Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
Ras Cover illustrates his beliefs in the teachings of the life and work of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
As flowers were laid at the monument to Marcus Garvey in the National Heroes Park, downtown Kingston, early on Friday morning, on his monumental 120th birthday anniversary, the horns of the Composite Bands of the Jamaica Defence Force carried patriotic Jamaican melodies.
Among them were Jamaica Land of Beauty, the songs coming as Canon Weeville Gordon (representing the Governor-General) and dean of the diplomatic corps His Excellency Cezar de Souza Lima Amaral, among others, including representatives of the two major political parties, put their bouquets in place.
Before the tributes Jimmy Tucker sang Father of All Creation and in between Robert Brown of St. Jago High School recited Garvey's A Lost People, starting with, "God and nature first made us what we are, then out of our own creative genius we make ourselves what we want to be."
There was another horn, though, that of saxophonist Dean Fraser who played Redemption Song, supported by two guitarists and a percussionist. It was part of a bouquet of speech and song for Garvey which came after the flowers were laid, beginning with Marcus Garvey Man of Nobility, performed by the Nexus Performing Arts Group.
Their What Would Garvey Say was a combination of Steel Pulse's Rally 'Round the Flag and Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear, the male lead of the mostly female ensemble reciting well known Garvey quotes in between the two, including the well known "emancipate yourselves from mental slavery."
A cascade of music
Dean Fraser soothes with tunes from his saxaphone. - File
After the guitarists played the opening notes of Redemption Song, Fraser strolled from the audience's left, playing in the same measured way as his walk as he opened on the line "emancipate yourself from mental slavery."
That straightforward approach was soon abandoned, though, as the last note of the line "none a dem can stop Jah time" was extended into a cascade of music. On the second go-round of the second verse, Fraser started in a light-hearted mood, with short, almost playful notes, then turning side-on to the audience and slowly turning towards them as he played "ever had".
The guitars and drum stopped and Fraser hit and held a high note as he walked off, a brief nod signalling the end.
Majah Bless gave the poetic command to "sing a song of Garvey, Marcus we sing a song, Starliner, how black are thy ships, I am waiting by the harbour, still waiting for my trip." And there were chuckles when he imitated the affected accent of "black black Erica" who denied being African and said, "I moved to America, so I am a Yankee."
Before he sang Africa Awaits, Tarrus Riley said, "we have to give thanks and praise to the Rastafari movement that is defending Marcus Garvey every day in the streets. Is Rastafari teach I about Garvey." And he was dressed in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) colours of red, green and black, the guitars and percussions carrying the music and a trio of singers providing harmony as he sang "to every rebel with a cause, Marcus is a living prophet." Fraser was also back to play the saxophone, as well as joyfully sing along.
There were also chuckles as host for the tribute, Vivian Crawford, recited Garvey's Keep Cool, remarking that it is relevant at this particular time.
In the end, all rose to lay their 'musical' bouquet for Garvey, the JDF Composite Bands providing the music as Jimmy Tucker led the UNIA Anthem, no leads needed for the closing National Anthem.
Tarrus Riley sang 'Africa Awaits' at Garvey's tribute. - Photos by Peta-Gaye Clachar/Staff Photographer