Govt, society want to separate Bob Marley from Rasta - Mutabaruka
Basil Walters, Observer staff reporter
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Performance poet/broadcaster Mutabaruka has lashed out against the Jamaican government for objecting to a plan to move the remains of reggae icon Bob Marley to Ethiopia, charging that the attempt to keep the singer's remains in Jamaica is part of a broader conspiracy to separate the 'King of reggae' from his Rastafarian beliefs.
"Over the past month or so, there has been a systematic attempt to divert Bob Marley from his Afro-centric/black experience and put him into a Jesus thing of One Love," the no-holds-barred Rastafarian said.
Mutabaruka made these comments at the launch of 'Jah Messenjah' Luciano's annual Black History Month Celebration Showcase at Luciano's Bronstorph Square headquarters last Tuesday.
The concert, featuring a slate of cultural artistes, is scheduled for Saturday, February 26, at Ginger Hill, St Elizabeth. Among the list of entertainers billed for the show are host Luciano, Fanton Mojah, Chezidek, Natty King, Warrior King, Queen Ifrica, Admiral Tibet, CoCo Tea, Louie Culture, Sugar Minott, Junior Reid, Tony Rebel and Aaron Silk.
"We started last year, so this is our second year of staging Black History Month Celebration, because we really saw the need to do something towards the acknowledgement of the great works of our ancestors and uphold their traditions. And this is a good way of keeping it alive," promoter/singer Luciano told the Observer.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch, Mutabaruka attacked what he sees as an attempt to soften or downplay the stridency of one of the most revolutionary artistes of the 20th century. Citing the case of Marley's One Love, Mutabaruka expressed his annoyance that the song, which samples Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready, and does not reflect in entirety Marley's world view, has become internationally synonymous with Marley and Jamaica, perhaps due to its use by agencies such as the Jamaica Tourist Board.
"Bob Marley write and sing nuff music, how the hell yuh a goh make some guys come and tek a song weh Bob Marley never even write di whole a it... and tek it an mek di song of the century... who decide for I from the black experience that this song is the ultimate Bob Marley song. I would have to choose a song that Bob Marley write with all of the strength and vigour of his heart. Is Rasta give Bob Marley the glory."
Mutabaruka extended his criticism to include the contentious issue of Marley's remains, deeming the objection to the removal as hypocritical.
"Dem choose a part of the person and not the essence of the person which is Rastafari. Anybody who know Bob Marley would know that he is fundamentally a Rastaman. Bob Marley seh him is a Rastaman and him must goh ah Ethiopia," Mutabaruka asserted, making reference to the famous recorded interview the reggae superstar had with RJR veteran announcer Neville Willoughby.
Earlier this month, Bob Marley's widow, Rita Marley, spearheaded a US$1 million celebration of the singer's 60th birthday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which featured almost all the late singer's children and several other international artistes. Before those celebrations, Mrs Marley caught the ire of many Jamaicans when she announced in an interview with the Associated Press her intention to pursue removing Bob Marley's remains from a mausoleum in Nine Mile, St Ann, to Ethiopia, the spiritual home of Rastafarians. The Jamaican government has since announced that they will stop any such attempt by Mrs Marley.