Sunday, December 03, 2006

Director of the reggae classic 'The Harder They Come' moves on to new adventures

Perry HenzellDirector of the reggae classic 'The Harder They Come', Jamaica's first home-grown feature film...
Perry Henzell, film director and writer: born Port Maria, Jamaica 7 March 1936; married 1965 Sally Densham (one son, two daughters); died Treasure Beach, Jamaica 30 November 2006.

The Harder They Come (1972) is a rough-hewn classic, the first and still the best home-grown Jamaican feature film. It is based on the life of Ivan Rhyging, a self-styled ghetto Robin Hood who died in a shoot-out with police in 1948, but the film's director, Perry Henzell, added an extra element by turning the gunman into an innocent country youth desperate to succeed in the cut-throat Kingston reggae world.

In Ivan, played by the local singer Jimmy Cliff, Henzell created a Jamaican rebel archetype; inspired by such an image, the Island Records boss Chris Blackwell - who had part-financed the movie - seized upon it in promoting his new signing, Bob Marley. In some ways the groundwork for Marley's eventual success was laid by the film having one of the best soundtrack albums ever released, an indispensible accompaniment to chic dinner parties of the early 1970s, introducing Jamaican music to the white album market; Henzell had personally chosen the record's reggae gems.

In making The Harder They Come, Henzell was influenced by such essays in realism as Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. "But I felt most realism was boring, very serious," he said. "I wanted to make realism lighter. I also realised I couldn't possibly write dialogue that was as good as what I heard people saying all around me. I was interested in capturing that poetry. That's sort of a cinéma vérité technique.

The Harder They Come, said the director, was "two movies really: on one hand, it was for people who were well-educated and who wanted a glimpse into another side of life. But in the Caribbean and Africa and Brazil, it would be for the poor, for people living in slums. The impact of The Harder They Come on Jamaica was enormous.

When the film was first shown in Kingston in 1972, it provoked riots by people unable to get into the sold-out Carib cinema.

But it was a different story when it opened later that year in London. "It was a difficult sell," said Henzell.

The first night the cinema was empty. Not one critic had gone down there to review it. I had to print up thousands of flyers and literally stand outside the underground station in Brixton and hand them out. That turned the tide. The film took off. Time and time again, everywhere, the film would just have died without a lot of hard work.

After a similar push in the United States, The Harder They Come ran as a midnight movie in Cambridge, Massachussetts, for seven years.

The film's enduring themes have stood the test of time. Earlier this year, a critically acclaimed stage musical of The Harder They Come, produced by Henzell, became the longest-running show ever at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Henzell missed most of this triumph, needing to travel to New York for treatment following a worsening of the cancer from which he had been suffering since 2000.

Henzell was a man who exuded an almost supernatural calm; he was always effortlessly congenial company, with a permanent twinkle of humour in his enquiring eyes. Both his parents were of old Caribbean stock, his father managing a sugar estate on the Jamaican north coast, where his only son and three daughters were born. After attending Shrewsbury School and McGill University in Montreal, Perry Henzell became a floor manager for BBC television in London.

In 1959, learning that television was about to start up in Jamaica, he returned to the island. There he set up Vista Productions, which over the next decade made hundreds of commercials, honing his directing skills. English commercials directors like Ridley Scott would use Vista's facilities.

By 1969 Henzell was ready to begin filming his first feature. Funded by relatives, as well as by Chris Blackwell, The Harder They Come was not finally completed until 1972, shot at weekends or in one or two-week bursts. During those three years cast members died, and were replaced by lookalikes, a method also employed when Jimmy Cliff was unavailable for a reshoot of the pivotal knife-fight scene.

Despite the film's success, Henzell made little money from it. His next feature, No Place Like Home, was intended to remedy that. But this story of an American film crew who travel to Jamaica to shoot an advertisement, and the subsequent love affair that develops, a conscious effort to present a different side of Jamaica from his first film, landed Henzell in an even more parlous state. Although the tale was probably apocryphal that he left the film's completed print in a New York taxi after consuming rather too much of the "herb" of which he could be fond, it added immeasurably to the director's mystique. (His own explanation was that a Manhattan storage facility had misplaced the reels.) Whatever, No Place Like Home remained unfinished.

Virtually bankrupt, Henzell retreated from the film business, to I-topia, his Jamaican country retreat. Working at night by oil-lamp - I-topia only recently acquired electricity - Perry Henzell wrote The Power Game, a dystopian vision of an unnamed Caribbean island (it was clear that it was Jamaica). Published in 1982, it is as riveting to read as The Harder They Come is to watch. More recently he wrote Cane, a novel about the 18th-century Jamaican sugar-trade, dividing his time between I-topia and Jake's, the award-winning boutique hotel established by his wife Sally in Treasure Beach on the south coast.

In 1988, with assistance from Toots and the Maytals, Henzell wrote a musical about the life of Marcus Garvey, the prophet of black consciousness; the show enjoyed a run in Kingston. Some 10 years ago, he attempted to make a sequel to The Harder They Come, arguing that the Ivan character had not been killed but only badly wounded in the gunfight that ends the original film. But when Jimmy Cliff turned out to have a similar idea and a competing script of his own, the plan foundered. Efforts to make a television series, Star Reporter, about a Jamaican journalist, were also scuppered.

Yet around the same time as Henzell's cancer was first diagnosed, a forgotten print of No Place Like Home turned up in New York - one of the actors turned out to be a young Grace Jones. As well as readying the musical of The Harder They Come, Henzell found funding to finish his second film.

The Jamaican premiere of No Place Like Home was held last night, the day after his death.

Chris Salewicz

Perry Henzell, film director and writer: born Port Maria, Jamaica 7 March 1936; married 1965 Sally Densham (one son, two daughters); died Treasure Beach, Jamaica 30 November 2006.

The Harder They Come (1972) is a rough-hewn classic, the first and still the best home-grown Jamaican feature film. It is based on the life of Ivan Rhyging, a self-styled ghetto Robin Hood who died in a shoot-out with police in 1948, but the film's director, Perry Henzell, added an extra element by turning the gunman into an innocent country youth desperate to succeed in the cut-throat Kingston reggae world.

In Ivan, played by the local singer Jimmy Cliff, Henzell created a Jamaican rebel archetype; inspired by such an image, the Island Records boss Chris Blackwell - who had part-financed the movie - seized upon it in promoting his new signing, Bob Marley. In some ways the groundwork for Marley's eventual success was laid by the film having one of the best soundtrack albums ever released, an indispensible accompaniment to chic dinner parties of the early 1970s, introducing Jamaican music to the white album market; Henzell had personally chosen the record's reggae gems.

In making The Harder They Come, Henzell was influenced by such essays in realism as Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. "But I felt most realism was boring, very serious," he said. "I wanted to make realism lighter. I also realised I couldn't possibly write dialogue that was as good as what I heard people saying all around me. I was interested in capturing that poetry. That's sort of a cinéma vérité technique.

The Harder They Come, said the director, was "two movies really: on one hand, it was for people who were well-educated and who wanted a glimpse into another side of life. But in the Caribbean and Africa and Brazil, it would be for the poor, for people living in slums. The impact of The Harder They Come on Jamaica was enormous.

When the film was first shown in Kingston in 1972, it provoked riots by people unable to get into the sold-out Carib cinema.

But it was a different story when it opened later that year in London. "It was a difficult sell," said Henzell.

The first night the cinema was empty. Not one critic had gone down there to review it. I had to print up thousands of flyers and literally stand outside the underground station in Brixton and hand them out. That turned the tide. The film took off. Time and time again, everywhere, the film would just have died without a lot of hard work.

After a similar push in the United States, The Harder They Come ran as a midnight movie in Cambridge, Massachussetts, for seven years.

The film's enduring themes have stood the test of time. Earlier this year, a critically acclaimed stage musical of The Harder They Come, produced by Henzell, became the longest-running show ever at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Henzell missed most of this triumph, needing to travel to New York for treatment following a worsening of the cancer from which he had been suffering since 2000.

Henzell was a man who exuded an almost supernatural calm; he was always effortlessly congenial company, with a permanent twinkle of humour in his enquiring eyes. Both his parents were of old Caribbean stock, his father managing a sugar estate on the Jamaican north coast, where his only son and three daughters were born. After attending Shrewsbury School and McGill University in Montreal, Perry Henzell became a floor manager for BBC television in London.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Overfishing May Harm Seafood Population

WASHINGTON (AP) - Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades. If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world's ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems," said the lead author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are - beyond anything we suspected," Worm said.

While the study focused on the oceans, concerns have been expressed by ecologists about threats to fish in the Great Lakes and other lakes, rivers and freshwaters, too.

Worm and an international team spent four years analyzing 32 controlled experiments, other studies from 48 marine protected areas and global catch data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003.

The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores and archaeological data.

"At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed - that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating," Worm said. "If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime - by 2048."

"It looks grim and the projection of the trend into the future looks even grimmer," he said. "But it's not too late to turn this around. It can be done, but it must be done soon. We need a shift from single species management to ecosystem management. It just requires a big chunk of political will to do it."

The researchers called for new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing and tighter controls on pollution.

In the 48 areas worldwide that have been protected to improve marine biodiversity, they found, "diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability."

While seafood forms a crucial concern in their study, the researchers were analyzing overall biodiversity of the oceans. The more species in the oceans, the better each can handle exploitation.

"Even bugs and weeds make clear, measurable contributions to ecosystems," said co-author J. Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.

The National Fisheries Institute, a trade association for the seafood industry, does not share the researchers alarm.

"Fish stocks naturally fluctuate in population," the institute said in a statement. "By developing new technologies that capture target species more efficiently and result in less impact on other species or the environment, we are helping to ensure our industry does not adversely affect surrounding ecosystems or damage native species.

Seafood has become a growing part of Americans' diet in recent years. Consumption totaled 16.6 pounds per person in 2004, the most recent data available, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That compares with 15.2 pounds in 2000.

Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts' environment program, pointed out that worldwide fishing provides $80 billion in revenue and 200 million people depend on it for their livelihoods. For more than 1 billion people, many of whom are poor, fish is their main source of protein, he said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analysis.


Associated Press Writer John Heilprin contributed to this report.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Marijuana may help stave off Alzheimer’s

Active ingredient in pot may help preserve brain function

Updated: MSNBC - 4:31 p.m. ET Oct 5, 2006

WASHINGTON - Good news for aging hippies: smoking pot may stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

New research shows that the active ingredient in marijuana may prevent the progression of the disease by preserving levels of an important neurotransmitter that allows the brain to function.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that marijuana’s active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down more effectively than commercially marketed drugs.

THC is also more effective at blocking clumps of protein that can inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, the researchers reported in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

The researchers said their discovery could lead to more effective drug treatment for Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of dementia among the elderly.

Those afflicted with Alzheimer’s suffer from memory loss, impaired decision-making, and diminished language and movement skills. The ultimate cause of the disease is unknown, though it is believed to be hereditary.

Marijuana is used to relieve glaucoma and can help reduce side effects from cancer and AIDS treatment.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Prince Charles, Government of Jamaica to Fund Trench Town Housing

published: Daily Gleaner - Monday | October 2, 2006

The Prince of Wales, in partnership with the Government of Jamaica, is set to unveil a massive housing development plan for Trench Town, a British newspaper reported yesterday.

According to the Sunday Times, Prince Charles through his architectural charity, The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, has drawn up plans to redevelop the community by replacing concrete high-rise buildings with traditional lime-washed single-storey houses surrounded by palm trees.

According to the foundation's website, this charity was established to teach and demonstrate in practice those principles of traditional urban design and architecture which put people and the communities of which they are a part, at the centre of the design process.

The report said 3,000 people are to benefit from the redevelopment. The plans are to be unveiled by his representatives here this month.

Construction of the first street could begin as soon as December. The foundation, according to the report, will fund a row of 20 homes, at a cost of £250,000 or approximately J$30.2 million. The Government is expected to provide an initial £2.5 million or J$307.5 million to fund the entire project.

Development is set to take place near reggae icon Bob Marley's old home, Culture Yard, in the community.

The Gleaner made efforts to contact Member of Parliament for the community, Dr. Omar Davies, and the Minister of Information and Development, Colin Campbell, for further details on the project, but was unsuccessful.

This is the second such project geared at redeveloping the often-neglected Kingston community. Residents are currently benefiting from the National Housing Trust's Inner-city Housing Project. Recently, 252 units were handed over to residents of the community by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Several of Jamaica's reggae superstars, including the legendary Marley, grew up in Trench Town. The community, however, has been plagued by political and gang violence, poverty and high levels of unemployment for several years.

Construction of the first street could begin as soon as December. The foundation, according to the report, will fund a row of 20 homes, at a cost of £250,000 or approximately J$30.20 million.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

September 24, 2006
Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate said it avoided specific judgments about the likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq war and terrorism, and the question of whether the United States is safer, have been subjects of persistent debate since the war began in 2003.

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies.

Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason was that some government officials were unhappy with the structure and focus of earlier versions of the document, according to officials involved in the discussion.

Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.

Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the White House “played no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.” The estimate’s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.

Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda.

“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe,” concludes one, a report titled “9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges.” “We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.”

That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. “The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,” it states.

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing jihad movement and says, “Al Qaeda leaders wait patiently for the right opportunity to attack.”

The new National Intelligence Estimate was overseen by David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, who commissioned it in 2004 after he took up his post at the National Intelligence Council. Mr. Low declined to be interviewed for this article.

The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.

It also examines how the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have geographical refuges in countries like Afghanistan.

In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

But the new intelligence estimate is the first report since the war began to present a comprehensive picture about the trends in global terrorism.

In recent months, some senior American intelligence officials have offered glimpses into the estimate’s conclusions in public speeches.

“New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge,” said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. “If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide,” said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

For more than two years, there has been tension between the Bush administration and American spy agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects for a stable democracy in the country. Some intelligence officials have said the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field.

Spy agencies usually produce several national intelligence estimates each year on a variety of subjects. The most controversial of these in recent years was an October 2002 document assessing Iraq’s illicit weapons programs. Several government investigations have discredited that report, and the intelligence community is overhauling how it analyzes data, largely as a result of those investigations.

The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate are consistent with assessments of global terrorist threats by American allies and independent terrorism experts.

The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of Britain’s domestic and international intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, “emphasized to the committee the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat.”

More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that “there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Made in Jamaica, A Powerful Portrait of the Reggae Music Movement

Toronto International Film Festival presents the worldwide premiere of Made in Jamaica, a powerful portrait of the reggae music movement

TORONTO – August 28, 2006

The Toronto International Film Festival features the worldwide premiere of Made in Jamaica, a feature length documentary telling how a small island nation of only three million people has made music that resonates around the world. The first screening, for Press & Industry, takes place at the Royal Ontario Museum, on Tuesday, September 12, 2006, at 2:30PM.

Made in Jamaica tells how reggae became such a worldwide phenomenon and provides a powerful portrait of the leaders of the movement. Filmmaker Jerome Laperrousaz tells how reggae music sprang into life in the 70s, making Jamaica one of the first third world countries to make itself heard on an international scale. The reggae sound became a celebration of life and a universal message of hope.

But the movement did not stop there. Now a new generation of reggae artists has emerged, influenced by their predecessors, but creating a new and equally as important brand of music. Dancehall, emerging from reggae, is drawing large crowds from across the world. At its core, dancehall is influenced by religion. But like rap music, its message contains lyrics about sex, violence, and social issues, including much on women’s rights. Its messages are important, powerful and straightforward.

The film features the best reggae and dancehall artists ever assembled. Extensive interviews throughout, with names such as Toots (2005 Grammy award winner), Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Blessed, Tanya Stephens, Elephant Man, Koolant and Third World, the film describes how they have struggled to leave their native ghetto to achieve international fame and create a musical phenomenon in the process. In essence, it is about how they are the embodiment of the “Jamaican Dream”.

Standouts include the story of Lady Saw, who has collaborated with music sensations No Doubt and is routinely called “The First Lady of Dancehall”. She was born in St. Mary in 1972 and in 1994 she recorded the single Want it Tonight.

Also featured is Capleton, a 2006 Grammy award nominee. He is one of the best reggae music deejays of his generation. He has produced numerous dancehall classics and is constantly topping the charts.

Also featured in the film are some standout live performances. Laperrousaz weaves between the interviews, a selection of the beautiful and uplifting music of reggae and the grinding sounds of dancehall. The performances from many of the featured artists capture the spirit and struggle of Jamaican music and provide the perfect complement to the illuminating interviews.

Filmmaker Jerome Laperrousaz has 25 years of family history in Jamaica. In 1980 he directed Prisoners in the Street: ‘Third World’ (Cannes Festival selection), which highlighted Jamaican reggae through the experience of the group Third World. His past films include Continental Circus (Jean Vigo and Academy Award selection for foreign production) and Human in which he cast Terence Stamp and Jeanne Moreau. He has a special talent for exposing the sensitive and personal and this is especially evident in Made in Jamaica. He is able to capture the recording studios of Kingston alongside the pulsing sounds of Ochos- Rios and the morning light of the Blue Mountains in all its full glory.

Made in Jamaica (a co-production between Lawrence Pictures and Herold & Family), is making its worldwide premiere at Toronto International Film Festival. The film will be a treat for fans of reggae and dancehall and for those unfamiliar, it will be the perfect introduction.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hill Penned Socially Conscious Lyrics

BEFORE the start of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the reggae group Culture recorded an album called "World Peace."

Lead singer and songwriter Joseph Hill penned lyrics that reflected the concerns of many people around the world as the threat of war loomed:

We can’t take another war/ We want world peace/ Every day the children are crying/ Mamas and fathers are dying/ Nuff man gone to war and na return . . . " he wrote in World Peace.

By the time the album was released in 2003, the fighting had begun.

In a career that spanned three decades, such socially conscious lyrics, backed by roots rhythms and delivered in what was once described as "one of those distinctive Jamaican voices that recalls the village elder passing on centuries of tradition," earned Hill a place of respect in the world of reggae music.

Hill died on Saturday in Berlin, where the group was performing. He was 57. The cause of death was not immediately known. The group planned to continue the tour with Hill’s son Kenyatta singing lead vocals in his father’s place, according to a website posting by Jim Dooley, a Hill biographer.

Though not as famous as Bob Marley, Hill belonged musically to the same generation as Marley, part of the first line of reggae artists who early in the history of the genre found international success.

"People early on understood his talent and responded to it," said Chris Wilson, vice president of artists and repertoire for Heartbeat Records, which released Culture’s last album, "World Peace." "Many artists . . . live in their own rarefied world. He was always of the people . . . He was so concerned about what was going on in the world around him."

Hill was born January 22, 1949 in the Jamaican parish of St Catherine. He came of age musically during what has been dubbed "the golden age" of reggae, with contemporaries such as Marley and Burning Spear.

At Studio One, a recording studio in Jamaica, Hill began his career with the group Soul Defenders. As a vocalist he released a single, "Behold the Land." But his work with a trio formed with his cousin Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes in 1976 was groundbreaking.

The group’s first album, "Two Sevens Clash," was based on a prophesy of Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey. Garvey had predicted that an apocalypse would erupt on July 7, 1977. The album was a hit in Jamaica and Britain.

In a 1987 review in the Los Angeles Times, writer Don Snowden described "Two Sevens Clash" as one of the best reggae albums ever recorded. In 2002, Rolling Stone included the album on its list of the 50 coolest records of all time.

From the start, Hill distinguished himself as the group’s frontman. Snowden described Hill’s sound as "rich and dark, liquid yet grainy, his voice sounded the way Guinness stout looks."

In the group’s early recordings, Hill also set himself apart from other artists by singing lead vocals and then recording second lead vocals. On those second lead vocals, Hill offered spoken word-style commentary on what he sang in the first. The effect was a textured sound and a rich conversation.

"It really was like poetry or early rap," Wilson said. "I think as he got older he felt more compelled to make his statement (declarative), rather than have sort of the Greek chorus. Those two voices melded together."

Hill viewed music as having a purpose, one that did not change over the years.

"Our message was a positive one," Hill said in a 2003 article in New Times Broward-Palm Beach. "From a very young age, I was aware of the roots and beauty of the country. I also noticed when the community began to collapse and what a dangerous thing that was. I began to see the corruption out there, and what I saw came out in my lyrics."

The lyrics of Hill, who was a Rastafarian, also resonated with listeners in Jamaica because they drew upon the island’s proverbs and sayings.

But his fame was international and his audience included people "who could have been the children of the people he first was writing for," Wilson said. After concerts "they would come up to him as if he were a spokesman for their generation." — Los Angeles Times.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bank of Jamaica Issues Commemorative Bob Marley Coins in Gold and Silver

Canadian Press
Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006
* KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -

Bob Marley's records long ago went platinum.

Now the Caribbean island nation's most famous son is being revived in gold and silver, as the Bank of Jamaica released a new round of commemorative coins bearing the late reggae superstar's dreadlocked likeness.

The 1,000 gold and silver coins, which were produced by the British Royal Mint, are being sold for $100 US ($111 Cdn) each, bank spokeswoman Jacqueline Morgan said Wednesday.

"We've received quite a bit of interest already," Morgan said from the Jamaican capital of Kingston.

Though the coins were intended to mark the 60th anniversary of Marley's birth in 2005, the bank is just now offering them for sale, said Morgan, who didn't offer a further explanation.

Born in Jamaica's rural St. Ann parish, Marley rose from the gritty shantytowns of Kingston to global stardom in the 1970s with hits like No Woman, No Cry and I Shot the Sheriff. His lyrics promoting "one love" and social revolution made him an icon in developing countries worldwide.

Marley, who died of cancer in Miami at age 36 in 1981, remains one of Jamaica's most beloved national heroes.

It is the second time the Bank of Jamaica has issued coins bearing Marley's likeness in the reggae icon's homeland.

"The coins to commemorate his 50th birthday have totally sold out," Morgan said.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ziggy Marley brings message of peace to war-torn Israel

By Jo-Ann Mort
Special to the Tribune
Published July 31, 2006

RA'ANNA, Israel -- Ziggy Marley's bus arrived at a Tel Aviv hotel, but few people recognized the Jamaican reggae star. Scores of people milled around the lobby in the hotel, where practically every guest is an Israeli fleeing the country's north.

Entire families are crammed in rooms for long stays.

Shai and Orit Erera and their 8-month-old daughter, from Haifa's suburbs in northern Israel, are there for 10 days, subsidized by Shai's company, IBM. Unfamiliar with Marley's music, Shai said he is glad nonetheless that night life continues. "When you pass the Haifa line, it's like going abroad."

Marley, whose wife is Israeli, is in the country to perform a weekend concert originally scheduled for Achziv Beach -- within shooting range of the Lebanese border -- and a second concert in a Tel Aviv nightclub. But after the Katushya rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon landed in Israel's northern cities, organizers moved the concert further south, collapsing two nights into one.

They decided on a beach on the Sea of Galilee -- until Katushya rockets hit nearby Tiberias, so they moved even farther south, to Ra'anna, an upscale, suburban-style city of 70,000 about half an hour from Tel Aviv.

A week earlier, Ra'anna saw starkly different gatherings: two large funerals took place in the military cemetery for local soldiers killed in Lebanon.

Crowds are sparse

Last Thursday, 7,000 people filled the park. In Israel, Thursday nights mark the beginning of the weekend, and often, conscript soldiers, most of whom are in their late teens and early 20s, get leave to let off steam. But now, few soldiers are among the crowd of mostly high school and university students, Baby Boomers and young families with children.

Summer is time for outdoor concerts and festivals in Israel. But cultural performances are sparsely attended these days, even in safe spots such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and they are canceled in the north.

Marley's concert appears to be an exception. It's overflowing. Israelis want to encourage foreign talent to appear here, especially during difficult times.

And rock music provides a lifeline and an escape.

"It's important for us to feel part of the bigger agenda of the world. It brings a lot of energy," says Hanan Pomagrin, a 39-year-old architect from Tel Aviv who's not upset by the change of venue or worried by the rocket attacks. "In the Middle East, you can't make plans for maybe more than two hours ahead."

Eldad Elazar, 26, a film student from Sderot, where Qassam rockets, lobbed by Palestinian militants in Gaza, keep falling, says he's ready to fight if Israel calls up more reserve soldiers. Elazar, who wants to be the "Spike Lee of Israel," is of Ethiopian descent. A number of Israeli Jews from Ethiopia are in the crowd.

Amit Dadun is here with two childhood friends. He lives near Afula, where the Katushyas have hit. "It's a little weird being here, but we need to continue." He adds: "We came here to forget about the war and now you come and remind us."

But it's Marley who reminds the crowd, with an extremely political set. He sings about the war in Israel, Gaza and Lebanon.

In a song called "Shalom, Salaam," he asks, "Who will take the blame for my children dying from tanks and suicide bombers?" referring both to Israeli tanks in Gaza and Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel.

Adina Kruger, a religious university student from Be'er Sheva, is here in spite of the message. "I don't like people from outside making peace for Israel. I came for music, not to talk to him," she says, referring to Marley.

Feelings of guilt

She has several family members and friends serving now in Gaza and Lebanon, including her brother-in-law.

"He planned to come to the concert. I feel guilty by being here because I know so many soldiers who are out there."

But Rotem, who wouldn't give her last name, a female soldier on weekend leave from her duties in a northern bomb shelter, thinks otherwise.

"It sounds like a cliche, but it's nice to be at an event for peace," she says with a sigh.

The colors of the Jamaican flag flash on the stage; Marley comes back for an encore. He introduces the song his father, Bob, made famous by dedicating "something special to Israel and for Lebanon, too," to "all the mothers, women, sisters who lost children in this terrible war."

Thousands of Israelis join in for "No Mother, No Cry," as they leave the war in their region -- at least in song -- for the shantytowns of Jamaica.


A Thoughtful Message On World Peace submitted to

Only when an Israeli mother cries out in pain over the suffering and deaths of Arab children, and an Arab mother cries out in pain over the suffering and deaths of Israeli children, will there be true peace.

Kabbalists are not pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, pro-Arab. Kabbalists are pro-humanity, pro-human soul, pro-God's children. This includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists and all people who populate this planet.

Until we learn to cry tears for others only, nothing will change.

The teachings and tools of Kabbalah help us eradicate and destroy the self-centered aspect of our being that only allows us to cry for ourselves, both individually and as a particular people of specific faith. When we remove that destructive selfish part, we will have the ability to cry over the pain of our individual neighbors and other nations. With everyone concerned for one another, the hatred and conflict will cease. Paradise will be ours forever.

But no one gets it. The result? Wars and bloodshed for 2000 years.

Sometimes we win battles. Sometimes we lose battles. In both cases, the blood keeps flowing and the tears keep shedding. The idea is to win the war. And the only war is the war on one's own ego and self-interest.

Please pass this around instead of anything that only serves the interest of one people. Not because of morals. Or ethics. But because that approach has failed for 2000 years.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Miss Lou's" style and patois have influenced modern rappers and DJs around the world

Louise Bennett-Coverley
September 7, 1919 - July 26, 2006

Poet and broadcaster whose courageous use of patois inspired Jamaicans to take a pride in their language

"Miss Lou's" style and patois have influenced modern rappers and DJs around the world (Esther Anderson/Corbis)

KNOWN fondly on her Caribbean island and throughout the Jamaican diaspora as “Miss Lou”, Louise Bennett-Coverley was a cultural icon on a par, among her own people, with Bob Marley, one of many artists she influenced through her poetry in the island’s patois.
Marley, who initially dreamt of being a soul singer after the style of the American Sam Cooke, credited her with giving him the pride and conviction to include in his songs words in his own dialect — which until then had been considered a marketing liability.

Although she lived in Canada for almost the last two decades of her 86 years, for reasons involving her husband’s health, Bennett-Coverley was considered the mother of Jamaican culture and was granted the Order of Jamaica by the Government in 1974, giving her the official title “the Honourable”. Her return visits in recent years were treated like state occasions.

Bennett-Coverley studied at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art in London after the war and was one of the first Jamaicans to sing and read poetry on what was then called the BBC’s West Indian Service, now the Caribbean Service.

Perhaps her greatest legacy was turning her island’s creole — a mixture mainly of English and West African tongues brought by slaves — from a thing to be ashamed of in class-conscious and racist colonial Jamaica into a proud vehicle for poetry, song, dance and drama, a new cultural phenomenon in its own right.

Recording some traditional patois songs he had first heard on her 1954 album Jamaican Folk Songs, including Banana Boat Song (“Day-o, Day-o, Daylight come and me want go home”) was what launched the career of Harry Belafonte.

Louise Bennett was born in the island’s capital, Kingston, in 1919, and was brought up by her dressmaker mother. It was not just from her story-telling mother and grandmother, but also from customers from all walks of life, rich and poor, that she picked up the tales she would soon turn into folk songs, poems or often pantomime in the patois.

“Everything that’s important comes from folklore,” she said. “From folklore; from stories and songs that are handed down from one generation to another, I learnt everything about history, manners, geography, philosophy, love, morals and religion from stories my grandmother told me.”

In her late twenties Bennett won a British Council scholarship to RADA, starting in 1945, believed to be the first black student there. She gained her diploma just around the time of the 1948 arrival on board the troopship Empire Windrush of the first batch of almost 500 Jamaicans shipped in to help with Britain’s postwar reconstruction.

As more and more Jamaicans arrived, Bennett found occasional work at the BBC, first reading her poems or singing her songs, later producing or presenting programmes in the patois to make the new immigrants feel at home. Her first performance was on the programme Bal Creole on June 30, 1950.

The Jamaican immigration inspired her to write one of her most famous poems, Colonization in Reverse, which was a light-hearted satire but unwittingly predicted the backlash against immigration from right-wing politicians such as Enoch Powell:

What a joyful news, Miss Mattie
Ah feel like me heart gwine burs’
Jamaica people colonizin’
Englan’ in reverse
By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town
By de shipload, by de planeload
Jamaica is Englan’ bound

Bennett returned to her island in her thirties, to seek a career in entertaining and to educate other artists in what she had learnt. She married the local actor and impresario Eric Coverley, known on the island by his nickname Chalk Talk, in 1954.

While “proper” or “BBC” English was still considered the one to respect or master, and the patois was considered “bad English”, Bennett-Coverley, by then widely known as Miss Lou, brought a new sense of pride to poorer homes with a series of radio shows, notably Miss Lou’s Views and Laugh with Louise, in which she told hilarious stories, in the dialect, either learnt as a child, or from her own observations, often bitterly satirical and usually quoting her “Auntie Roachy”.

Even after independence in 1962 some sectors of the Jamaican population considered, and some do to this day, that speaking creole was simply not cultured, a sign of poverty or illiteracy. Bennett-Coverley had been criticised for her poems ever since secondary school, where she was taught to dance the Highland Fling and sing Greensleeves, and she could not find a publisher until the Daily Gleaner took a chance and gave her a regular weekly slot. It became one of the most popular parts of the newspaper.

Several books of poems were eventually published, notably the bestselling Jamaica Labrish (gossip) in 1966, which features one of her best-known poems Noh Lickle Twang (Not even a little accent), berating a friend who has come back from living in the US no better off, without any sign of having captured the American dream, not even a “twang”.

Yuh mean yuh goh dah ’Merica
An spen six whole mont’ deh
An come back not a piece betta

Dan how yuh did goh wey? For many years, her double act with the popular male comedian Ranny Williams in The Lou and Ranny Show topped the radio ratings, in Jamaica, giving her a chance at her own TV programme for children, Ring Ding, which turned her into a serious celebrity, easily recognisable by her ample size and African-style dresses and headwrap. After venturing into comedy and pantomime, she was appointed MBE in 1961, while Jamaica was still a colony, for services to Jamaican art and culture.

Bennett-Coverley recorded several albums of poems or songs, often talking over background music, and, although these were generally folksy, her technique was seen as influencing later artists, rappers and DJs, and won her a reputation as one of the original “toasters”, artists who talk or rap to recorded music.

Ironically, some of the Jamaican patois she spent her life promoting became part of the preferred slang among non- Jamaican gangs in other islands of the Caribbean, as well as in New York, London and elsewhere.

Louise Bennett-Coverley’s lifelong motto, now legendary to Jamaicans at home and abroad, was “Howdy an tenky bruk no square” (roughly translatable as “caring and gratitude create harmony”, a forerunner of Bob Marley’s One Love). There is little doubt that her promotion of Jamaicans, their language and culture was at least as important to what is now known as Brand Jamaica — the marketing of the island as a tourist attraction — as the great reggae singer’s posthumous contribution.

Her death put all Jamaica into mourning and tributes poured in from around the world. Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, described her as “our nationally beloved cultural icon, my role model and mentor”, adding “walk good, Miss Lou”, a traditional, respectful patois farewell to people departing.

Bennett-Coverley’s husband predeceased her in 2002. She is survived by a son and what she called “many adopted children”.

Louise Bennett-Coverley, MBE, folk poet, comedian and entertainer, was born on September 7, 1919. She died on July 26, 2006, aged 86.

'Mother' of Jamaican culture dead at 86

TORONTO, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The Jamaican folklore expert who gave Harry Belefonte his hit song, "Day-O," Louise Simone Bennett-Coverly, has died in Toronto at age 86.

Bennett-Coverly, whose cultural efforts also inspired reggae icon Bob Marley, died last Wednesday at Toronto's Scarborough Hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported Wedesday.

Born in Kingston in 1919, the woman known as Miss Lou fought to maintain the true culture of the island through her poems and activism to help Jamaica's women and impoverished, the newspaper said.

"I say Jamaica is ... and a lot of the Caribbean countries now are culturally emancipated," Bennett-Coverly said in a 1994 interview. "We can sing our songs ... the children can sing the song that they know."

Bennett-Coverly's body will be returned to Jamaica and buried next to her husband, Eric Coverly, during an Aug. 9 state funeral.

She is survived by one son.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bob Marley ‘Catches Fire’ Early in Life

A new biography examines the inspirations of reggae legend Bob Marley in his youth.
Read an excerpt below - also visit the Feature Page at:

Bob Marley was a reggae superstar who brought the sound of the Third World to the entire globe. “Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley” brings you the private side of a man few people ever really knew. The author draws from original interviews with the people closest to Marley, including his widow, Rita, his mother, Cedella, his bandmate and childhood friend Bunny Wailer, his producer Chris Blackwell, and many others. Christopher John Farley's new book looks at the early days of this beloved musician and his homeland. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 1: Stir It Up
In the summer of 2005, I traveled to the town in which Bob Marley was born in order to see the place where he was buried. Marley's hometown is Nine Miles, Jamaica, a small village in the parish of St. Ann that is a three-hour car ride from the capital city of Kingston. Getting there is a hilly, winding drive, and the road, at times, is about one and a half lanes across, forcing drivers to play periodic games of chicken with various vehicles — cars, buses, trucks laden with day laborers — speeding down the slopes in the opposite direction. I was born in Kingston, but I left the island when I was young and I can't do many basic Jamaican-y things. I can't, for example, tell you a single thing about the rules of cricket. I don't speak with a Jamaican accent and I can't fake one convincingly. I can't drive on the left on hilly twisty roads. I pressed on anyway. I had arranged a meeting in Nine Miles with Cedella Marley Booker, Bob's mother. She had grown reclusive in recent years and gave very few interviews. But Chris Blackwell, one of Marley's producers and the founder of Island Records, interceded on my behalf, and Mother Booker agreed to grant me an audience. At this point, I had been working on a book about Marley's life for several years. I had interviewed Marley's family members, friends, and fellow musicians. I had unearthed crumbling old print interviews of Marley and listened to scratchy home recordings he had made but never released. I had visited his old haunts in Trench Town and throughout Kingston. I had been given unreleased recordings of the Wailers conversing in the studio so I could get insight into how they created their music. Now I wanted to finish my book where it had all started, and where it had all ended as well.

This is a book about beginnings. The period before fame arrives is the time when most artists collect the raw life stuff that will form the core of their work. Once a musician starts writing about how hard life is on the road, and the predation of the paparazzi, it's generally over. He has lost touch with the real experiences that connect ordinary listeners to his music. In many if not most cases, an artist's initial years of struggle represent the most interesting period of his or her career. Music legends often end their lives in strikingly similar circumstances — burdened by celebrity, hooked on drugs, haunted by the inability to live up to the greatness of earlier work. Fame can homogenize an artist, blurring parts of his identity so critics can slot him into pop cultural trends or the public can use him to fill national psychic needs. Or fame can caricature a star, exaggerating his original characteristics into something cartoony, grotesque, and sometimes unrecognizable as human. Bob Marley died young, but he managed to avoid many of the most common pitfalls and pratfalls of rock martyrdom.
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Marley once opined: "If something can corrupt you, you're corrupted already." He was not a drug addict (unless you count ganja). He did not die broke (though his money was poorly managed during his lifetime). And he was not all that conflicted about success (he used to joke to journalists that he drove a BMW because it stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers). He lived and died for music, but in the end it was not music that killed him.

Marley's struggle started early. His bandmate Peter Tosh made secret autobiographical recordings called the "Red X" tapes. I was given access to parts of those tapes that have never been published. On them, Tosh discusses the obstacles that stood in his way, and in Bob's way, when they were young. "I began to realize that I was coming in close confrontation with devils daily in the flesh," Tosh says. "I realized that hell is not down yonder, but right here among men .... But I never fear the devil."

Bob's early, dry seasons forced him to put down deep roots. "Yeah, mon, let me tell you something 'bout me," Marley said during a visit to Philadelphia in 1979. "You see me — Negro in a sufferin' environment. I don't know how to live good. I only know how to suffer. You unnerstan? So anywhere you see me, I'm sufferin' all the while. Me don't really change ... What is big life to some people, that is not what I call life. What I call life is I wake up and drink a likkle fish tea. Me don't know about the big life."

Blackwell recalls stopping by an upscale store in St. Martin with Marley during a world tour in 1980. It was one of the few times he ever saw Marley become furious. Inside the store, the proprietors questioned whether Marley had the money to buy their goods. When he promptly produced a wad of cash, he was interrogated about whether he had stolen it. Meanwhile, in the street, a crowd of fans had gathered to catch a glimpse of the reggae star. "Inside the store he was a thief," says Blackwell. "Outside, he was a hero."

Marley's mother is black, his father accepted as white. Very little had been known about the "white" side of Marley's family when I started this biography. The "white" part of Marley's family tree had been dismissed as fallen leaves — tattered remnants of another season, and not worth chasing. It is unclear in every book published on the singer whether Marley's father was Jamaican or British or even exactly how old he was. Even Bob's mother was foggy on key facts about her husband. My research, however, led me to relatives on Marley's father's side of the family. Chris Marley, a great-nephew of Bob's father, has served as a kind of family historian over the years. He has spent hundreds of hours researching his ties to Bob and was kind enough to share some of what he had found with me. Bob Marley once told Chris, "My father was a ship's captain," but Chris later learned that tale was untrue. "[Bob's father] was a bit of an adventurer and a rebel," says Chris. Thanks to his research and documentation, I was able to find out where Marley's father was born, his age, and details about his military service.

In previous accounts of Marley's upbringing, half his life is missing. Information about Marley's "white" father is critically important in understanding Marley's expansive cultural viewpoint on the world. Bob Marley once said: "If you're white and you're wrong, then you're wrong, if you're black and you're wrong, you're wrong. People are people. Black, blue, pink, green — God make no rules about color, only society make rules where my people suffer and that why we must have redemption and redemption now."

Even when he was singing about revelation and revolution, or vampires sucking the blood of the sufferers, or buffalo soldiers stolen from Africa, there was something redemptive, something sunny, about Marley's outlook. Marley once said: "I don't think of Third World. To me, I am of the First World. I can't put people in classes." He was always seeking to bring people together rather than to divide them. On another occasion he declared: "There is no right or left. We go straight ahead." That's part of why Marley's music is embraced all around the world, by people of disparate economic, political, and social circumstances: rude boys and frat boys, soccer moms and stockbrokers, rebel leaders and captains of industry. Marley was a smiling revolutionary, and the rhythmic and melodic affability of his music made his insurgent message go down easy. There was a charming playfulness about Marley that was always evident in his music and in the way he carried himself in life, and even in how he approached death. "I don't believe in death neither in flesh nor in spirit," Marley once said.

Marley's primary producer told me a haunting story about him. Marley and Blackwell, although they worked together for a decade, were almost never photographed together. They both agreed that if they were pictured in the same frame, there would be those, confronted with their contrasting skin tones, who would falsely assume that the white producer must be the real mastermind behind the black musician's music. So when they were together, they avoided the cameras. But sometime in 1981, Marley, a photographer in tow, stopped by to see Blackwell and announced that he had cancer. As shock registered on Blackwell's face, Marley asked the photographer to take a picture of them. It's the only picture Blackwell says he has of himself with Marley. In the face of death, Marley was looking for a laugh.

Marley's oldest daughter, Cedella, told me that near the end of his life, when his dreadlocks had begun to fall out because of the cancer treatments, he would still summon the strength to play with his kids. He would put on a Frankenstein mask from off the kitchen counter and chase his sons and daughters around their house in Miami. "A lot of people know Dad the musician," Cedella says. "We've always known him as Dad — who could be corny, funny, serious at times, but would never spank. If he saw a tear in your eye, he would look the other way. That's the person that we know."

Excerpted from “Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley,” by Christopher John Farley. Copyright © 2006 by Christopher John Farley. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reggae Great to Join Marley Sons on Tour

Friday, June 09, 2006
Jake Coyleap

NEW YORK — Bunny Wailer, the reggae great who was one of the original Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, will tour with a new generation of Marleys.

Wailer will play alongside Marley’s sons, Stephen and Ziggy, for the Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival, a monthlong tour that will open Aug. 6 in Redway, Calif., after a one-year hiatus.

The 59-year-old Wailer, whose real name is Neville O’Riley Livingston, said in a phone interview from Jamaica that he considers it his "responsibility and duty" to tour with the Marley family.

"I’m the foundation of all of this stuff," he said. "And I remain; someway, somehow I’ve been sustained to be here. And there’s a new generation that’s now being established musically that’s coming from the Wailers’ family."

Stephen, 34, and Ziggy Marley, 37, will headline the tour, which will make stops including Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Ozomatli will also perform.

Wailer, who last released the album Communication in 2000, is the lone surviving member of the Wailers. Marley died of cancer in 1981; Tosh was murdered in 1987.

While Stephen and Ziggy Marley have combined new musical styles to fit their father’s reggae, Wailer also fused genres through the 1980s and ’90s and plans to continue to do so.

"A lot of people have been hearing Bunny Wailer singing reggae music, but they’re not aware of other musical cultures that Bunny Wailer is inclined to present," he said. "I have to at least let (the new generation) know that I’ve been listening."

Reggae Vibe Rocks the Holy Land

photo by Emilio Morenatti / Assocaited Press
Israeli reggae fans take part at the second annual Spring Festival at Kibbutz Tseelim in Israel's Negev Desert on April 8, 2006. Kibbutz Tseelim, a tiny community in Israel's Negev Desert, welcomed 1,600 reggae fans to its second annual Spring Festival -- an increase of 25 percent over last year's crowd.

Israeli reggae fans take part at the second annual Spring Festival at Kibbutz Tseelim in Israel's Negev Desert on April 8, 2006.

article by Laura Resnick / Associated Press

TSEELIM, Israel -- Young Israelis sporting dreadlocks and wool Rastafarian caps rocked to the beat of homegrown Hebrew reggae bands at a recent music festival, a sign of reggae's steadily increasing popularity here.

Kibbutz Tseelim, a tiny community in Israel's Negev Desert, welcomed 1,600 reggae fans to its second annual Spring Festival-- an increase of 25 percent over last year.

"In a country like Israel, with all the stress, this music -- the message and the melody -- makes people more relaxed," said disc jockey Tal Grubstein, aka Dr. Reggae, who helped run the sound system at the festival. "When these people all get together at a festival like Tseelim, you can feel the vibe. There's no pushing, no aggression, no violence."

Grubstein became a reggae fan in the late 1970s after hearing some imported records while serving in the Israeli army. He soon made a mission of spreading the sound among Israelis. During his years as an Egged bus driver, he played Bob Marley and other reggae artistes to his passengers. With the help of his children, he founded the Official Israeli Reggae Site on the Web. The site currently hosts the only nonstop all-Jewish reggae online radio show in the world.

While the connection between reggae and Judaism may not seem self-evident, Jewish reggae artists are a growing phenomenon in the United States as well as Israel.

Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller), who has recorded three albums, is an observant Hasidic Jew in New York who sings Hebrew prayers in a reggae style. He divides his time between his yeshiva and the stage, where he plays to sold-out crowds. An American band called Adonai and I performs roots reggae based on Hebrew prayers, melodies, and psalms. King Django is a ska hipster from Brooklyn who combines reggae rhythms with Yiddish lyrics.

"This kind of music is about the message," said Grubstein. "Don't give up, look ahead, stand up, peace, respect your brother. People get the message and they like it."

Kibbutznik Udi Barak is one who got the message. As a teenager, he attended a concert where reggae giants Alpha Blondy -- from the Ivory Coast -- and Ziggy Marley performed. Along with other members of Kibbutz Tseelim, Barak became a fan.

The kibbutzniks discovered that when they played reggae at their communal pub, The Well, more and more people came to listen. So they decided to invite a band from Jamaica to perform there. Since then, their little pub in the middle of the Negev Desert has been a popular reggae spot, known to hipsters, Rastafarians, and bands all over Israel.

Eventually, the kibbutz decided to host a reggae festival.

Barak says that reggae artists came from all over Israel for the first festival and played for free to help make it a success. Eight Israeli bands played this year, including the group Tmimay Deim, which means "Of the Same Mind."

"Our message with our music is mostly about harmony," said Tmimay Deim's co-founder Yoav Ben Yaakov. "We try to make people understand that you don't have to believe in war, and you don't have to fight for peace. You can try to find the middle way, based on a pure, simple understanding that love unites everybody."

As the midday heat rose, Tmimay Deim's lead singer cried out to the dancing crowd, "Shabbat Shalom," wishing them a peaceful Sabbath. Then the band launched into a song that opened with the distinctive strains of klezmer music before transitioning into a familiar reggae beat.

While the easy slide from a klezmer riff to a Caribbean tune may seem startling, reggae is often fueled by traditional Jewish themes, such as the exile in Babylon and the longing for Zion, the homeland -- whether this means Israel or Africa.

Both ultra-Orthodox Jews and Rastafarians observe strict dietary laws and require married women to cover their hair. The men have distinctive hairstyles, whether sidecurls or dreadlocks -- which Rastafarians say come from the Nazarite Vow in the Old Testament (Numbers 6:5), "There shall no razor come upon his head."

However, another disc jockey who worked at Tseelim's festival this year, Ras Kulcha, thinks it's a stretch to relate Judaism to Rastas.

Shirtless in the desert heat, his face and shoulders framed by an impressive set of dreadlocks, he says he embraces Rastafarianism as a philosophy rather than a religion.

"The message I get from reggae as an Israeli is about fighting capitalism, fighting racism, fighting fascism," Ras Kulcha said. "There are so many streams, it's hard to say exactly what 'reggae' means, but it's about delivering a message."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reggae SumFest Update

Reggae Sumfest takes Manhattan
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Multiple Grammy-winning reggae artist, and Marley family scion, Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, is one of the major acts announced to perform at the 2006 Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest later this year. Marley has been riding a wave of success for his acclaimed third album, Welcome To Jamrock which in addition to winning two Grammys has been a fixture on music charts and playlists around the world.

Marley's addition to the stellar line-up for the July 16-22 festival was announced by Johnny Gourzong, executive director of Summerfest Productions, at the New York launch of Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest on Tuesday, May 23, 2006.

A large crowd of Caribbean and US media, Jamaican entertainment industry professionals and well wishers gathered at the Blue Mahoe on 14th street in Manhattan for an evening of Reggae, good vibes and flowing Red Stripe.

Gourzong disclosed that Marley will perform on the final night of the festival, on July 22. Gourzong urged the more than 100 attendees of the Big Apple kick-off launch at the Blue Mahoe restaurant, to become more involved in the build up to the festival and invited those present to visit Jamaica for a world-class event and a true Jamaican experience.

He added, "The media in the US plays a critical role in the success of Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest. Without the music industry press and the travel media embracing Jamaica and its culture, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest would not be the success that it is."

Chairman Robert Russell also extended his thanks to all participants, while Marketing Director Jomo Cato promised a continuation of world-class acts to keep the festival as the world's greatest reggae show.

Marley will perform along with Bajan pop sensation, Rihanna, Beres Hammond and Buju Banton among others. He is set to thrill fans with old and new hits, includingthe Bobby Brown collaboration Beautiful, Road to Zion and of course the title track Welcome To Jamrock.

This year, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is being presented under the theme, Jamaica's Greatest The World's Best, and will be staged in the Vibes City, Montego Bay, from July 16- 22 this year.

Among the other artistes set to perform at Sumfest 2006 are the Poor People's Governor Bounty Killa and the self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall and Grammy award winner Beenie Man as well as Capleton; Buju Banton; Beres Hammond, Elephant Man, Baby Cham, Macka Diamond, Busy Signal and Wayne Marshall, Sizzla, Richie Spice, Mobb Deep, Chuck Fenda, Mr Vegas, Leftside & Esco, Voice Mail, Gyptian, reggae legends, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and Pam Hall, Yellowman, Admiral Bailey, General Trees, Pinchers, Frankie Paul, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Metro, Courtney Melody, and Flourgon.

Summerfest Productions has budgeted over $100 million to be spent on Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest this year in addition to the expenditure by the event's major sponsors.

"Our investment in Western Jamaica is quite significant and translates into hundreds of jobs, new business opportunities and several other economic and social spin-offs. As organisers of Jamaica's greatest and the world's best reggae music festival, we are proud to know that Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is contributing to the development of Montego Bay the Vibes City and the country's overall economic progress," Marketing Director Cato said recently.

Carlo Redwood, marketing manager of Red Stripe, said that he was quite pleased with the signing of Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley, alluding to the fact that the artiste inclusion would be an asset to the show.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kenya: Reggae Festival to Go Live With Israel Vibration

The Nation (Nairobi)
May 21, 2006
by Fred Orido

Jamaican reggae trio Israel Vibration will be in Nairobi for the annual Reggae Summerfest. The threesome, Skeleton (Cecil Spence), Apple Gabriel (Albert Craig) and Lascelle Bulgin (Wiss), are expected to fly in for the festival, scheduled for September 7.

Members of Israel Vibration group on stage entertaining fans in one of their many live shows. The group will grace this year's Reggae Summerfest in Nairobi. "The event, organised by Showbiz Promotions and Shashamane International, has in the past brought in reggae greats from Jamaica."

The event, organised by Showbiz Promotions and Shashamane International, has in the past brought in reggae greats from Jamaica including Joseph Hill of the Mighty Culture group, Gregory Isaacs and Glen Washington who graced it in 2004.

Speaking exclusively to Lifestyle , events promoter Evans Ombajo promised better organisation and security during the shows. "Insecurity has been a major issue, but this time around, we have invested heavily in ensuring security is tight," he said.

Mr Ombajo said that they settled for Israel Vibration after many reggae fans voted for the trio in a poll conducted by Shashamane International over the past one year.

Members of the group overcame adversity, illness and poverty to become one of the finest roots groups in Jamaica's history. All three had been afflicted by polio and first became acquainted, albeit briefly, at Kingston's Mona Rehabilitation Clinic.

Singing sensation

Of the trio, Bulgin appeared least likely to emerge a singing sensation. He spent much of his childhood at a variety of rehabilitation centres. In his teenage, he began working for a tailor. In contrast, Craig initially did seem destined for a musical career and for a while attended the famed music school - Alpha Cottage School.

However, he found the tough discipline and rigid atmosphere oppressive and ran away at 14 into a life of homelessness and poverty.

After an equally bright start, Spence's life also took a severe down-turn. Before his teenage, he played xylophone in a youth band with whom he appeared on national television. Although physically disabled, he was a gifted athlete. In his teenage, he was selected for the Jamaican Wheelchair Basketball team.

But his conversion to Rastafarianism put an end to all that in 1969. He was dropped from the team and returned to Kingston where bumped into Craig soon after. As fate would have it, the pair established contact with Bulgin.

Before their union, the three teens had all individually converted to Rastafarianism. Their shared faith and childhood experiences helped them forge a strong friendship. Leaving behind their old lives, the trio spent most of their time together, busking for money around Kingston.

They spent the next six years singing for their suppers and by 1975, Israel Vibration was a vocal force to reckon with. However, their initial attempt at recording was abortive as the one track they did, the Ernest Hookim-produced Bad Intention, was never released. The following year, an answer to their prayers came through members of the Rastafarian religious group, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who agreed to finance a single by the trio.

The group recorded the single Why Worry and a new version of Bad Intention for its flip. The group's exquisite dread sound and militant cultural themes made an instant impression and the three found themselves on stage curtain-raising for the likes of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown.

Stunning proportions

In 1977, Israel Vibration began work on their follow-up, The Same Song, with producer Tommy Cowan. By the time they were done, the group had another hit song and a debut album of stunning proportions, which was titled after the single.

The trio's deeply devotional songs, cultural themes, inspirational lyrics, and original take on the roots style had struck a chord with reggae fans around the world. Thus, it was a surprising decision that Israel Vibration recorded their next album, 1981's Why You So Craven, with legendary dancehall producer Junjo Lawes.

After the cross-over success, the three attempted solo careers but only Bulgin made it to a recording studio. His Mr Sunshine album paired him with the Freedom Fighters Band.

In 1987, the three decided they were stronger together than apart. They reunited and approached the RAS label. Although label head Doctor Dread had shown no interest in their solo efforts, he was enthusiastic about their reunion and quickly signed them to RAS.

The trio settled down for the long haul, and although their sound was no longer on the scene's cutting edge, they continued putting out strong sets.

In 1996, the group released their first single in years, the infectious Feeling Irie, taken from their new album Free to Move.

Israel Vibrations' career shows no signs of slowing and the group has firmly carved a secure niche out of what once seemed an impenetrable surface. Their popularity seems assured and they remain a vibrant live act and an all time intriguing studio group.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Best Coffee in the World!

Head to Jamaica's Blue Mountains

We seem to be awash with coffee and coffee shops. Has the world gone coffee crazy?

Well, we all seem to be hooked on the brown brew because coffee is now the world's most popular drink and coffee beans are the second most traded commodity.

What's the first?
Petroleum - and compared to the problems they are having in that industry any worries about our growing caffeine consumption seem as mild as a skinny latte.

Ian Fleming's favourite: Blue Mountain coffee

Agreed, but how do I find my way through this flood of cappuccinos, frappuccinos and espresso macchiatos? You could start by travelling to taste what some connoisseurs consider to be the world's finest coffee - Jamaican Blue Mountain.

Really, and who are these connoisseurs?

Well, the writer Ian Fleming for one. He may have been biased because he had a house in Jamaica, but Blue Mountain was his favourite coffee and, like so many of his personal preferences, it became James Bond's choice too.

Great, a trip to the Caribbean to try 007's favourite brew. Lead on.
Once in Jamaica the first step is to head for the hills, as it is only the coffee grown above 3,000ft on the steep slopes at the eastern end of the island that is classified as true Blue Mountain.

And where should I stay?

The best place is Strawberry Hill - an elegant, plantation-style hilltop hideaway that makes a perfect base for coffee expeditions.

A hotel I presume?

Yes, 12 Georgian cottages to be exact and a lot more besides. It was once the home of Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. It's where Bob Marley convalesced after being shot and where U2 relaxed in between recording sessions and saving the planet.

Sounds like a cool place?
In more senses than one, because it is usually 10 degrees cooler than downtown Kingston, which makes it so a great place to ease yourself into tropical Jamaica. You particularly appreciate the setting when you wake up early from your night flight and realise where the name comes from.

What, Strawberry Hill?
No, the Blue Mountains. The low morning sunlight gives the slopes a warm blue hue that's quite a sight from your bedroom veranda. Then, with the hummingbirds darting and the swallowtails swooping, its over to the terrace of the main house for your first taste of the legendary coffee.

Is it as good as Bond promises?
Well, sitting at a table with freshly pressed linen, drinking from white china while listening to warm reggae with the whole of Kingston laid out before you, it is hard not to enjoy a cup.

So what does it taste like?

It's surprisingly mild and sweet with a heavy aroma - perhaps even a little too subtle for modern Europeans, who are used to the mule kick of the Robusta bean (Blue Mountain coffee is pure Arabica). It has been called the tea drinker's coffee and you can see why it appealed to early English settlers.

Indeedy. Now, after my early morning dip in the infinity pool, is there any other coffee business to enjoy?

There are coffee candles on sale in the hotel shop, pork loin with Blue Mountain Coffee glaze to try in the restaurant, and there is even talk of a coffee scrub in the Aveda spa. But your best bet is to arrange a trip to the source of the hotel's fresh morning brew by booking a taxi to take you to Twyman's coffee farm.

The home of our Grail Trail coffee I presume?
Yes, the Twyman family runs a single-estate coffee plantation another thousand feet up into the mountains. A few years ago, after a tough legal battle, the Twyman's Old Tavern Estate won the right to sell its coffee under the Blue Mountain name. It now produces its own high-quality product, which is unashamedly aimed at the gourmet market.

And are visitors encouraged?
Alex and Dorothy Twyman offer good old-fashioned hospitality for all the coffee pilgrims who make the trek to their simple mountain shack. They make a great double act with Mrs Twyman as the roaster and Mr Twyman the raconteur, guiding visitors through the process of coffee production on their estate.

Do you learn anything?
Not half. You come away with a sensory understanding of how the intoxicating scent of the coffee is released from unpromising green beans. Then there is the child-like wonder of actually seeing coffee growing on a bush. With the tremendous views of the valleys below (when mists clear) and Alex's boundless enthusiasm for his land, his product and his family, it's a real treat.

An expensive excursion?
You are not charged a penny, because they know that their bespoke retail business relies on word of mouth and the tours are the best form of advertising. Of course, they do sell their coffee at the end of the visit and it would be remiss not to come away with a bag or two. There is a choice of freshly roasted styles that you can buy in half-pound bags for £8.

Isn't that rather steep for coffee?

Alex describes it as "bloody expensive" but feels that the high-quality maintenance that goes into the slow growing, hand-picked and sorted beans demands it. It's certainly cheaper than the bags of ground coffee sold at resorts and tourist shops around the island and considerably less than the Fortnum & Mason price of £20 for half a pound.

So how should I prepare my precious beans?

Everybody has a preferred method and should grind the beans accordingly, says Alex. However he does lay down a few strict rules to get the best from his Blue Mountain coffee:

# Always use the purest of water, even bottled water if necessary. One of the reasons the coffee he serves on his estate tastes so good is because of the fresh mountain water he collects from just outside his door.

# Serve in china rather than paper or plastic cups and make sure it's white so you can see if the coffee's muddy.

# Stale coffee tastes bad no matter where it comes from, so always grind your beans fresh for each new round of drinks. Remember to store your bag of beans away from direct light and heat. Vacuum sealing isn't a good idea because the beans need to breathe - all Twyman's coffee is packed in bags with a one-way valve so that the CO2 can come out and no oxygen can get in.

# Serve the coffee piping hot and don't ever pollute the beautiful brew with that dreadful stuff, cow's milk. Of course, the true Jamaican style is coffee served with condensed milk and perhaps even a splash of the island's other national treasure - overproof rum. Try it, it's a fine combination, just don't let Alex catch you and remember to call Dorothy for a fresh roast when you've drunk your quota.

Going there

A perfect time to visit the Blue Mountains is April, when the air is filled with the delicate perfume of coffee blossom. For a more traditional coffee tour that's within walking distance of Strawberry Hill, try Craighton Estate and Great House. They offer a lecture, coffee tasting and a tour around the gardens that lasts about one hour for £8.50 per person (001 876 929 8490). "It can rain in a heartbeat" in Jamaica, especially up at Twyman's, where the mist can come in the time it takes to stir sugar into your coffee.

Take a waterproof and remember to phone ahead to check on conditions.
ContactsTo arrange a personal tour of Alex Twyman's Old Tavern Blue Mountain Coffee Estate, telephone 001 876 399 1222 ( Note that the Twymans don't cater for large groups.

For reservations at Strawberry Hill, contact 00800 688 76781, For more information about the Blue Mountains and trips in and around Jamaica, contact the Jamaica Tourist Board (020 7225 9090), or see Air Jamaica (020 8570 7999, offers daily return flights from London to Kingston and Montego Bay from £450, including taxes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ziggy Marley Pledges "Love" on New Album

By Wes Orshoski
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Ziggy Marley has just finished work on his second solo record, "Love Is My Religion," a disc of groove-laden songs touching on the most universal of emotions.

"It's all about love and all aspects of love," the reggae scion told "The title track is about love between a man and a woman. It just means, 'Hey baby, I'm all love."'

Marley's first album since his marriage about a year ago, "Love is My Religion" is also his second disc apart from longtime backing group the Melody Makers. He plays most of the instruments on the disc, most of which was recorded at his home studio in Jamaica.

As the eldest son of Bob Marley, he has been in the spotlight since he was a toddler, and he says the new album reflects his three decades in music. "It's my best, because I've taken all that experience and I've learned so much, and I kind of understand where I want the music to be," he said.

"Right now, I want to groove more. I want to be onstage and be able to groove throughout the whole album. In the past, I was very artsy, and I did a lot of artistic things, which was just for me. But that should have been just for me," he added, laughing. "Now, I'm grooving for everybody."

Marley says the record will most likely be released in July via his Tuff Gong Worldwide label. He's currently in negotiations for a distributor. "Nobody owns my stuff. I own it," he said. "So what I did was form a new Tuff Gong, which is like Tuff Gong without any attachments to any other labels."

Now 37, one year older than his father at the time of his death from cancer in 1981, Marley is excited to gain new footing in the business world. After recording for Virgin and Elektra with the Melody Makers, and releasing his 2003 solo debut via Private Music, he's now a free agent.

"This is the best time, in terms of owning your own masters," he said. "This was a dream of my father. I'm actually fulfilling what he wanted. Right now, I feel like I'm doing for him what he wanted to do. After 'Uprising,' his last album for Island Records, he was going to do his own thing."

In 2003, the Marley family discovered a box of Bob's previously unreleased recordings and may eventually release them on an album. The first unheard song, "Slogans," featured a guitar overdub from
Eric Clapton, appeared on last year's singles collection "Africa Unite."

Marley says a second tune, "Real Good Time," will boast drumming from the Police's
Stewart Copeland, but he did not reveal a planned release date. "We'll wait for the right time," he said.

Where There's Smoke

Christopher J. Farley

Last weekend, I was invited to speak at the annual Houston International Festival in Texas. This year's Ifest focused on my native country of Jamaica. After a panel that featured my new book, Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley, a teenager in a Johnny Cash t-shirt came up to me and said he very much appreciated my talk.
"I didn't realize how deep Bob Marley was," the teen said. "I thought he was just a stoner."

I don't smoke and I don't drink. But I know from research that I did on my book, and from the conduct of the potheads in my high school shop class (they were particularly bad and dangerous when it came to spot-welding), that it's sometimes tough for folks who smoke lots of marijuana to be taken seriously. That's true whether you're Bob Marley or a medical researcher with an Ivy League degree.

In fact, serious pot-smokers got dealt a serious blow by the U.S. government just a few days ago. On April 20, in a move that was sharply criticized by many researchers and physicians, the U.S Food and Drug Administration issued a statement that read, in part, that the agency did "not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes." The statement also claimed that several Department of Health and Human Services agencies had "concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."

Marley might have wondered what the FDA had been smoking.

The reggae star was the most famous advocate of medical marijuana use. As a believer in Rastafari, a school of religious thought born in Jamaica, Marley saw marijuana as a sacrament. He also saw it as medicine for the body and the body politic. Time and again he called ganja "the healing of the nation." Marley argued that "Herb is not a drug. Herb is a plant that grow. And God made it so that mankind can take it."

Perry Henzell, the director of the classic film "The Harder They Come," once pointed out that the reggae star's decision to embrace a religious faction that featured ganja as a sacrament may have been the canniest move of his career.

Henzell was right. But Rastas don't just smoke ganja just to get high. Well, of course they like getting high, but there's a lot of thought that goes into it, or at least much more thought than the potheads used to show in my shop class.

Rasta teachings hold that the Bible once read that King Solomon's robes were made from hemp and that the original Hebrews used wisdom weed as incense. Rastas cite several biblical passages to back up their position. For example, Exodus 10:12 declares: "Eat every herb of the land."

It says "eat" and not "smoke" but for Rastas, that's close enough.

Rastas have paid dearly for their choice of sacrament.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rasta musicians were routinely targeted by Jamaican cops. Bob Marley and his bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer would all spend time in Jamaican prisons for marijuana offenses. Toots Hibberts of the Maytals spent two years in jail for marijuana possession, nearly derailing his career. He later wrote the hit song "54-46 (That's My Number)" about the experience.

The FDA's recent statement asserted that "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful."

Marley and his Rasta brethren had their own "sound" evidence that it was not.

Marley was arguably the greatest creative force the music world has ever seen. His songs, decades after they were first written, are anthems in Jamaica, South Africa, Japan -- and Houston, Texas. Ganja didn't seem to have a negative impact on his creativity.

Critics, however, have a powerful counterargument. Marley died of cancer at the age of 36. It's impossible to say with certainty whether his near-constant ganja smoking played any role. But it would be tempting for some to argue that it did.

Marley's life, like all lives, may have faded like smoke from a spliff. But his music lingers. The art that he made was more than a temporary buzz. It is serious stuff. TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT "BEFORE THE LEGEND", CLICK THE AMAZON LINK...
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vote Bob Marley in 2008!

Article by Christopher J. Farley
New Bob Marley Book: Before the Legend

This week, the New York Times published a story reporting that folk-rocker Neil Young was set to release a new politically-charged album that was "overtly partisan."

Pearl Jam, the Seattle-based rock band, just came out with a single, "World Wide Suicide," that seems to be critical of President Bush's handling of the Iraq War.

In recent years, a number of country singers have released songs praising the president and the troops and the conduct of the war.

Politics has returned to music. It never really left, but the Iraq War has put it on the radio, on the charts and in the mainstream media.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a war to raise the voices of political songwriters.

So it's a good time to look back at the greatest political singer-songwriter in music history: Bob Marley. May 11th is the 25th anniversary of the reggae singer's death.

Like a great politician, Marley transcended politics. In many ways he was like Barack Obama with a guitar. And dreadlocks. And a spliff.

Well, maybe he wasn't that much like Obama, but you get what I'm going for here.

Marley could have toured the red states and the blue states. He could have toured the magenta states too, if they had them.

It's hard to find people that hate Bob Marley.

I once did an interview with Bob Dylan and the subject of Marley and his songwriting came up. Dylan told me "Bob Marley's music isn't political. Bob Marley's music is universal."

And, of course, the other Bob was right. Dylan did write "Like a Rolling Stone," after all, so he knows a little something about songcraft.

Marley's genius is like that of William Faulkner or James Joyce: he made the local into the universal.

Marley is also a lot more fun to dance to than Faulkner or Joyce.

I once saw an interview in which someone referred to Canada as the Bob Marley of countries. In other words, the speaker was using Marley as symbol for something innocuous, inoffensive, and easy-going.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

They have a word they use in Jamaica, "Irie." It means many things, but it also means that things are doing alright. How you doing? Irie, mon.

Marley found the perfect blend of ire and irie.

Many of his songs--"Babylon System," "Get Up Stand Up," "War," "Rat Race"--are filled with incendiary lyrics.

Just Google them, you'll see.

If you're Googling them in China, I'd be careful.

Many of today's partisan singers, on either side of the issues, miss the main point of political songwriting.

Marley's most political songs are so convincing, so charming, and so righteous, they seem to have no politics at all. They draw you in with their warm grooves, and the sweet melodies make the angry lyrics go down easy.

Great political songwriting shouldn't just enrage--it should enchant.

Marley's music continues to cast a spell over partisans of every stripe.

Christopher John Farley is the author of the new biography "Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley."