Bob Marley: A Natural Mystic

By
Williams Falodun

Embark on a Soul-Stirring Journey Through the Life, Music, and Enduring Legacy of Reggae's Prophetic Voice.

Greetings in the name of his majesty, Emperor Halie Selassie I — Jah! Rastafari! Ever-living, ever-fearful, ever -sure Selassie I the first. Yeah x2. Rastafari, ever-living — Bob Marley. Live at the Pavillon De Paris, 1977

These were the words of Bob for his opening at the Pavillon De Paris in 1977, six-months after the assassination attempt on his life at his home in Hope Road, Kingston, Jamaica (two days before the Smile Jamaica concert — that saw an injured Bob perform for a ninety-minute set).

Roots

Bob Marley OM, born Robert Nesta Marley 6 February 1945 to English man Norval Sinclair Marley and Jamacian singer and writer, Cedella Malcolm in in Nine Mile, Jamaica.

Reflecting the dynamics of his mixed-race origins, young Bob settled with the reality of fending for himself with the long absence of his English father. Growing in Kingston town, Jamaica an environment where violent crime was glorified as a means of getting ahead — music was the prevalent route of escape by many young individuals including Bob.

Soon after, Bob will move back with his mother to the rural village of Nine Mile, which created the foundation for his music and activism, shaping his worldview and inspiring him to become a voice for the marginalized and disenfranchised.

Nine Mile, by its rural environment connected young Bob to nature, being surrounded by the lush landscape and natural beauty, creating the basis for the spiritual element of his nature. Also, with Nile Mile being a predominately poor area the collective struggle he experienced instilled in him a strong sense of empathy for the marginalized and oppressed, which is reflected in his music’s themes of social justice and equality.

The cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs of Nine Mile provided Marley with a rich tapestry of experiences that he would draw upon throughout his life and career. Beginning with his formal introduction to the teachings of Rastafarianism, a faith that would become central to his identity and music to which he used to spread the call for social justice and African liberation!

Music Career

Renowned worldwide for his pioneering contribution to the global scale of Reggae music — spreading messages of love, unity, and social justice. Bob Marley remains a timeless icon to the genre and extensively the global music scene.

Reggae music originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s, characterized by its rhythmic emphasis on off-beat accents, syncopated rhythms and prominent bass lines. It evolved from earlier genres including Ska and Rocksteady while incorporating African and Caribbean music accents.

The genre at its inception wasn’t particularly popular in the local Jamaican communities due to it slower, hypnotic tempo compared to the quick rhythmic flow of the other styles it evolved from.

Albeit, Bob will breakout the genre with the help of his early music group popularly knowns as The Wailers, which included childhood friends Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in the early 1960s. Although the group disbanded after a year with its core members launching successful solo careers. Still, Bob continued as a solo-act under the same name as the band — Bob Marley & The Wailers.

The Wailers (inclusive of the founding members) we’re Initially influenced by American rhythm and blues to which they created a distinctive rendition as they tried to maintain the texture of sounds from their origins in Jamaica to which they implored innovative songwriting to address social and political issues while often rendering theme songs of love, spirituality and empowerment.

Marley’s vocal delivery was unique and distinctive, characterized by his soulful voice, emotive phrasing and melodic phrasing. His raspy yet smooth vocals added depth and authenticity to his songs, making them instantly recognizable. These combined with his signature reggae rhythms, including the one-drop beat and skank guitar pattern — attracting listeners from diverse musical backgrounds as a result of its cross-genre appeal.

Political Activism

Music was Marley’s platform for political activism, addressing issues such as poverty, oppression, and racial inequality. Songs like “War,” “Africa Unite,” and “Redemption Song” became anthems for liberation movements and social justice causes.

Bob Marley was a strong supporter of Pan-Africanism, the movement for unity and solidarity among people of African descent worldwide. He often sang about the struggles of African people and called for unity and cooperation among African nations. Marley’s music helped to raise awareness about issues facing the African diaspora and promote a sense of African identity and pride.

Despite his engagement in political activism, Bob Marley also promoted messages of peace, love, and reconciliation. He believed in the power of music to transcend boundaries and bring people together, regardless of their political beliefs or differences. Marley’s music emphasized the importance of unity and understanding as a means to achieve social change and build a better world.

Philosophy and Spirituality

Born a Catholic, becoming a Rastafarian — to finally being baptized in the Ethiopian Church in New York where resentments were less inflamed. The Archbishop christened him Berhane Selassie — ‘light of the Trinity’.

Bob Marley was a devout adherent of Rastafarianism, a spiritual and cultural movement that emerged in Jamaica in the early 20th century. Central to Marley’s philosophy was a strong sense of African identity and pride. He believed in the importance of reconnecting with African heritage and culture, rejecting the legacy of colonialism and embracing the richness and diversity of African traditions.

“When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you. All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing and it grow like a tree.” — Bob Marley

Marley’s music often celebrated African culture and history, promoting themes of empowerment, resilience, and self-determination. Marley’s philosophy extended beyond spiritual matters to encompass a commitment to social justice and activism. He believed in using his music as a tool for social change, advocating for the rights of the oppressed and marginalized, and speaking out against injustice, poverty, and inequality.

Legacy

His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation — Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga. 21 May 1981,

Bob Marley’s influence extends far beyond Jamaica. He played a significant role in raising awareness about global issues such as apartheid in South Africa. His image, with his distinctive dreadlocks and Rastafarian attire, has become synonymous with reggae music and the broader fight for social justice. Marley’s face adorns posters, T-shirts, and murals around the world, serving as a symbol of resistance and liberation.

Despite his passing in 1981, Bob Marley’s popularity remains strong. His compilation album “Legend” is one of the best-selling reggae albums of all time, and his music continues to resonate with audiences worldwide. Marley’s songs are frequently featured in films, commercials, and social justice movements, ensuring his legacy endures for generations to come.

His music serves as a rallying cry for liberation movements and marginalized communities, advocating for peace, love and unity in the face of adversity.

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