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Roots, rock, reggae, Barack

Published:Friday | April 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
United States President Barack Obama looks at a selection of Bob Marley's gold records during his unannounced visit to the Bob Marley Museum in St Andrew, led by tour guide Natasha Clark.

United States President Barack Obama was high - in the air, that is - when he put in a late request to visit the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew, on Wednesday night.

Yesterday, it was revealed that it was only 10 minutes before Air Force One touched Jamaican soil at the Norman Manley International Airport that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was advised of Obama's request to tour the house where the Tuff Gong lived.

The tour was duly done and Obama referred to his evening visit at yesterday's town hall meeting at the Assembly Hall, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus.


fun meeting


In his address after opening with, "Greetings, massive!" Obama said of Marley, "I went to his house yesterday ... . I was only five minutes from his house, I had to go check it out."

It was the place where a shooting he referenced took place, Obama using the 1976 incident at 56 Hope Road ahead of the Smile Jamaica concert to emphasise the importance of doing the right thing.

He spoke about Marley doing the concert after being shot and paraphrased the Gong, saying, "The people who are making this world worse are not taking a day off. Why should I?"

Still, despite the deep emotions elicited by the tour, Obama said: "The quick trip that I made last night to Bob Marley's house was one of the most fun meetings that I have had since I have been president."

A big fan of Marley since high school, Obama still has all his albums by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

He has had them for a while. Three years ago, Obama acknowledged Marley's influence on his life. In an interview with MTV's Sway Colloway, he said about Marley: "I remember in college listening, and not agreeing with his whole philosophy necessarily, but raising my awareness of how people outside of our country were thinking about the struggle for jobs and dignity and freedom."


music impacted


While Obama was influenced by Marley, his election as the 44th president of the United States and the first black man in the Oval Office had a strong impact on those who make Jamaican popular music.

In December 2007, at the official launch of the 16th Rebel Salute Festival which would take place at Port Kaiser Sports Complex, St Elizabeth, in January 2008, organiser Tony Rebel declared the event a "... pre-celebration of the inauguration of President Obama".

The two events took place three days apart: Rebel Salute 2009 took place on Saturday, January 17, while Obama's first inauguration was on January 20 in Washington, United States.

Deejay Sizzla recorded the song Black Man in the White House, while singer Cocoa Tea named a song Barack Obama.