Bob, Bullets, Revival, Bounty
Yesterday, May 11, 2016, made it 34 years since Bob Marley died. The thoughts that the Police Commissioner's public connection between dancehall and violence provoked, some of which I wrote about in the previous column, carried over into this week, so the Smile Jamaica Concert came to mind.
The concert was held at National Heroes Park, Kingston, on December 5, 1976, before an audience that this newspaper, among other sources, reported as being 80,000 people. (Think of Sting in the 2008 bumper year of the clash between Mavado and Vybz Kartel, then multiply that by about three and a half.)
It was a remarkable event not only because of the number of people attending and Marley saying he would sing one song then going on to perform for 90 minutes, but the well-known shooting at Marley's 56 Hope Road home just before the concert.
On December 3, 1976, Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Don Taylor and Lewis Griffiths, were shot in an attack on the place which is now a museum celebrating the Tuff Gong. The Smile Jamaica concert was being held to defuse tension between the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and somebody was sufficiently offended to try and kill Bob Marley.
Now that the police are connecting dancehall and violence (and there is a link, but not the simple, apparently single cause and effect that is being proposed as we look for a quick solution to a longstanding, complicated issue) we can look back at the pre-Smile Jamaica shooting with another perspective. If Bob Marley was shot just before participating in a concert designed to foster peace, what were the forces at work in Jamaica which would not want the primary performer dead? And were these movers and shakers instrumental in supplanting reggae with dancehall in the early 1980s as a means of shaping the society to their preferences?
So, are the police looking for a cause of violence in a sector, if not created than facilitated, by persons and groups who they will not or cannot touch? A day after Bob Marley died of cancer, five years after he could have been killed by bullets, it is something to think about.
And just how there were musings that reggae died with Bob Marley, which has proved to not be the case over three decades later, it is simplistic to suggest (or hope) that dancehall is in a cell with Vybz Kartel. Reggae has continued and dancehall is keeping on. There are times when I believe that Black Uhuru's break-up after winning the first Reggae Grammy with Anthem, in 1985, was a make or break for Reggae. The Sleng Teng came out in 1985 and the presence of a rockers powerhouse like Black Uhuru, with Sly and Robbie anchoring the band, would have made a tremendous difference in the options presented to a generation coming of musical age in the post-Marley era.
Now there is a reggae revival (misnamed, but optimistic) we shall see the long-term effects on those who are now just before or in their early teens.
At the Jamaica International Invitational on Saturday, Bounty Killer dropped a classic line that set the National Stadium on fire. Hailing Andrew, Babsy and Portia, he said, "next year my vote a go a Scotia."
He also displayed discretion which made me very happy. When the Punaany riddim was played I thought damn, he is going to do New Gun. In his way, he instructed the selector to move on.
The Sleng Teng riddim started and I said Lodge is just as bad for the occasion.
Bounty got slightly cross and demanded the selector play another riddim, as it was not Sting. It was a good choice.