Dancehall + Roots=Vibes

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Chronixx drops by Sway’s Universe

in Reggae News by

Chronixx stopped by Sway’s Universe to promote his album Chronology which dropped 7/7/17. He talked Life’s Purpose, African diasporic genealogical detachment, Rastafari Livity and more. He emphasized that despite the hurdles one faces in life, there is always a greater purpose to be fulfilled. He went on to note that his dedication is not just to Africa but to Humanity. Watch him murder Sway’s 5 Fingers freestyle with ease.

DANCEHALL the origins of Hip Hop

The usage of sound systems and rapping over beats (toasting) was prominent in Caribbean dancehall, reggae, calypso, and dub music before the 1970’s creation of Hip Hop in America. Example of 60’s Jamaican dub artist, King Tubby. source

DJ Kool Herc, often considered one of the founding fathers of Hip Hop, discusses how his Caribbean Heritage influenced him and his work in Hip Hop.

BUY Chronology HERE

Freddie McGregor, RastafarI and Dancehall

in Reggae News by

Freddie Mcgregor celebrated his 60th birthday this week. He’s had a vibrant career contributing to reggae and dancehall over the course of almost 6 decades. Mcgregor is among the likes of Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Judy Mowatt and others who in time joined the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Freddie’s popularity soared in the early 80’s with the release of Bobby Bobylon and hits like Big Ship, Push Comes to Shove, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely (a UK top ten hit) and I Was Born a Winner.

The establishment of the Big Ship Label in 1983 is possibly one of Freddie’s most lasting contributions to the industry. The label has gone on to produce for artists like Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie, Tiger, Luciano and Mickey Spice. His Son Stephen seriously intends to keep up with his father’s legacy having produced countless contemporary dancehall/reggae hits. This year Stephen contributed to Shakira’s latest album. In 2013 Freddie received a Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies.

RastaFaraI and Dancehall

There is no doubt that Rastafarianism has played a major role in defining Jamaica’s identity. Almost everything which makes Jamaica so different from the host of islands that dot the globe is Rastafarianism and reggae music. Many tourists still believe Jamaica’s national colours are red, green and gold. While these colors have been rightly appropriated from the Abyssinian flag to signify the movements imperial sovereignty and direct association with His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari).

The early 90’s saw an upsurge of interest in Rastafarianism. Perhaps it was due to a collective rise in black nationalism that surged after the widely publicized Rodney King incident, Spike Lee movies and Hip Hop music which began to reflect more and more nationalistic content. It appears simultaneously reggae and dancehall saw its own resurgence of nationalism as popular dancehall deejays like Capleton and Buju Banton began growing locks and infusing Africa and Rasta tenets into their tunes.

It seems music coming from Africans in the diaspora may follow common fluctuations of highs and lows in terms of culturally conscious content. Whether its Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Garnett Silk’s Christ in his Kingly Character or Buju’s Til Shiloh, there is a consistent common thread that seems to begin to lean towards something more than the money, love, power and sexual prowess subject matter that experiences popularity spikes throughout music’s ongoing history.

Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music

Chronixx puts a twist on Guiltiness and Natty Dread

in Reggae News/World by

BBC celebrates Bob Marley’s Exodus 40 year anniversary with a celebratory remake of the entire album. There’s something about Bob Marley and his unifying music that has intertwined itself into the memories of our experiences. Chronixx’s passionate exhibition seems to channel young Bob delivering Guiltiness in a fashion that keeps its core Marley elements while giving us contemporary Chronixx at the same time.

He effortlessly infuses ET and JA history into his stinging refix;

bowing at his feet 72 nations Ras Makonnen was crowned Conquering Lion…baba Jan Hoy father of African…Empress Menenite at his right hand…meanwhile inna Jamaica land….whole heap a trial and tribulation…when Bustamante seh kill all rasta man…wa kinda Selassie weh you a call pan…trim dem and bring da whole a dem a station.

This little flow is imbued with so much contrast and pride and pain as he sings. It is the history of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie’s coronation when he transforms from Ras Tafari Makonnen to Haile Selassie King of Kings, Conquoring Lion of the tribe of Judah in 1930 when 72 nations from around the world did in fact make their way to bow at the feet of this mysterious black king from this mysterious sovereign nation, ancient Abyssinia. He goes on to say “baba Jahn Hoy father of African” this is important because now Chronixx has fast forwarded us into time from 1930 to 1963 when HIM inaugurated the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, the current African Union where all the African leaders continue to meet and strategize the future of the continent. (note: ababa = father and Jahn Hoy = HIM Haile Selassie in Ethiopia’s official language of Amharic.)

Source: Public Domain
Queen Elizabeth at the Ethiopian Royal Palace

He goes on to say “meanwhile inna Jamaica land” so we are still in 1963, yet Chronixx shifts us 7,791 miles to the little island of JA where Jamaica’s first Prime Minister Bustamante declared “Bring in all Rastas, dead or alive”. The Coral Garden’s incident was one of the most brutal government organized attacks against early Rastafarians in JA and resulted in the death of reported 8 men and the unjust arrest, beating and scalping of Rastafarians from the community.

image source: wgnetworks

This historic account from Chronixx comes just a couple months after the Jamaican government officially apologized to the Rastafarian community and the community of Coral Garden’s for the atrocious attacks of 63′ which ironically took place just one year after JA independence from England in 1962.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness  spoke to Parliament on April 4, 2017 announcing that the Government would be ensuring a similar occurrence does not happen again.

“I am happy to have finally reached the point where we can discuss concrete and tangible actions, which ease some of the heavy burdens that survivors and the community had faced. Today, without equivocation, we apologise for what occurred in Coral Gardens. We express regret and sorrow for this chapter in our national life that was characterised by brutality, injustice and repression. (It) was wrong and should never be repeated,” the prime minister stressed.

“We have taken a symbolic yet courageous and pivotal move, which means that we can face the future with renewed hope. While we know this (apology) cannot erase the brutality, oppression and injustice, I am comforted by the willingness of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society to keep the dialogue going,” he said.

– The public defender will be asked to continue the work her office started in finding survivors and gathering important information on them and their families. She will be collaborating with the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society and the member of parliament for the area to make that possible.

– A trust fund of no less than J$10 million is to be made available to them and their families.

– Six lots at Pinnacle will become designated protected heritage sites, which will also include a Rastafari Village. source

So who are the guilty ones now?

Watch Chronixx cover Natty Dread

¿Qué es Dancehall?

in Reggae News/World by

El Dancehall es un género de música, estilo de baile y cultura que se originó hacia finales 1970 en Jamaica como resultado de los nuevos factores políticos y socio-económicos que habían surgido en el país. Durante este tiempo las ideologías neoliberales y materialistas fueron el factor dominante en la vida de muchos jamaiquinos.
El Dancehall como música es un derivado del reggae, otro género jamaicano originado en los años 60.

Ambos estilos tendrán una gran relación, pero no en sus bases culturales ya que son consideradas contraculturales.Este género unido a la danza se caracteriza por ser un baile muy sensual, con claras referencias a la danza africana y caribeña, y actualmente en Jamaica es un baile social, que se ejecuta siguiendo los pasos que las canciones van nombrando o incluso se mezclan con movimientos de HipHop muchos más enérgicos.

¿Por qué Dancehall?

Este estilo debe su nombre a los dance halls (salas de baile) donde se reproducían la música popular jamaiquina y la gente con menos dinero que no podía acceder a las salas más acomodadas acudían.Inicialmente, el Dancehall era una versión del reggae llena de “espacio”, a diferencia de otros estilos mucho más recargados. Hacia mediados de los años 80 la instrumentación en este estilo se hizo más rápido cambiando a sonidos más rápidos.Los años 90 fueron la completa conexión entre el dancehall y la cultura Rastafari.

Cuando el gobierno socialista de Michael Manley fue reemplazado por el político de derecha Edward Seaga las temáticas de injusticia social, repatriación y el movimiento Rastafari fueron sustituidas por letras sobre violencia y sexualidad, lo cual ha sido crítica durante muchos años debido a la perdida de la esencia lírica y temática del Dancehall. Esta nueva situación en el país llevó incluso a la muerte de varios deejays en la ciudad de Kingston.

En 1992 en contraposición de este nuevo tipo de Dancehall y más en concreto sobre el tema homófobo “Boom Bye Bye” de Banton se creó el denominado “ragga consciente” un nuevo movimiento social que agrupó a cantantes y deejays como Garnett Silk, Rocker T, Tony Rebel,Sanchez, Luciano, Anthony B y Sizzla con la intención de volver a las raíces de este género, los “roots”.

Los primeros años 2000 vieron alcanzar el éxito a toda una nueva ola de grupos y artistas como Elephant Man y Sean Paul. Actualmente son los artistas más relevantes de este estilo musical es el español Swan Fyahbwoy y Lion Sitte.


Pasos básicos de Dancehall


Como ya hemos mencionado en la introducción, el Dancehall como baile se basa en una coreografía formada por pasos que se nombran en la canción y que se repiten varias veces. Los pasos suelen ir muy ligados a su cultura e incluso hay movimientos que representan acciones cotidianas de la vida como barrer o tender la ropa. A continuación se muestran videos con algunos de los pasos básicos actuales de este estilo de baile. source



Note: This is just a great, simple yet thorough history into the core of the culture en espanol. Bravo telocuentobailando! Bravo indeed.

The Chancellor

Oxford University To drop 10 Milli into Ganja Studies

in World by

Oxford University is jumping on the Ganja train too. This month the historic UK university announced its intent to engage in new studies into the medical use of cannabis for treating conditions like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and arthritis as well as for dealing with nerve pain.

It follows calls from some MPs for a law to allow medical use of cannabis, with polls suggesting  58 per cent of people would back such a move.

Why Does Cannabis Work for Epilepsy and Seizures?

Cannabis’ chemical constituent of CBD (cannabidiol) not THC is the star of this game. FDA approved clinical trials are becoming more and more common as more states and countries open-up to the economic and medicinal value of the plant. Epidiolex, a nearly pure CBD preparation (98%+) is a prime example. Its release is an astounding leap forward for cannabis and medicine.

A pure CBD formula was the safest way to begin trials on epilepsy patients because of its lack of psychoactivity. The trouble with developing a single pure CBD formula is that epilepsy has never been a one-size fits all disorder. Of the 200,000 children living with treatment-resistant epilepsy, only a fraction has access to clinical trials investigating CBD. This leaves most parents and patients to acquire their own CBD-rich cannabis, which always contains some percentage of THC. … Early results from clinical studies on GW’s Epidiolex clearly show a beneficial effect of CBD on some types of seizures, but more research is needed to fully understand whether a combination THC/CBD product can reduce the seizure burden in those patients who don’t respond to CBD alone. source

The remarkable attribute of weed stems from the fact that the human body actually produces its own “endogenous” cannabinoids (chemicals otherwise unique to the cannabis plant).  These cannabinoids—whether formed in your brain or inhaled via a nice fat joint, pipe, vaporizer etc—fit neatly into a series of receptors located throughout the human body. Their greatest concentration occurs in the hippocampus (which regulates memory), the cerebral cortex (cognition), the cerebellum (motor coordination), the basal ganglia (movement), the hypothalamus (appetite), and the amygdala (emotions). Cannabinoid receptors are similarly found in every species of animals on earth. Vice goes in on this here

It’s obvious that the more scientific study that goes into the cannabis industry the more the consumer and pharmaceutical companies will benefit hence the 11 million pound Oxford study. Now you have a broader over-standing into the recent High Times/ Damian Marley linkup. Raspect.

Protoje covers The Heathen for Exodus Tribute

in Reggae News by

With de Heathen back dey ‘pon de wall…..

Bob Marley the Legend of One Love

in Reggae News by

His legacy looms on the world in freakish delight. There are few places on the planet, even its most remote locations, that you won’t find the familiar aroma of Bob’s legacy linger towards your senses. It may be a t-shirt, a poster or some audio that drifts in and makes your ears stand at attention. Reggae music’s unifying force has been only boosted by the inherent charisma of Mr. Marley.


Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Exodus named Album of the Century by Time Magazine

One Love designated Song of the Millennium by BBC

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

217th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Legend has annually sold over 250,000 copies according to Nielsen Sound Scan, and it is only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since SoundScan began its tabulations in 1991.

An eight block stretch of Brooklyn’s bustling Church Ave which runs through the heart of that city’s Caribbean community, was renamed and dedicated Bob Marley Boulevard, the result of a campaign initiated by New York City councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke.

This year Late Night with Jimmy Fallon commemorated the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s passing with an entire week (May 9-13) devoted to his music with performances by Ziggy Marley, Jennifer Hudson, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz and The Roots.

Bob is certainly one of the 20th century’s most transcendental  artists. He is more than a reggae legend, he is a world icon that continues to break the glass ceilings of society. Few individuals have succeeded such a feat.

Yet as I delve deeper Bob’s passion’s; football (soccer), herb (420) and Rastafari exhibit the same patterns of cross cultural appeal.

Like Bob Marley football brings soccer fans around the globe united under one game.

Herb smokers have a common understanding no matter the country or continent having to often partake in recluse, until recent times, (thank you California).

Rastafari uniquely an African movement has attracted white, Asian and people’s of non African descent toward the recognition of the divinity or Christ-like incarnation of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I and one fundamental ideal, Love.

Bob Marley’s extensive catalog of work speaks for itself, yet the melody, his delivery and his passionate imagery seem to cast a shadow or maybe it is a light on the core of humanity and suddenly one love is all we could want or need.



Man to man is so unjust
You don’t know who to trust . . .
Who the cap fit
Let them wear it

—”Who the Cap Fit” Rastaman Vibration


Two heavy Sahibs are presiding over a small dinner party in the Jonkanoo Lounge of the Sheraton-Kingston. In the background the house band is playing calypso versions of such Rum Culture standards as “You Go to My Head” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.” They are Chris Blackwell, the young Jamaican Caucasian heir to a tea and spice plantation who founded Island Records, and Michael Butler, the “hip millionaire” who backed “Hair.’

Butler is in Kingston in connection with a new reggae musical he hopes to put on the Broadway boards by next fall. It will be called “Irie’ and presumably it will do for the Armageddon of the Rastas what Butler’s previous production did for the Aquarius of the hippies.

Asked if he intends to hire a real Rasta cast, Butler yawns. “Well, I’d like to . . . but I don’t know how many Rastas belong to Actor’s Equity in New Yawk.”

The two young millionaires look like two peas in a pod. But it becomes obvious that Blackwell is not all that thrilled about Butler’s intention to translate his beloved roots music into a slick Broadway musical. Until a few years ago the rip-off on the grand scale was standard practice in Kingston, with greedy shyster producers paying musicians $10 or $15 for a session and pocketing the royalties themselves. Black-well is credited with almost singlehandedly changing all that; he at least pays his artists advances and gives them a fair share of the royalties, and the precedent he set forced other labels to follow suit. He is also most responsible for spreading the gospel of roots beyond the Trench Town ghetto and the Third World. He did it by literally busting his hump – pedaling around London on a bicycle in the mid-Sixties with stacks of singles under his arm, personally delivering product to record stores and hustling disc jockeys to at least give a listen to this contagious roots music of the Jamaican Rude Boys.

There is this story they tell, possibly even true, about the incident that made Black-well devote his life to spreading the fever. It, seems that some years ago, Blackwell’s car broke down in the Blue Mountains – Rasta country – and he was forced to seek shelter in one of their primitive encampments. Being white and growing up in Jamaica, Blackwell was understandably wary of the Rastas. But when the righteous brethren extended hospitality as though he were one of their own, he dedicated himself to making the indigenous roots music of these good and much maligned people a household word on both continents.

Thus, when it is suggested that it would be ironic if Michael Butler rather than Bob Marley finally breaks reggae in a big way in the States, Blackwell says, “Yes, that would be most ironic indeed.”

Then Butler asks, “By the way, Chris, where does one go to hear some good live reggae music here in Kingston?”

A sly Cheshire cat smile spreads across Blackwell’s face. “I’m afraid, Michael, that one doesn’t,” he answers. “You see, reggae isn’t really what you would call a live music per se . . . The only place it really exists is on record.”

Butler is crushed, but Blackwell isn’t quite finished. “I’m afraid, Michael, that the only live music you’re going to hear in Kingston is the kind of terrible tourist crap we’re listening to right now,” he concludes, as the house band climaxes, loud and corn-ball, its raucous calypso rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Didn’t my people before me
Slave for this country
Now you look me with a scorn
Then you eat up all my corn

—”Crazy Baldhead” Rastaman Vibration

The first time I met Rastafarians in any significant numbers and felt the full impact of the wild, freaking frightwigs they call dreadlocks up close was over at Tommy Cowan’s rehearsal studios, in a small stucco building surrounded by several dilapidated shacks on a back lot in North Kingston. Six or seven Rastas and three white visitors were crowded into a small room filled with ganga smoke, listening to a new single, “Babylon Queen-dom,” by former Wailers rhythm guitarist Peter Tosh. There was a lot of sly signifying going on.

Tosh showed up at the studio wearing a “Legalize It” T-shirt (a promo item for his single of the same name – banned from the public airwaves but available in every ghetto record stall) with wildass natty dreads wigging out and probably enough cannabis resin in the Sherlock Holmesian “chalis” jutting out of his Fearless Fosdick jaw to put him in the Herb Jail until such time as Babylon finally saw fit to fall. In other words: a Rasta right down to his corn plastas.

Back in the mid-Sixties Tosh, Bob Marley and Bunny Livingstone had formed the island’s most popular recording group in the Trench Town ghetto when they were still called the the Wailing Rudeboys. Tosh was here, talking with Gregg Russell, a sullen young man with one wild dread sticking smack out of the center of his forehead like a rhino horn. Like most Rastas who chain-smoke the sacred herb as a sacrament, Russell appeared to be semicomatose.

The only Rasta who looked slightly less than righteous was Tommy Cowan, a beefy record producer whose relatively tame dreadlocks seemed not quite kosher. But Cowan thrust a fist into the air with the others and said, “Jah Rastafar-I” with the same righteous fervor when Tosh sang, “Babylon Queendom, take back your dollahs!”

Considering that these very Rastas were compromising their staunch separatist principles for nothing other than Babylon’s despised dollars by consenting, however reluctantly, to this experiment in culture shock and publicity which had come to think of as the “Greening of the Rastafari,” the line seemed ironic indeed. But when I mentioned this to Tosh, he patiently explained that the money of Babylon was mere paper which would be useless when Babylon finally fell.

“Render unto Caesar what be his, mon, and giveback what mine,” he said, seeming very satisfied with himself for coming up with just the right quote. “Let de Rum Culture keep dem paper money, mon, paper dat is so cheap it not even suffice for rollin’ de spliff!”

Ganga has never exactly been legal in Jamaica, but nobody in the Rum Culture got excited about the Rastas and their copious dope smoking until rumors of “a cult of violence” started a campaign of constant police harassment which continues to this day.

“Dem dat enforces de laws of de Rum Culture claim de Herb Mon him violent,” said Tosh. “But dem no notice when de Rum Mon crash his car into de schoolbus an “destroy all de innocent childrun inside . . .  Dem claim de Herb Mon him kill, but it de Rum Mon who murder in a drunken rage – yeh mon! Herb Mon him no kill . . . him jus’ sharpen de blade, sharpen an’ polish de blade while meditatin’ on him revenge . . . Den him smoke anodder spliff an’ him get to feelin’ righteous, mon, an’ sleep, forgettin’ to commit de crime!”

Then a new face appeared in the door, sniffing suspiciously and saying “Phew, mon, what dat smell in heah?”

The outsiders must have been anticipating the same hippie in-joke about the heavy ambiance of dope in the room until he let go with the punch line:

“Mon, it smell like Am-ur-i-ca in heah!”

A rain a fall but the dirt it tough
A pot a cook but the food no’ ‘nough . . .
We’re gonna dance to Jah music, dance,
Forget your troubles and dance

—”Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” Natty Dread

Not until it dawned on me that the Rastas and their music are under heavy anaesthesia and that the violence of reggae (like everything else in Jamaica from room service to interviews with Bob Marley) is on a soon come basis, could I understand how so much social outrage could coexist with the ricky-tick syncopations of reggae. The disparity was even more disturbing when I first arrived in Babylon and saw what all that benumbed and bemuted outrage was about.

“Is this the area they call Trench Town?” I asked the cab driver, gawking out the back window at endless pathetic claptrap shanties and tin-roofed shacks. “Noooooo, mon,” he said, swerving to avoid a stray goat, “Trench Town is a bad place. Dat be in de ghetto.”

Unfortunately, the distinction was lost on me. For, not even the most strident protests of Marley, Tosh and other reggae artists, or the reggae cult film, The Harder They Come, had prepared me for the absolute squalor I saw along the narrow Casbah thoroughfares where sullen Caribbean Staggerlees stood on Catfish Row corners outside funky, blasting juke-joints with paint-potched Red Stripe Beer signs dangling down. Nothing had done justice to this place, I realized, staring dejectedly out the window at too many ragged urchins with spidery limbs and swollen bellies swarming through the Casbah swelter, scattering all my palmy, tourist-brochure preconceptions along that dismal roadside.

Then, my spirits lifted momentarily when the first real live Rastafarian I had ever seen breezed by on a motorbike, dreadlocks flying like freakflags. But my driver apparently found the spectacle less than exhilarating. “Bloodclot!” he spat (a mean menstrual epithet which may be the worst thing you can call someone in Jamaica). “Like de fruit fly dat prey upon de crops dem bloodclots wid de dreadlocks is a blight upon dis very island . . . No, mon, dem not de true religious mon what grow de dreadlock for strictly religious purposes as claimed by dem . . . Dem gunmen dat grow de dreads to strike fear in de heart of de people. My advice to you is stay away from dem bloodclots dat call demself de Rastas, mon. Dem racist murderers dat prey upon de tourist and de people alike.”

A couple of nights later I remembered his warning when a guy called “Killy,” who plays conga drums for the Sons of Negus, came to take me and a couple of other Babes-in-a-Babylon to a religious Rasta celebration known as Grounation.

The Grounation took place in Olympic Gardens, a funky suburban shantytown of small decrepit buildings not far from Trench Town, with bonfires burning, babies bawling and dogs barking in the surrounding blackness. The smell of human sweat and ganga was everywhere as the bodies milled around in little dirt alleyways between the clapboard shacks and poured into a crude pentecostal meeting hall, slightly larger than the rest, which looked like a one-room schoolhouse.

The room was packed with people, and the whole scene had the quality of some voodoo hallucination as they danced, fluid phantoms in the glow of a single candle burning on a makeshift altar beside a battered Bible. Killy took his place among a brace of drummers who were already pounding away. They were backing veteran reggae singer Ras Michael, a bearded, goatlike man who was sweating profusely in a bulky cable-knit sweater, singing a song called “In Zion.” This was the most basic, noncommercial type of reggae music – unadorned and undiluted. The pentecostal fervor peaked when Michael went into “Old Marcus Garvey” – a song made popular by another local group, Burning Spear.

Suddenly, several soldiers appeared in the doorway. But the spliffs and the music kept smoking as Ras Michael aimed his song at the intruders like a spear. Wearing the sour faces of party poopers everywhere, they seemed to decompose into the surrounding dark, like spirits banished by communal scorn or some witch doctor’s charm.

The drummers pounded triumphantly and the people rose up off bare fundamentalist benches, bare feet thudding on bare floorboards. Moon-faced women in sack dresses with spliffs lighting their gold-toothed smiles rolled their hips in perfect undulation, while old, rabbinical, bearded Rastamen (dreadlocks snowy but still full of juice) executed sly signifying choreographies and infants barely able to walk danced around the singer’s feet, toddling in perfect reggae time. (Thisis how you would have to grow up if you wanted to call yourself “roots”!) Meanwhile, a bunch of giggling kids stared in the window as a white photographer danced in spastic, acid-casualty abandonment.

“De roots music have powerful magic, mon, to drive out de armies of a Babylon and make dem soldiers shameful for dem trespassin’,” Michael explained later as we gagged down the ritual goat soup, flavored with herb and ladled out of a big black pot. “Why dem soldiers come here? What need to come where people is peaceful and makin’ music to praise Jah? Dem feel foolish an’ shameful for comin’, mon, to de Rasta camp to disturb de peaceful Grounation . . . “

What bearing it has on the entire subject of roots, I do not know, but eyeing us through the door was a heavyset middleaged woman, swaying in a hammock strung across the alley. She was smoking a spliff and every couple of seconds she would giggle to herself and, in a warbling crone’s drone, she would start to sing. She kept singing the same chorus over and over, and while the melody was familiar, the words sounded foreign through her pepperpot patois . . . until I recognized “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy.”

The sun shall not smite I
By day, nor the moon by night
And everything that I do
Shall be upfull and right

—”Night Shift” Rastaman Vibration

When I first encountered Bob Marley he was sitting in an upstairs windowsill in his house on Hope Road, smoking the inevitable spliff and studying the brilliant tropic treetops, deep in herbal meditation. In fact, Marley was so whacked out of his skull that it was possible to study him in perfect nubian- carving profile for several seconds before it even dawned on him that he had company.

Driving up, the first thing you noticed was the silver gray BMW parked in the driveway. The next thing was that the house is only partially painted – as though the workman, breaking for a noonday spliff, had become so fascinated with how that near psychedelic shade of shocking pink repelled Jah’s own light that he’d forgotten to finish the rest.

Hope Road is a relatively affluent street of respectable middle-class dwellings within spitting distance of some of the worst slums in the Western Hemisphere. Hope House, surrounded by a spacious overgrown yard with several smaller structures out back (one of which is being converted into a recording studio), is still palatial by local standards. The place is that particular combination of righteously ratty and pop-star regal the Jefferson Airplane fashioned in the good old days of Up-Against-the-Wall-Motherfucker in the late Sixties. Except that instead of being splashed with a rainbow riot of dayglo, the walls of these barely furnished rooms are streaked with the dour khakis, visceral crimsons and militant mustards of black nationalism.

Surely Marley must have watched us drive up. As he sits there, looking surprisingly like Ché Guevara with his celebrated dreads stashed in an oversized beret, one can only speculate on what grave matters preoccupy him. Now that even Time magazine has acknowledged Marley as “a political force to rival the government,” perhaps he is considering the not-so-remote possibility of a surprise raid from the governor general’s white colonial headquarters, less than a mile down Hope Road. At least that would explain the tense hush that hangs over this house, making it seem like a guerrilla encampment. Given the uniqueness of his position, however, it seems just as possible he is calculating the effect that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kingston might have on the sales of his latest single, a scathing political statement called “Rat Race.”

In any event, Marley registers the grievously put-upon frown of a general whose vital meditations have been interrupted, when suddenly he notices three white mercenaries of Babylon standing in his doorway. Mustering a terse grace, Marley rises up and leads the way down to the yard, where he had agreed to pose, coy as any major pop star, lounging on the hood of his BMW. Perhaps this proud, imperialist bearing was inherited from his father, who’s rumored to have been a white officer in the British army.

Anyone naive enough to wonder aloud why such a righteously rebellious, nonmaterialistic culture hero would own the same kind of car Michael Manley drives will be treated to a taste of fine Rasta logic: BMW stands for “Bob Marley and the Wailers.” And why does he submit to so many photo sessions? “I tell you what,” Marley says, “if the amount of records sell the amount of photo dem take – great! More than 2 million photo dem take already!”

Not to imply that Bob Marley has been bending over backward or anything. Stu Weintraub, Marley’s American booking agent, told me it was touch and go and soon came for a hell of a long time before he finally got Bob Marley and the Wailers to play in the States.

“Every two weeks another emissary would arrive from Jamaica to tell me it was either on or off again . . .  It went on for so long that when I finally met Bob, when he finally showed up in my office in New York, I said, “So, you’re a real flesh and blood’ person! I was beginning to have my doubts!'”

From the beginning, Weintraub refused to let Marley and the Wailers open for any other act – not even the Rolling Stones, who offered the golden opportunity to expand a growing cult following when they asked to have the Rastaman as the opening act on their last tour.

“Naturally, I had to wonder if I was doing the right thing. How can you turn down a gig like that and not wonder?! But my feeling was that although not enough people knew about Bob Marley yet, he was already on his way to becoming a tremendous star . . . and stars don’t open, they headline.”

Weintraub says he was finally convinced he’d been right all along when the turnout for the most recent American tour surpassed even his expectations.

“We could have filled large stadiums like Madison Square Garden easily,” Weintraub tells me. “But instead I chose to present Bob in medium-sized halls, in more intimate surroundings, where he could come across as what he is – a profoundly religious man expounding a profoundly religious message.”

Marley himself will tell you that he submits to invasions of his privacy by foreign writers and photographers more to spread the gospel of Rastafarianism than for fame or gain.

“Mos’ time me no see nobody but I brethren, I family,” he says with a sweeping gesture of the arm, as though to embrace his extended family who are standing around, his five-year-old son Robbie playing with a miniature car in the yard and a pretty, brown-skinned woman smoking a spliff as though it were a Virginia Slim and gazing pensively down from the upstairs window where we first found him.

“Mos’ time me no see nobody but dem, an’ jus’ stay heah an’ wit I music an’ I meditatin’, mon. But sometime I like to talk to scribes for dem dat slow to catch onto I message, mon. Sometime it good for I and I to talk, “cause sometime it cleah de air, mon . . . you understand?”

Although communication is hampered by his heavy patois and made even more difficult by the use of such exotic Rastafarian expressions as “I and I” (which can be misconstrued as “me and mine” or “me, myself and I” until an outsider is informed that the phrase stands for “you and I” or all “I-manity”), Marley does seem eager to expound on the message behind his music.

“De only t’ing me no like is when dem get I message wrong, mon,” states the star, leaning back on the hood of his BMW in his Ché-beret and flicking ash off that cigar-sized spliff like Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar.

“Me hafta laugh sometime when dem scribes seh me like Mick Jagger or some superstar t’ing like dat . . . . Dem hafta listen closeh to de music, “cause de message not de same . . . Noooo, mon, de reggae not de Twist, mon!”

The thought that anyone could possibly get the two mixed up seems to both irritate and amuse him, as well it should; for the message of most roots music is a far and angry cry from the inane anatomical cataloging of Chubby Checker and the like. But it also seems true that the origins of this hybrid ghetto music have as much to do with such delightful pop incongruities as James Brown (or even Hank Williams) caterwauling out of transistorized palm trees as the African rhythms and pentecostal-frenzied Holy Roller sects of myriad fundamentalist persuasions have with sources as diverse as Christianity and voodoo. Marley was already mining the mainstream for popular myth when he created, in his third LP released in the States, a folk hero called “Natty Dread,” whose roots were closer to the rebel prototypes portrayed in early AM classics like “He’s a Rebel” and “Leader of the Pack” than to old Marcus Garvey. For one thing, his Jamaica-born mother is a naturalized U.S. citizen who now owns a record store in Wilmington, Delaware, and Marley himself spent something like two years in Wilmington with her, working on the assembly line in the local Chrysler plant, it is said, before splitting back to his native island in the late Sixties to avoid the Vietnam draft call.

But when I mention that period to Marley he mutters about how “everyt’ing speeds too fast, people have too much work an’ too much worry” in the States. And when I ask him to confirm specifics, his patois turns so thick, so slurred, that it sounds like he’s talking in tongues. As his final retreat, he evokes the inarguable privilege of all righteous Rastas and returns to his semicoma and stares off into space, transcending my presence altogether. Marley’s reluctance to discuss the time he spent in Wilmington seems as logical as Bob Dylan‘s refusal to discuss his high school days back in Hibbing, Minnesota.

The public myth must be protected, especially now that some reggae purists are complaining that his latest American LP, Rastaman Vibrations, seems noticeably diminished in roots and perhaps a shade too rock & rolly. But the album’s sales, according to the people at Island Records, have already topped his previous three LPs combined and the album is still climbing the charts, goosed along by his recent tour. Most of these detractors may not be ready to relegate Bob Marley to the commercial limbo where Jimmy Cliff, the first reggae artist to become well-known in the U.S., now languishes. But these critics now point to Burning Spear, a group heavily into African chants, as the group to listen to if you want to hear some nitty-gritty roots, rude and raw.

Like the folk purists who screamed “sellout” when Bob Dylan went electric, such critics are missing the point that Marley, like Dylan, has transcended genre – that he may even have transcended roots! You only have to see him onstage, a dancing dervish, dreadlocks windmilling, to realize that here is a rock & roll star.

Yet, Marley seems genuinely committed to his faith, and when he talks about the pilgrimage he soon plans to make to Ethiopia, it is clear that his heart remains in the highlands of that mythic mecca. “It I dream, mon, every Rastamon’s dream, to fly home to Ethiopia and leave a-Babylon, where de politicians doan let I an’I brethren be free an’live we own righteous way. Dat’s why I goan der buy land an’ bring my family back wid me, mon, because a-Babylon mus’ fall. It true so much wickedness mus’ end, but when? Me an’I brethren no want to wait no more, ’cause our Jah, him tell us go home to we Ethiopia an’ leave a-Babylon to perish in it own wickedness, mon. I doan know why . . . but it mus’ be . . . “

Since it is difficult for an outsider to argue with the black and white logic of Rasta doctrine, we ponder such things in solemn silence for a while, watching dusk descend on the yard, where several of the brethren are standing around in a slightly unnerving state of suspended animation. And while Marley seems to have made his own private peace with the contradictions of being both the revered spokesman for an indigenous Jamaican religious sect and a marketable commodity in the roaring rock & roll arenas of the world, these silently scornful members of his extended family, with their impenetrable almond eyes, begin to seem less hospitable. Maybe they’re not exactly trying to Mau Mau anybody – for Marley, after all, is the paterfamilias who will pay their passage to the promised land, and Marley’s will is clearly the law of this lawn.

Then Marley seems to brighten and he says, “It take many year, mon, an’maybe some bloodshed mus’be, but righteousness someday prevail . . . Yeh, mon, me know, “cause everywhere we go when we play outside Jamaica, all ovah the whorl, I see I dreadlock brethren everywhere . . . a-growin’ up strong like herb stalks in de field . . . Yeh, mon, it gladden I heart to see Natty Dreadlock him everywhere growin’ strong . . . it future, mon.”

Nor does he think it might compromise his message and turn his faith into some fad (“like the Twist”) if some young people started growing dreadlocks more to emulate Bob Marley than to follow the tenets of Rastafarianism.

“It be good, mon,” he insists. “”Cause dat be a beginnin’. First dem grow de dreadlocks den dem soon understan’ de message an’ be righteous.”

When I remind him of how the hippies – surely he must remember the hippies? – once thought that merely growing hair and smoking dope would make them righteous, that nowadays it is note uncommon to see long-haired policemen, Marley insists that the analogy does not apply.

“You will never see de dreadlock, mon, be a policeman,” he snaps, seemingly annoyed at the very inference.

“Dat’s why I seh in I new tune, “Rat Race’: “Rastamon no work for CIA . . . ‘ It never be, mon, because Rastamon him not like hippie . . . Him hold-a on long time an’ hippie no hold-a on, him fail. De hippie should-a hold on five more year until we come. Den dem hippies be de Rastamon, too! Yeh, mon, look at you: you have de beard an’ you hair look like de dreadlocks!”

No, the man is not without his own wry humor, to be sure.

But Marley suddenly seems to turn off the charm when a photographer requests that he move to another part of the yard, where there’s still a patch of natural light. Marley flatly refuses, telling him that if he wants him in another place he will have to come back another day. While Marley’s ultimatum seems less the whim of a pop prima donna than an honest admission of inertia, it only adds to the stalemated tension as the shadows of the dreadlock brethren lengthen in the darkening yard, making the distances between us seem vast as all Ethiopia.

This story is from the August 12th, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.

Bob Marley and the Wailers-Is This Love

in Vids & Lyrics by

Is This Love

I wanna love you and treat you right;
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We’ll be together with a roof right over our heads;
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed;
We’ll share the same room, yeah! – for Jah provide the bread.
Is this love – is this love – is this love –
Is this love that I’m feelin’?
Is this love – is this love – is this love –
Is this love that I’m feelin’?
I wanna know – wanna know – wanna know now!
I got to know – got to know – got to know now!

I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I – I’m willing and able,
So I throw my cards on your table!
I wanna love you – I wanna love and treat – love and treat you right;
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We’ll be together, yeah! – with a roof right over our heads;
We’ll share the shelter, yeah, oh now! – of my single bed;
We’ll share the same room, yeah! – for Jah provide the bread.

Is this love – is this love – is this love –
Is this love that I’m feelin’?
Is this love – is this love – is this love –
Is this love that I’m feelin’?
Wo-o-o-oah! Oh yes, I know; yes, I know – yes, I know now!
Yes, I know; yes, I know – yes, I know now!

I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I – I’m willing and able,
So I throw my cards on your table!
See: I wanna love ya, I wanna love and treat ya –
love and treat ya right.
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads!
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed;
We’ll share the same room, yeah! Jah provide the bread.
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed – [fadeout]


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