Over the last few months, we have been going thru a Bob Marley ‘phase’ at home. I blame my wife, who has decided that Bob would be the house’s music of choice. Saleema’s always felt a connection with Jamaica, maybe because her parents lived there for some years before moving to New York, where she was born. I always say that my earliest memories of reggae music, though, come from spending time with my uncle Steve and aunty Mynell who lived in St Ann’s. Of course, I thought that quite synchronistic because Bob Marley was born in the parish of St Ann in Jamaica. Anyway, uncle Steve had and probably still has a love for reggae music in general and Bob Marley. So much was this love for the music that as we grew up in Trinidad, I would often wonder if my uncle was a rasta – minus the dreads.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on a boat off the coast of St Vincent with many people who work in the travel industry in the UK, and the crew started playing Bob Marley loudly. I never cease to be amazed when something like this happens. As the more popular tracks played, members of the group started singing along. Although very British, some knew every single word in the song. Sometimes I forget that Bob Marley did not just sing for Jamaica or use it in or from the Caribbean. His was music for the world.
Anybody that knows me knows that I love Trinidad as the island that made me who I am. I also feel connected to the wider Caribbean – including the French, Spanish, and Dutch-speaking territories. In this context, I firmly believe that what makes the Caribbean special is not the beaches, the sunshine, the black or pink sand beaches, but the energy of the people. This energy is a deeply spiritual one, and it manifests itself in our music, our festivals, our foods, our fashion, everything about us.
In April, a new documentary about the life of Bob Marley was released. It is called Marley, and after an odd history that saw well-known Directors like Martin Scorsese originally working with this project, it was eventually brought to the screen by Kevin Macdonald, the Scottish Director who gave us The Last King of Scotland. Executive Producers are Ziggy Marley and Chris Blackwell. It is a documentary that charts Bob’s life from his humble beginnings in a rural village without electricity, his rise to fame in Jamaica, to his exile in London, subsequent return to Jamaica, and eventual death at age 36.
The documentary has a powerful soundtrack with over sixty songs. In my biased opinion, it is the best soundtrack of any film. It starts with the song he first recorded at aged sixteen and ended with One Love as the credits roll. Like some of the other online reviews, for me, the highlight was Bob’s triumphant return to Jamaica for the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 when he got Edward Seaga and Michael Manley to hold hands-on stage after a particularly violent general election campaign. I felt chills watching it. For my friends who do not know Bob, that event is always one that I try to describe as symbolizing his mission or purpose on this earth. He was a complex personality, but he was a message of peace, love, and togetherness.
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To me, this is the message of the Caribbean in general. In a world where so many countries are embroiled in turmoil, you have this archipelago of islands that I heard someone describe as pearls on mother earth’s most prized necklace. I enjoy telling people that you find people from all corners of the earth living together in relative peace and harmony on these islands. In so many ways, we stand as a symbol of what life can be.
Every once in awhile, one of my work colleagues here in the UK would ask me how it is that my accent has not changed despite my living outside of Trinidad for so many years at a time. My reply is usually one of confusion. This is who I am, I spent most of my life in Trinidad, and I do not think that I can change how I speak even if I tried. My name is Derren Joseph, and I love the Caribbean region. Despite our current challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope that we will all enjoy a brighter tomorrow.
Read more on derrenjoseph.blogspot.com.
Note: The blog that used to be here is now at https://www.mooresrowland.tax/.