Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Carolyn Cooper | Art on the loose in Kingston

Published:Sunday | October 16, 2016 | 10:00 AM

Peter Tosh's birthday will be 'heartically' celebrated this Wednesday, October 19. A museum in his honour opens that evening at the Pulse Complex on Trafalgar Road. It's been designed by Art on the Loose (AOTL), a brilliant team of creatives out of Chicago. They redesigned the museum at Liberty Hall, the Legacy of Marcus Garvey located in downtown Kingston. They did a beautiful makeover.

AOTL embodies the spirit of that witticism I saw at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. It's a quote from The Colored Museum, a 1986 play by George C Wolfe: "God created black people and black people created style." By the way, the Smithsonian's African American museum has now been dubbed the Blacksonian. My people!

Vernon Lockhart, design principal at AOTL, has stylishly transformed a small space in New Kingston into a world-class showcase for Jamaican culture. The Peter Tosh museum will certainly enhance the image and substance of Kingston as a creative city of music.

The AOTL artists are exhibit specialists, branding gurus and creative therapists. I was intrigued by their concept of creative therapy: "Our approach is based on the belief that our creative process will help people to resolve problems, increase self-esteem and achieve insight."

 

FIGHTING DOWNPRESSION

 

Peter Tosh would agree. This is how he described his own creative process: "Sometimes the inspiration comes, yu get a bass line. Sometimes yu may be driving or walking and yu just get di title fi a song. Sometimes yu may jus see something happen and it look musical and yu jus try guh into it and yu find sey yu can materialise something out of it, something inspirational. Sometimes yu get the melody a di song. There are many ways of getting a song ... . In the garden of inspiration, songs, music is unlimited. Unfinishable."

Tosh certainly used his inspiring lyrics to fight against downpression and to fearlessly stand up for equal rights and justice:

"Everyone is crying out for peace, yes

None is crying out for justice

I don't want no peace

I need equal rights and justice."

Tosh gave a classic critique of the unjust politics of 'peace' in his dread sermon delivered at the so-called Peace Concert in 1978: "Dis concert here whey dem say is a PEACE concert, I man nevva did a go come inno. Yu know why? Cause wha, was a PEACE concert. An ah wonder if many people realise what de word PEACE mean. Eeh? Yu see most intellectual people in society tink de word PEACE means comin togeda. PEACE is de dipluma yu get in de cemetery."

 

WALKING IN THE FUTURE

 

Outspoken Peter Tosh was a man way ahead of his time. Forty years ago, he released his visionary single Legalize It, demanding the decriminalisation of ganja:

"Legalise it

Don't criticise it

Legalise it, yeah yeah

And I will advertise it."

Tosh was a walking advertisement for the holy herb. But it wasn't just ganja. It was all kinds of weed - valuable plants that were dismissed as undesirable. Tosh knew the health benefits of eating vital plant foods that were nutritious.

In Mystic Man, Tosh attacked junk food with typical fearlessness. He wasn't looking for sponsorship from the producers of these harmful foods that have contributed to the global obesity epidemic:

"I man don't

Eat up your fried chicken

Not licking

I man don't

Eat up them frankfurters

Garbage

I man don't

Eat down the hamburger

Can't do that

I man don't

Drink pink blue yellow green soda

Cause I'm a man of the past

And I'm living in the present

And I'm walking in the future."

 

PROPHETIC PHILOSOPHER

 

On Thursday, the annual Peter Tosh Symposium takes place at the University of the West Indies, Mona at 6 p.m. in Lecture Theatre I, Faculty of Medical Sciences. Dr Carter Mathes, associate professor of English at Rutgers University, will speak on 'Peter Tosh in the tradition of the Caribbean black radical activist'.

Roger Steffens, reggae archivist, will focus on 'Peter Tosh as prophetic philosopher'. Herbie Miller, director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, will highlight 'Peter Tosh as pioneering advocate for legalisation of ganja'. The public is invited and admission is free.

On Saturday, the Peter Tosh tribute concert will be held at Pulse at 8:30 p.m. Pulse CEO Kingsley Cooper has reassembled Tosh's Word, Sound and Power band: Fully Fullwood, Santa, Steve Golding, Mikey Chung, Robbie Lynn and Donald Kinsey. The last time they worked together was for Tosh's magisterial Reggae Superjam performance in 1983. That was his final concert.

Saturday's tribute features Andrew Tosh, Marcia Griffiths, Luciano, Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Etana and Mermans Mosengo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then I don't know if Etana has changed her mind about voting for Trump since the release of that nasty Access Hollywood video. She better not go anywhere close to him. She's a beautiful woman. Trump might just feel her up.

All proceeds will go to the museum. On Sunday, there will be an excursion to the Tosh mausoleum in Belmont, Westmoreland, organised by the family.

Peter Tosh was the ultimate rebel of reggae music: visionary, militant, uncompromising! Wherever injustice exists across the globe, Tosh's potent words will continue to inspire the oppressed to rise up and claim full freedom.

- Carolyn Cooper is a consultant on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.