February 13th, 2012
As he advances into his septuagenarian period, a thought came to me. That by the time of his physical passing, at the age of thirty-six, he had acquired the wisdom of an elder.
Snow began to fall on the first night of the Bob Marley Festival (4th February), blanketing everywhere. So it was a welcoming change, to walk into a place of red, gold and green. A warming décor, to take away the chill and introduce the evening.
Although some were put off or blocked by the weather, I believe those who gathered and filled out the Bullingdon Arms, received a full blessing.
Natty Hi-Fi stalwarts, Garvin Dan and Nico, treated us to a selection from the Bob Marley treasure box; interspersed with music from other great talents, concluding with gems from Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh – his childhood friends and founder members of the Wailers.
Classics; early and later recordings. Plus their dubs, instrumentals and versions. A real panorama of his art. If my ears could applaud, they would have joyfully clapped, for what they received that night. I never tire of listening to his music, nor does my son Bingy, five years old. Like prayer, his music is forever.
Between the DJ offerings, the evening was enhanced by the featured band, Jamatone. A six-piece group; of bass, drums, keyboards, guitar and two vocalists. Regular features on Natty Hi-Fi promotions – solidarity reggae. So let me take a moment, to mention three of my favourites: ‘Rastaman Rise’, ‘How You Stay’ and ‘Black Is Not A Mask’, a song featuring the familiar rhythm of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ .They truly embellished the night, continuing that great tradition of Roots Reggae live; pioneered by such heroes as Burning Spear, Little Roy, the Abyssinians, as well as the icon of this festival
Other ingredients enriched the mix; in the form of Sista Ali with saxophone and Ras Hugo on hand drums. Playing alongside the Djs, weaving in and out – a sweet tapestry of dub
We left the Bullingdon at 3a.m, face and spirit glowing, looking forward to part two.
Yesterday, Sunday, day two of the festival, which began at 1pm and was held in the Chester Arms; began for me with coconut dahl and peas and rice. A generous portion of great-tasting food, created by Pippa a.k.a Little General, a popular local caterer. After this culinary delight, came the musical ones.
These gifts of sound were given to us by Tony Dread, original Natty Hi-Fi DJ; Prince, who blessed us with selection as well as his own poetry: Two In One, featuring Nick and his daughter Delilah; Jah Paul and Keolan Roots; plus the resident, Garvin Dan.
Because it was a daytime session, finishing at 8pm, children were able to enter. Some played outside in the snow, with swings, see-saw and a slide. Others inside, chatting and dancing with their parents.
Due to their enjoyment the night before, Jamatone volunteered to play for free. A respectful gesture, especially as the featured live act, Ras Keith, couldn’t make, it due to illness. Because of a late arrival, they were only able to play a short set. Short but sweet. Including such highlights as the two vocalists, Bissy and Shumba, duetting on one of my favourites ‘The Way They Treat I’. Always good to have Jamatone around – our Combination Dub.
Before I finish, mention must be made of Simone Hendry, a film-making student at City and Islington College, London. She has set up her own company, called Toxic Productions. It was her and crew who filmed the whole proceedings, moving around with tripod and cameras. Hoping to catch the festive spirit on film; for us all to share and savour, in time to come.
At the end, volunteers helped to take down the hangings and to carry out the sound system. I think Bob Marley would have liked to have seen that. As well as the little children, dancing to his music.
This ghetto youth, whose music and life, is now studied by students, writers and academics, became wise beyond his years. A simple living sage, whose greatest love was music.
Wise enough to understand it’s power and to harness it: and then to heal us with it. Blessings for everyone.
Today, the sixth of February; I wish you a very Happy Birthday Bob Marley, 72 years old.
© Natty Mark Samuels, 2012.