Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Bob, Buju, redemption and borders

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Buju Banton
Bob Marley

Sunday's Redemption Live concert at Sabina Park in Kingston, organised by Digicel, was intended to honour Bob Marley's 71st birthday. And it did, the performers doing songs from Marley's catalogue, including Redemption Song (Ikaya), Heathen (Morgan Heritage), Coming in From The Cold (Sizzla) and Waiting in Vain (Cocoa Tea).

However, a lot of respect was paid to Buju Banton. Morgan Heritage's lead singer, Peetah Morgan, said: "We cyaa deh a Jamaica an no pay respect to Buju. Dem a talk bout legend, there is legend alive today. He is my age group ... . He is the one and only Buju Banton."

Gramps did Psalm 23, which he recorded with Buju Banton.

Later in the concert, Bugle did Buju's Batty Rider, Browning and Ova Me and, during one band change, Stone Love Movements did an extended Buju Banton mix, which included Til I'm Laid to Rest, Untold Stories, Destiny, I Wanna Be Loved, Not an Easy Road, How Maasa God Worl' A Run and Good God of My Salvation.

I doubt that any company operating in Jamaica would organise a tribute to an entertainer serving prison time in the US, whose Boom Bye Bye, though a tiny part of his catalogue, is a famed anti-homosexual track. But that is who the performers honoured, seeming, to me, to be coming more from the soul than the Marley tributes. And when I saluted How Maasa God Worl' a Run and Good God of My Salvation, it was from the heart.

It got me thinking about the current place of Bob Marley in the society. Is the Gong, whose Ambush in the Night, Jump Nyabinghi, Top Ranking and Burnin' and Lootin' I adore, among so many other songs, now reduced in large part to an ideal far removed from the day- to-day realities of generations which never saw him in the flesh (anyone born after 1960 could not have seen Marley perform after they were 20 years old). Is his fire now a flicker well suited to beer bottles and peaceful, though not peace, concerts?

I don't think so, not when I listen to one drop repeatedly, but for others, I am starting to wonder.

Bob at the border

Last Wednesday, I posted this observation at an airport on Facebook and believe it deserves publication for a far wider audience than my couple friends. Talk about the power of Bob Marley's music and its identification with Jamaica. The post went:

"I can't not share this. Yesterday I was reminded again of why i love Jamaicans, when I saw a woman sing to make sure she got into the US. I am waiting my turn at immigration in Miami. To my left a Jamaican woman is at the booth talking to an officer, to my right a Jamaican man is waiting his turn, like me.

"The man processing the lady looks carefully at the passport then at her and says it does not look like her. She has on a whole heap of false hair, but she has not bleached. They back and forth for a second or two, then what does she do to prove that it is really her? She tip pon har toe, lean forward, look the man in the eye an' buss out in a Bob Marley chune - 'let's get together and feel alright'. She all sustain the note and hold a long 'right'. The man said OK and she gone through and I wanted to keel over laughing.

"While this is happening, the man to my right is cussing. Everybody else is quiet at this final hurdle to get into the US, but not him. He is looking at the immigration officer he is about to go to, who is processing someone else, and complaining loudly that 'Da bway ya slow. How much people come gone lef me'. He does it several times, throwing in a couple kiss teet, before being called up, then him jus give a bad man walk and rock, show di man a screwface and hand over him documents.

"That is J'cans for I - resourceful, adaptable, irrepressible. Glad a desso mi come from, everytime."