Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
THE DRUMS were in full flight and voices united in Rastafarian chants just past midday on Bob Marley's 67th birthday, at the Tuff Gong home-turned-museum at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew on Monday.
There was a vibrant grouping of audience and participants, Jamaicans and foreigners at that stage of the all-day celebrations, which started with drumming at sunrise and was scheduled to close with a jam session up to midnight. A basket of flowers added colour to Bob Marley's statue in the courtyard of the museum and a Japanese woman ran a hand longingly up his concrete thighs.
Rita, Rohan and Ky-Mani were the Marleys in the house, and a significant presence of Jamaican entertainers spanning several generations underscored the enduring relevance of Bob Marley to Jamaican music. The father-and-son duo of Jimmy and Tarrus Riley had different perspectives on Marley, one as a contemporary and the other as an inspiration.
"Me and Bob was bredren," the elder Riley said. "I rate him as the best singer/songwriter for the last 200 years."
Supernatural and mystic
"The greatest thing about Bob Marley is how him easy and mystic and natural," Tarrus said. "What you see is what you get," he said, adding that if Bob was there at the moment he would be sitting in a corner with his guitar "a play some tune".
"Is just supernatural and mystic," Tarrus said.
Etana put her presence in the context of a general turnout. "To me, there should not have been a celebration of Bob Marley's earthstrong and all of Jamaica is not there ... . It is respect. Bob made reggae music as huge as it is all over the world."
Michael Schoefelet has about a week to go in Jamaica on his fifth trip to the island, but his first to 56 Hope Road. "To every youth (all) over the world, Bob Marley is a symbol of resistance," Schoefelet said. "It is a really nice place. It is a nice vibe."
Dr Michael Barnett, who lectures at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, said Marley's "legacy is a lifelong legacy and it is important that we take this day to celebrate him. Essentially, we also shine a light, not just to musicians but generally as an example for us as African people to advocate for what we believe in".
Clyde McKenzie, who has multiple music roles from media to talent show judge, put his presence down to a connection to the workings of Jamaican music, as "what I do to earn a living over the years is due to the impact of people like Bob". He said his presence is "critical to an industry that has afforded me an opportunity to earn and live. You have to honour that, to pay respects".
In a quieter space at the back of the premises, Denzil 'Wadadah' Williams said he knew Bob Marley from a different address - Trench Town, where he grew up on Fifth Street, near to Alton Ellis, and counts Marley mentor Mortimer Planno as an in-law. Williams related a tale of a community resident laughing when he heard that the Wailers were going to record Simmer Down, then Coxsone's sound system playing the song on Fourth Street in Trench Town a few days later.
"It play 17 times," Williams said. "Bob was a man determined to make it in the big music. Him determined against all odds, and him was triumphant."
The traditional cleaning of Bob Marley's statue on Arthur Wint Drive, done in February is slated to be done at a later date.