You’re Jamaican, you love Bob Marley, right?

I grew up listening to Bob Marley’s music. In fact, I used to get a bit annoyed when people would expect me to like Bob Marley, because I’m black. In those far away days, Duran Duran and Teardrop Explodes were the tunes I was ‘jammin’ to!  However, Bob’s music was played a lot during the 80s and those haunting lyrics and melodies sunk into my soul until I knew all of the words to Buffalo Soldier, No Woman No Cry, Zimbabwe and many more.

© Suzy Rowland Walkers Wood, JA

It wasn’t until a recent inaugural trip to Jamaica this summer (I know, the flights are expensive) that I finally got to understand the deeper meaning of Marley’s music and that of some contemporary reggae artists. There is something about the intense heat of the sun, the dark, voluptuous vegetation and the searing poverty that makes the words and sounds of reggae come to life in Jamaica.

© Suzy Rowland Sunset in Jamaica

Throw in a dash of dark rum and the shining bodies of Jamaicans of African descent and I began to understand that the intensity of reggae exists as an echo to the complexity of its people, who are still reconciling their bloody history with a present, which is a tale of two radically different experiences. Including the homophobic and sexist material.

I suppose that’s the beauty of travel, you get to fill the gaps in your own history and imagination and create a new history too.

© Suzy Rowland, Bob Marley Museum



Nighth of Sine, by Leopold Sedhar Senghor

Woman, put on my forehead your balsam hands,
your hands softer than fur.
Up there, the tall palm trees swinging in the night breeze rustle hardly.
Not even the nurse’s song.
Let the rhythmic silence rock us.
Let’s listen to its song, let’s listen to the beating of our dark blood, let’s listen
To the beating-of the dark pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.

Look how the tired moon sinks towards its bed of slack water.
Look how the burst of laughter doze off, and even the bards themselves
dandle their heads like children on the backs of their mother.
Look how the feet of the dancers grow heavy, as well as the tongue of the alternating chorus.

This is the hour of the stars and of the Night that dreams reclining on that range of clouds, draped in its long gown of milk.
The roofs of the huts gleam gently. What are they so confidently telling to the stars?
Inside, the hearth extinguishes in the intimacy of bitter and sweet scents.

Woman, light the lamp of butterclear oil, let the Ancesters, like their parents, talk the children in bed.
Let’s listen to the voice of the Ancients of Elissa. Exiled as we are they did not want to die, their seminal flood is lost in the sand.
Let me hear, in the smoky which I visit, a reflection of propitious souls
Let my head on your breast, warm as a dang taken from the fire and smoking.
Let me inhale the smell of our Dead, let me collect and repeat their living voice, let me learn
To live before I sink, deeper than the diver, into the lofty depth of sleep.