Scholar presents Bob Marley’s highlights
By Leo de Azambuja
If Jamaican Bob Marley were alive, he would have celebrated his 61st birthday on Feb. 6. Instead, almost two hundred Oahu residents crowded Doris Duke Theater to see multi-talented reggae archivist Roger Steffens’ presentation celebrating just that, “ The Life of Bob Marley.” On the following day Steffens also presented a lecture on Marley at University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
Most expected a documentary from the actor, author, lecturer, photographer, editor, reggae archivist, and former promotions director of Marley’s label, Island Records. But it was a compilation of uncut and mostly unreleased footage from Marley’s interviews, shows and rehearsals. To fans, it was a pleasant surprise.
Marley promoted non-violence
According to Steffens, the image of Marley, together with that of revolutionary idol Che Guevara, is the most omnipresent image of the 20th Century, but he was a different kind of revolutionary. He belonged to the same league of rebels such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who preached non-violence.
In some of his songs, he spoke of love and unity, in others he spoke of social injustices and political repression. But instead of inciting violence, Marley said “we don’t need no more trouble, what we need is love.”
Rastafarians changed language to advocate peace
Steffens toured with Marley for two weeks in 1978 and said in the Rastafarian perspective words of negative content are avoided. The word “you” is seldom spoken because it means separation. Rastafarians want to advocate unity. When Marley would say “I and I,” he meant you and I. “They don’t say university, they say iniversity,” Steffens said. “They don’t say library, they say truebrary.”
In 2005, Professor Emeritus Glenn Paige, a renowned peace advocate, visited University of Hawai‘i at M?noa. He challenged communication and journalism students to come up with creative alternatives for violent language. Marley showed the world that when it seemed impossible, the Rastafarians made it possible, creating new words to advocate peace.
Marley’s universal impact
Steffens noted Marley’s universal impact through an experience while spending two weeks last January touring Israel in a beaten Volkswagen van covered with reggae stickers. In one of the most heavily patrolled checkpoints, a young Israeli guard, machine gun in hand, walked right up to Steffens and his crew, looked at them, paused for a second and let out with a huge grin stamped on his face “Rastafari!”
Music historians predicted that reggae music was going to grow stronger and bigger after Marley’s death, according to Steffens. But he said it was Marley’s image and music that grew stronger than reggae. Today, according to him, Marley’s music accounts for roughly 50 percent of all the reggae music sold in the world; more than 20 years after his death.
Marley’s life was cut short at 36 years of age. But his legacy is much bigger than any other artist’s, living or dead. The only Third World artist in the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame, Marley is considered by the New York Times to be the most influential recording artist of the second half of the 20th Century. He did much more than just put Jamaica on the map. Marley showed the world that “no long would we have to suffer, if we just learned these things, that we must be united.”
“One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right,” Marley sang. “As it was in the beginning, so shall we be.”
Some of Bob Marley’s record albums:
• One Love
• Catch a Fire
www.bobmarley.com the official bob Marley website
www.themarleystore.com the official bob Marley and Marley family online store
Princeton record exchange
© 2005 UHM Journalism program and students.