed him everywhere I could to soak up the music and musings of this great man; his mystical performance at the first ever Sunsplash in Montego Bay; his release of the Survival album at the
National Arena in honour of the International Year of the Rasta Child (Peter Tosh unveiled his famous
‘M16’ guitar there too); and an awesome time at the National Stadium with Stevie Wonder.
But I especially remember Bob’s highly charged and miraculous performance at National Heroes Park just a few nights after the assassination attempt on his
How dare these people try to take our Reggea king from us?
Despite the obvious dangers and extremely
hostile political environment, Bob
could never be stopped by a mere bullet.
I remember when he sang, arm bandaged from the gunshot wound… “Woman hold her head and cry as
her son had been shot down in the street and
died…” and the special meaning so soon after his brush with death.
Here was an exceptional man who
despite it all and the natural fear for his own life, would not be denied the place in history he was destined for.
Here indeed was a hero.
Not that my guardian approved of me going crazy about Bob and his Music.
My guardian-father once gave me his clearest thoughts on the topic when he unceremoniously ripped a poster of Bob (which had come pre-
packaged in the Kaya album) from my bedroom wall and ordered that never again should a picture of this
‘dutty’ Rastaman appear in his house.
You see, parents in those days feared one thing, that their sons would ‘tun Rasta’, smoke ganja and become ‘wuthless’.
Bob’s immense influence and
popularity was terrifying to them.
I would spend hours at his Catholic Parish house copying Bob’s music to cassettes (thankfully technology
had moved on from just vinyl records).
I even remember getting some original Bob recordings,some that I don’t think have ever been published –or at least I’ve never seen them on any album.
How I wish I could find those tapes now!
Looking back and remembering how influential Bob was, I totally understand many parents’ fear of him.
But like the world over, they would eventually come around, and I even heard my Guardian-dad arguing with one of his friends a few years before he passed away, about how much of a prophet Bob was and how he
should be made a national hero.
My Guardian had by then become a Bob aficionado; My! How the world
But that was due in large part to Bob’s immense popularity globally.
He made us all proud to be
African everywhere in the world we went.
It didn’t matter whether you were in Sydney, Mumbai or Timbuktu.
Mention that you were Rastafaran and the only point of reference for further conversation…was
I see the same craze when every other foreigner thinks every Kenyan is a track athlete!
In fact, at any T-shirt stand in any city in the world, there are only two images that you are guaranteed to find — Bob and Che (Guevara) — the
unmistakable global images of revolution and change.
Believe me, I’ve checked.
His popularity over 30 years after his death speaks volumes.
Drop a ‘Bob’ during a party and
even today’s youngsters who were born years well after his death break out singing word for word, ‘Get
up Stand Up’, or ‘Buffalo Soldier” as if they were the latest release from Lady gaga or Kanye west.
Internationally, Bob still
outsells any other Jamaican artiste and is loved globally even in death.
To westerners, he is Bob Marley — international reggae icon.
To us, he was, and is, simply…Bob.
I remember that devastating announcement and the hollow feeling it left in me.
It was May 11, 1981 and I was right back to school after Easter Holidays.
The radio announcer interrupted the music to tell me that the
King was dead. That was over the famous lunchtime music in KBC radio that I really loved listening to.
Knowing what he had meant to me,
my friends huddled together and offered condolences as if he was my relative. I couldn’t face to watch his funeral at the National Arena on TV.
I wanted to remember him as I knew
him…smiling, playing ball, smoking a ‘spliff’ and sitting on the grass after a game of football; chanting down Babylon one more time on a stage.
I was going off for my A-Level the following year and I took with
me his music and his message.
And of course, since
I was moving out of my guardian’s house and could do what I wanted in my own dorm room, I also took his
Yes, Bob and I have come a long way together… I’m almost 50 years now.
I never formally met him.
But he spoke to me.
And his voice still reverberates through my being, my life, my identity…as an African.
Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….