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Wailer’s Museum part of African focus - Jah B celebrates 70th birthday at Darley Crescent

Published:Monday | April 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
The One Love, One Step team which is doing a trek around Jamaica on foot.
Dickie Crawford
The drummuing trio at Sunday's 70th birthday celebration for Bunny Wailer.
Kamala, Bunny Wailer's daughter.
Bunny Wailer's son, Asadenaki.
Maxine Stowe
Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingston speaking at Sunday's celebration of his 70th birthday and introduction of the Wailer's Museum at Darley Crescent, St Andrew.
Mel Cooke Bunny Wailer's 70th birthday cake on a table in front of a banner announcing the Wailer's Museum at Darley Crescent, St Andrew, on Sunday afternoon.

An extended delay to the start of Bunny Wailer's 70th birthday celebration on Sunday ended with a smooth transition to reggae rhythms and hand drumming. A trio of male drummers played along to Wailer's recording of Soul Rebel, the volume of electronically amplified sound gradually reduced to leave the drummers alone playing for an audience which adjusted to muddy conditions underfoot.

Held across the street from 10 Darley Crescent where the Wailer's Museum is located, the event was a combination of celebrating Bunny Wailer's birthday - which is on April 10 - an introduction to the museum (which will soon be accessible to the wider public) and an acknowledgement of April as Rastafari Month. It was Maxine Stowe who placed the museum in the context of Bunny Wailer's long-term intentions, and that includes relocating to the African continent.

"We are here because of Africa. I want to make sure I keep Africa at the centre of our experience here," she said. "He (Bunny Wailer) made a commitment that he would never go to Africa unless he was repatriating. Jamaica is important only if it is about Africa," Stowe said.

So the museum was positioned as "... putting our history together to go home. He did not want to go as a singer on a stage performing". Stowe said that in 1962 the African governments asked what those who wish to repatriate intended to carry with them and "55 years later the Wailer's Museum is here".

Tossing a barb at corporate branding, Stowe said the return is not with Red Stripe beer, Digicel, GraceKennedy or any of the Jamaican companies which are looking to Africa for business opportunities. "We have to bring home our music and culture," she said.

"We are setting up the museum to go home and set up a base ... . We do not want it to be put on a beer bottle."

Bunny Wailer, who cut the cake with his lady of more than half a century, Jean Watt, was brief in his remarks, committing to continuing to carry himself in the way persons would expect him to.

Several speakers spoke glowingly of Neville Livingston, OJ, CD (Bunny Wailer's given name), among them two of his children. His son, Asadenaki, extended the homage to his grandfather Thaddeus 'Shut' Livingston and performed a song that included Soul Rebel. Wailer's daughter Kamala read her father's favourite Psalm 121.

In a wide-ranging address, Dickie Crawford spoke about culture, Rastafari, and the criminal charges against Marcus Garvey and some of Jamaica's National Heroes. The event was hosted by DiMario McDowell.