The Bob Marley Influence and Legacy
The Bob Marley influence upon various populations remains unparalleled, irrespective of race, color or creed. Bob Marley’s revolutionary yet unifying music, challenging colonialism, racism, “fighting against ism and scism” as he sang in “One Drop”, has had profound effects even in country’s where English isn’t widely spoken. In August 2008, two musicians from the war scarred countries of Serbia and Croatia (formerly provinces within Yugoslavia) unveiled a statue of Bob Marley during a rock music festival in Serbia; the monument’s inscription read “Bob Marley Fighter For Freedom Armed With A Guitar”. “Marley was chosen because he promoted peace and tolerance in his music,” said Mirko Miljus, an organizer of the event.
In Koh Lipe, Thailand, Bob Marley’s February 6th birthday is celebrated for three days with a cultural festival. In New Zealand, his life and music are now essential components of Waitangi Day (February 6) observances honoring the unifying treaty signed between the country’s European settlers and its indigenous Maori population. When Bob visited New Zealand for a concert at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium on April 6, 1979, the Maori greeted him with a traditional song and dance ceremony reserved for visiting dignitaries. Marley’s former manager, the late Don Taylor, referred to the Maori welcoming ritual as “one of my most treasured memories of the impact of Bob and reggae music on the world”.
On April 17, 1980 when the former British colony of Rhodesia was liberated and officially renamed Zimbabwe and the Union Jack replaced with the red, gold, green and black Zimbabwean flag, it is said that the first words officially spoken in the new nation were “ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers“. For the Zimbabwean freedom fighters that listened to Bob Marley, inspiration and strength were drawn from his empowering lyrics. Marley penned a tribute to their efforts, “Zimbabwe”, which was included on the most overtly political album of his career, 1979′s “Survival” and he was invited to headline their official liberation celebrations. Zimbabwean police used tear gas to control the crowds that stampeded through the gates of Harare’s Rufaro Stadium to get a glimpse of Marley onstage. As several members of Marley’s entourage fled for cover, he returned to the stage to perform “Zimbabwe”, his words resounding with a greater urgency amidst the ensuing chaos: “to divide and rule could only tear us apart, in everyman chest, there beats a heart/so soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries and I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.” “There was smoke everywhere, our eyes filled with tears so we ran off,” recalls Marcia Griffiths, who sang backup for Marley, alongside Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, as the I-Threes. “When Bob saw us the next day he smiled and said now we know who are the real revolutionaries.”
Bob Marley Inspiration
A generation later a group of political refugees from Sierra Leone living in Guinean concentration camps and traumatized by years of bloody warfare in their country, found through the music of Bob Marley, inspiration to form their own band and write and record their own songs. The Refugee All Stars won international acclaim for their 2006 debut “Living Like A Refugee” and their 2010 album “Rise and Shine”, each utilizing a blend of reggae, Sierra Leone’s Islamic rooted bubu music and West African goombay.
Further evidence of Bob Marley’s ongoing influence arrived on October 13, 2010 when Victor Zamora, one of 33 Chilean miners rescued after being trapped in a San Jose mine for 69 days, asked to hear Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” shortly after his release. Recorded in 1980 and posthumously released in 1983, “Buffalo Soldier” recounts the atrocities of the slave trade. Like so many of Bob Marley’s songs, it highlights the importance of relating past occurrences to present-day identities: “if you know your history then you will know where you are coming from, then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the hell do I think I am?”
As 2011 draws to a close, Occupy Wall St. styled protests spread around the world, challenging social and economic inequality, as well as corporate greed and its influence upon government policy. The uncompromising sentiments expressed on Bob’s “Get Up Stand Up”, lyrics that are repeatedly chanted at these demonstrations, seem to have directly inspired the protesters’ dissenting stance: “Some people think a great God will come down from the sky, take away everything and make everybody feel high/but if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth and now we see the light, we’re gonna stand up for our rights!”