Friday, August 12, 2005

Broadway Play on Life of Bob Marley Being Planned

Basil Walters, Observer staff reporter
Friday, August 12, 2005

MARLEY. a year of activities being held to mark the 60th anniversary of his birth.

Just over 30 years after Bob Marley recorded the single Reggae On Broadway for CBS Records, his family is planning to mount a play on the Jamaican reggae superstar on Broadway, the world famous American threatre district known for top quality productions.

".A Broadway play on Bob Marley is supposed to be the next big project I'll be working on with the (Marley) family," Neville Garrick, Marley's former artistic director, told Splash in an exclusive interview Saturday night after he received the Independence Award from Prime Minister P J Patterson at Jamaica House.

The play, he said, would feature Marley's early years in music and is one of a number of projects being undertaken by the Marley family for the remainder of this year's observance of the 60th anniversary of the musical legend's birth.

Mounting a play on Broadway could be a huge cultural and economic fillip for the Marley Foundation, particularly if the work becomes popular among audiences.

GARRICK. we might call the play Trench Town Rock

Successful Broadway plays can reap millions of dollars for producers, not only in ticket sales but in merchandising, an area into which the Marley Foundation has already ventured.

Disney's The Lion King, for instance, one of the most popular productions that has been playing Broadway for many years now, grossed, for the weekend ending August 7 this year, US$1,213,397.

According to data from Broadway's official website, the production's weekend earning potential is US$1,264,960. The average price paid per ticket is US$83.33, while top ticket prices sit at US$100.

Attendance for The Lion King's eight weekend performances in the New Amsterdam theatre totalled 14,562. The threatre seats 1,801, but standing spaces are also sold.

"Since 1993, we've been looking at this Bob Marley movie which never came to fruition," Garrick said. "But we feel a play, which. we might call Trench Town Rock. It will be about the era of the coming of age of Bob Marley.

"So it would really enlighten people about where he came from and how he grew to become a world-beater in the field of music."

In September 1998, several persons attended auditions at the Countryside Club in Kingston for parts in the planned Bob Marley movie.

But by November of that year, giant filmmakers Warner Brothers backed out of the much anticipated movie because of a disagreement with producer Ron Shelton over the size of the budget.

Warner Brothers, apparently stung by two major flops at the time, refused to approve the US$30-million budget prepared by Shelton, whose original figure was US$60 million.

At the time, Roger Steffens, a noted Marley and reggae archivist, who was the consultant/script adviser for the movie, said: "It's on indefinite hold. That's the formal term they (Warner Brothers) used."

On Saturday night, Garrick, who is also an artist and who now lives in Los Angeles, California, gave some details of other projects planned by the late singer's family.

"I'm coming back towards the end of the month, because Bob Marley's mother is creating in Ocho Rios a cafe called Mama Marley, inclusive of a gallery featuring my work, with a sports lounge and a gift shop," said Garrick, who is also a consultant to the Marley Foundation headed by the superstar's widow, Rita.

"I'm also going to Nine Miles to upgrade (it) to create a kind of gallery area where people can see images of Bob. I don't know if you know that I was the only person who took pictures of Bob in Nine Miles with the people, like the farmers, so it will kind of show Bob's attachment to Nine Miles."

Marley, who died on May 11, 1981, was laid to rest in a mausoleum at Nine Miles in St Ann, the district where he was born in February 1945.

His body can be viewed at the mausoleum, which is a tourist attraction.

Garrick was a consultant for the Africa Unite concert staged last February in Addis Ababa, Ehtiopia. It was one of the events in the 60th anniversary celebrations.

"After being with Bob for about seven years on the road I've never been in a crowd of 300,000 people," Garrick said.
"While we were preparing for the concert, setting up the stage and the sound, days before the event about 6,000 to 10,000 people would come every night just to watch the work in progress. So when we have 300,000 on the day of the concert it was quite remarkable," he said adding that the event was incident free.

"In Ethiopia there are only statutes for past emperors," he said. "While I was there, they dedicated a square called Bob Marley Square where they intend to build a statue of Bob Marley."

At the Unity Concert, the Ethiopian government made Rita Marley an honorary citizen in recognition of the Marley family's role in reggae music and its subsequent impact on Ethiopia.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Roots Reggae Rules PM's Independence Gala

Michael A Edwards, Observer writer
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Prime Minister P J Patterson (left) presents the Independence Award for 2005 to Joseph Hill of the group Culture. (Photos: Garfield Robinson)

After overcoming a difficult opening third, the 2005 edition of the Prime Minister's Independence Gala at Jamaica House Saturday night admirably found its footing as a roots reggae showcase and a fitting tribute to late reggae king Robert Nesta Marley.

A colourful and busy opening panorama featured dance and acrobatic troupes going through their paces amongst the Carifolk Singers, who sang versions of Marley classics like Lik Samba and culminating in a somewhat subdued live performance of Coming In From The Cold by Roy Rayon.

Multiple Festival Song winner Rayon would return to give a more typically high-energy rendition of his Festival winners, including Love Fever and a modified Give Thanks And Praises in which he sings 'we are still alive' rather than 'we are 25' - as he has been doing since 1988, a year after the song won when Jamaica celebrated 25 years of Independence.

He was preceded by the night's first awardee, concert pianist Orett Rhoden, who did an intricate reading of Marley's One Love that he followed up with Chopin's Waltz No14 in E minor. Chopin, arguably, is Rhoden's favourite composer.

Neville Garrick (right), former art director and confidante of Reggae great Bob Marley, accepts the Independence Award for 2005 from Prime Minister P J Patterson.

The first section also included the first of two on-stage "raps" between Marley's long-time art director and confidante Neville Garrick, and the reggae icon's granddaughter Donisha Prendergast. After Rayon's set (which survived a brief power failure), the evening hit it's main low point in a dance and drum tribute entitled Nyabhinghi, performed by L'Acadco.

What could well have been a stirring exposition of one of the foundations of the reggae culture fell victim to excess (not to mention sub-par sound) and came close to bathos, with some members of the audience politely applauding to signal their desire for a premature end.

The next act, however, former I-Three Judy Mowatt, took the proceedings back toward transcendency. After opening in urgent manner with We Need Jesus and Heal Our Land (an extrapolation from 1 Chronicles chapter 7), she rounded out the set with three timeless gems from the roots reggae era.

First up, her own peerless Black Woman with its irresistible "la-da-da, la-da-da" vocal hook. Then, taking time to greet Marley's widow, Rita, in the front row, she invited her former I-Threes colleague to join her on-stage for the next number.

Sly Dunbar (left) and Robbie Shakespeare display their Independence Awards presented to them by Prime Minister Patterson last Saturday night at the Prime Minister's Independence Gala at Jamaica House.

Rita Marley declined, however, to which Mowatt responded by dedicating Marley's No Woman No Cry to her before closing with a high-spirited rendition of Redemption Song.

Though his first moments were somewhat tentative, Bajan reedman Arturo Tappin proved to be the night's "Most Valuable Player" delivering an impassioned set on several instruments. First up on tenor sax, he did the classic Jammin with much flair, evoking the "honking" style made famous by late jazz master Illinois Jacquet.

He was then joined by Judi Emmanuel, herself in sparkling form, for a romp through the salacious Guava Jelly (famously covered by Barbra Streisand, among others).

This time playing flute, Tapping thrilled the audience by scatting over his own notes on the mouthpiece in an extended solo. He would pick up soprano sax before returning to the tenor, where he closed that segment with an ebullient 'no-hands' solo of sheer blowing prowess. An added treat was the un-billed appearance of Irish rocker Sinead O' Connor, who delivered a suitably impassioned reading of War.

The Carifolk Singers would return with more of ska-era Marley, such as Simmer Down, and musical director Peter Ashbourne led the band through his own tribute to Marley. Both those sets followed a much improved second appearance from the pair of Garrick and Prendergast, this one focussing largely on Marley's triumphal entry into Zimbabwe for that nation's inaugural Independence ceremonies in 1980.

Garrick related that many of the country's poor and working-class had stormed the ceremony upon hearing Marley's concert, to which the authorities responded with tear gas.

"However, through to Jah works," he closed, "the tear gas was steered toward the royal box."

The "riddim twins" Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, on drums and bass respectively, then took the stage and gave a welcome exposition of the syncopative skills that have landed them on a reported 200,000 recordings over their long and storied careers. Their on-stage audio snapshot included instrumentals of Murder She Wrote, Worl' A Reggae and perhaps the finest of them all, Unmetered Taxi.

The final featured act was the indefatigable Joseph Hill and Culture. Sharply dressed in black and white combos (Hill's ensemble included spats), he gave yet another sterling representation of the globally felt force that is roots reggae, laying down gems like Stop The Fussing and Fighting, See Them A Come and the controversial Two Sevens Clash throwing in the '80s hit She Want Money for a good measure of levity.

Garrick, Tappin, Rhoden, Culture and Sly & Robbie received the Independence Award for 2005, and a magnificent looking Gene Pearson sculpture was presented to Rita Marley on her late husband's behalf.

With the entire cast back on stage and the opening salvos of the now customary fireworks filling the air, the audience filed out of the Jamaica House grounds having gotten a powerful reminder of the music which propelled Independent Jamaica onto the world stage.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Big UP to Neville Garrick and Happy Independance Day to JA

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - An artist who designed several album covers for late reggae star Bob Marley was among a group recognized by Jamaica's government in a ceremony marking the island's independence anniversary.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson presented Neville Garrick with his Award for Excellence on Saturday night, in honour of his contribution to Jamaican music.

"I want to say thanks to brother Bob, it was great working with you. If people would live by your words, Jamaica would be a better place," Garrick said after accepting his award in Kingston.

Garrick, a Kingston native, graduated with a degree in graphic design from the University of California at Los Angeles and later served as Marley's art director from 1976 until the singer's death in 1981.

A close confidante of the reggae legend, Garrick toured with his band, The Wailers, and designed seven of their album covers, including Rastaman Vibration and Exodus.

The well-known Jamaican producing team Sly and Robbie, Barbadian saxophonist Arturo Tappin, concert pianist Orret Rhoden and the roots-reggae group Culture also received excellence awards during celebrations to observe Jamaica's 43rd year of independence from Britain.

Sly and Robbie later performed a version of the Marley song War accompanied by Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, who recorded an album of reggae covers in Jamaica earlier this year.