As Bob Marley and the Wailers took their positions on stage for a 1980 Boston concert [at Hynes Auditorium,] they resembled a tribe of Biblical prophets carrying electric guitars. Red, gold, and green spotlights shined on the different members of the band, from the patriarchal percussionist Seeco Patterson to guitarist Al Anderson dressed in military fatigues.
The leader of the tribe walked to the center microphone in complete darkness and slowly began the song “Natural Mystic.” A spotlight finally landed on Bob Marley, whose long dreadlocks suggested a lion’s mane, and the mood for the show was fixed. Whether they knew it or not and whether they liked it or not, the Boston audience was being drawn into a spiritual experience.
I had the opportunity to interview Marley several hours after that September 1980 concert. It was to be one of his last. The Wailers [then] traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, for a show at Brown University and went from there to New York. *Following two extraordinary shows at Madison Square Gardens, where the Wailers finally performed before a predominantly African-American audience while outshining the Commodores, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park. The extent of his illness became apparent. The Wailers made their final appearance in Pittsburgh a few days later. Continue reading →
Buju Banton cries out for divine help in “God of my Salvation”; Capleton gives assurance that the Emperor still sits on the throne with the constant reminder that “Selassie liveth every time,” while Garnet Silk’s equally prolific shouts of “Jah Rastafari” have given the proclamation Bob Marley made internationally famous new flavor.
Such are the lyrics of cultural change that have been blaring through the speakers of Jamaica’s dance halls in recent times, replacing the gun and ribald lyrics of the DJs that dominated for the greater part of a decade. The cultural rebirth in the dance halls has also sparked a second coming of the Rastafari religion that traces its roots back to the late 1950s and which gained worldwide prominence in the 1970s with the international emergence of the dreadlocked Marley.
Buju’s newfound faith has been wholly accepted by the youth with whom he can do no wrong. The same can be said of fellow DJ Capleton and charismatic singer Silk, one of the forerunners of the revival. Their impact is there for all to see. It’s in vogue to wear locks again. It’s even cool to openly acknowledge Jah without fear of being ridiculed. It’s Jamaica 1995 and it’s hip to be Rasta. Whether a “God of my Salvation” will hold relevance as a “Roof Over my Head” 10 years from now is left to be seen. That could all depend on whether Buju and Capleton decide to forsake their still growing locks and Rasta rhetoric for the latest “talk,” or look, in the coming months. Continue reading →