By Moses Magadza
The Warehouse Theatre, a popular watering hole here pulsated to protest and lamentation music last week as scores of reggae musicians shared the stage in a week-long reggae festival partly in memory of the late legendary apostle of reggae music, Robert Nester Marley.
The highlight of the festival – the first of its type in Windhoek – was the ‘Tribute to Bob Marley Show’, which was staged in memory of Marley, who died in 1981 from cancer at the age of 36.
From Monday last week, The Warehouse hosted one reggae band each evening as a build up to the Bob Marley Tribute Show, which began on Saturday evening and lasted into the wee hours of Sunday.
The music and chants of Jamaica filled the air as more than five bands played to a full house. Scores of people from different races and walks of life who included dreadlocked, elaborately dressed Rastafarians and others met as one to celebrate the life and immortal music of “The Lion of Judah”.
Among the bands that performed were Rainbow Sounds of Katutura, Rash Kashera and his band all the way from Rundu, Mighty Dreads fronted by Seston Wahengo, Formula Band featuring Tolonga Wahengo and Ngatuwane, Panduleni, Shemi Yetu, Ras Sheehama and Jacskon Kaujeua. Lady Black, a poet based in Windhoek, also performed.
Although the musicians that participated in the week-long festival played their own compositions, on Saturday they set aside their own repertoires and played Marley’s undying gems.
It was a dazzling spectacle. Revellers of all ages bobbed up and down with abandon in a kaleidoscope of Rastafarian colours and flying dreadlocks as the bands, one after the other, played Marley’s songs with surgical precision.
Marley, who was born and raised in the muck and mire of the poorest part of Jamaica where he experienced poverty first hand, rose like a phoenix from dusty alleys to inspire millions of people across the world with his desire to spread truth, peace, love and music.
The despicable poverty, hunger, hardships and other forms of deprivation which he experienced as he grew up with the likes of Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, were to find poignant expression in his music after he formed The Wailers.
In numerous interviews, those who grew up with him have described him as a very intense and intelligent man who went to great lengths to make his message understandable, “even to children” (Bob Marley’s own words).
He had a sad and lonely upbringing, and seldom saw his white father who died when he was 10 years old.
In 1959, he went to live with his aunt in Kingston. For a chap who had grown up in the village where people lived off the land and walked from one point to the other, seeing the rat life of Kingston residents as they went about their way of life was fascinating. He was to laugh about it in a later interview.
Little is known about his formal education, but it is said that he loved music and sang his own songs – often to his mother – from a very early age. In 1966, he married Rita Anderson, a cute Sunday school girl who had been eyeing him as he passed by her house with others on their way to rehearsals.
Records show that he was fiercely devoted to her and loved her so much that each time young female admirers called him, he would ask his mother to take the calls and tell them that he was married.
With the Wailers, Marley’s rise to stardom was meteoric. He emboldened the down-trodden to, “Get up Stand Up… fight for your rights!” and it was not long before detractors tried to put him down. In 1976, there was an attempt to kill him and he was shot twice but survived.
For him, singing was a way of expressing his feelings and registering his disappointment over the way the odds were stacked against the poor. He kicked against colonialism and exploitation of the poor by the rich.
Marley believed that nothing was stronger than the people whom he identified with very closely. In fact, he felt so secure among the people, especially the lumpen proletariat, that when he bought his first car, a BMW, he drove it around in Kingston and never locked the doors.
Some people who spoke to New Era at the memorial gig said the world is the poorer without Marley.
“He was a kind-hearted man who loved people. I read somewhere that he helped lots of poor people from his own pocket and was proud of what he was,” said one reveller.
Although he encouraged people to reject oppression and fight for their rights, he was against war. For him, being a Rastafarian was a way of identifying himself. He rejected the notion that Rastafarians had a bad reputation. In 1978 he brought two bickering Jamaican politicians together in a spectacular peace-broking gesture through his “One Love concert”.
In 1980, he performed at Rufaro Stadium, Harare, at Zimbabwe’s independence. It was a memorable and emotional gig that brought former foes, black and white people, together.
During last week’s concert, Namibian musicians played some of Marley’s songs that include, One Love, Get up Stand Up, Three Little Birds, No Woman No Cry, Buffalo Soldier, Redemption Songs and War.
Fire Academy, an entertainment outfit based in Windhoek, occupied revellers during intermissions. Fire Academy comprises of Victor Mutambanengwe, who was the chief master of ceremony at the concert and also Leroy, Kwayedza and Jacob Bangure.