Stephen recalls night Bob was shot - Smile Jamaica 40th anniversary observation previews 2017 concert
Stephen 'Ragamuffin' Marley was born on April 20, 1972, so he was four years and seven months old on December 3, 1976, when his father was shot at his 56 Hope Road, St Andrew, home.
As young as he was, closing the Smile Jamaica 40th anniversary commemorative event at what is now the Bob Marley Museum on Saturday night, Stephen told the large audience (for the space) that as a child, "some things stand out in your memory ... . I remember I was supposed to come to rehearsal that night". He did not and fell asleep, only to be awakened by a relative. Whispering to imitate her tones, Stephen recalled her saying "Steve, wake up! You father get shot!"
It was the introduction to the title song of the night's event and the large concert which will be held at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, St Ann, on December 2, 2017, and Smile Jamaica will be held annually on or close to the anniversary of the December 5, 1976, concert at Heroes Circle, where a wounded Marley performed to a reported crowd of 80,000 persons.
Stephen had opened with Trench Town Rock before remarking on the connection between Saturday night's event and the shooting four decades ago, saying: "Same place! Same date! Same songs!", before raising his voice to proclaim: "We still deh ya!" He then sang Rat Race.
After Smile Jamaica came Jah Live, which was restarted as the enthusiastic audience reacted. "These songs, it was important for I an I to come and sing these songs. Not only was he rehearsing these songs, but after being wounded, these were the songs he chose to sing," Stephen said.
His first brother guest was Ky-mani, who did Crazy Bald Head, then Damian did War, before Stephen and Damian gave a sample of their combinations.
Stephen was not the only one who had four decades of memories to share. The night's first host, Mitzie Williams of the Bob Marley Foundation, spoke about being at Smile Jamaica, but there were very few takers when she asked if anyone else had been there at Heroes Circle that night. Videographer Jose Walton, Robert Bryan of Grizzly's (who stood on a stone in a crowd that did not allow him to fall), and Elaine Wint were.
Wint, the final of the night's hosts, had a lot to say about Smile Jamaica as it was she who introduced Marley that night - just as she introduced Stephen 40 years later. She had got a call from the late Tony Laing asking her to be the emcee after the person who should have done so originally decided against it. In accepting, Wint said: "I don't know if I was fool-fool, stupid, or, like many others, decided we had to take a stand ... . This was not a time to shrink, to hide, to fear."
On the night, there were doubts about whether Marley would perform and, on stage, Wint said: "We only heard 'he's here'. There was no time to do any long introduction ... . All I could say was 'ladies and gentlemen, the man leave his sick bed to come and sing for you'", Wint asking the audience members if they were not going to cheer for Marley as there was this silence "like a hush of awe".
Stephen, Damian and Ky-mani Marley closed off a night of short performances mainly by performers with their own bands, making for numerous changes close together, which affected the event's momentum . The live music lulls were filled by Zion Train International sound system, with Nasarella selecting and, following a documentary on the shooting at 56 Hope Road, in which Rita Marley and Don Taylor were injured before the concert, an off-stage narrator gave details of the attack in-between performers.
The first of those was Rasta Village, Iron Station, Ricky Chaplin, deejaying to tracks, and the stage was set for brief performances when opening band Uprising Roots wrapped up after a few songs, causing the bass player to question the performance time. Blvk H3ro preceded the official introduction of Smile Jamaica 2017, the music resuming with an acoustic performance by Marla Brown. The Irie Souljah Band, Feluke, Runkus (who opened with an excellent dub-style rendition of Burnin and Lootin), Kelissa, Jah9 (who impressed steadily, building to the closing New Name), Dre Island and Bongo Herman preceded Third World.
An intermittent drizzle did not amount to anything to interrupt the free concert, the band going through a shot set in which 1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade) and Sattamassagana especially moved the audience, Stephen 'Cat' Coore's (who played bass at the Smile Jamaica concert), cello blending with the drums on Rastaman Chant.
Chronixx was coaxed on stage to do a verse of his Smile Jamaica without music, and DJ Pryce (Stephen Marley's daughter) played a Marley-heavy set, in which hip-hop also had a strong hand. A pair of dancers added movement to Ambush in the Night, Bob Marley's musical response to the shooting.
In remembering Smile Jamaica on December 5, 1976, Elaine Wint said that the stage was full of people, there was no space to move. As Saturday's commemorative event closed, the stage was also full, this time with the lineage of the man who was shot at the same place on the same date 40 years earlier. "You see how full the stage is tonight," Stephen said, saying that the people on stage (in addition to himself, Ky-mani and Damian) were Bob Marley's grandchildren.