Thursday, October 7, 2010

I just loved the music

If you don't know what the word "irie" means, then you probably don't know much about Rastafari and Reggae. I was probably around 13 years old when a girlfriend of mine picked up a tape with reggae music on it. It was Bob Marley's Uprising album. I listened to the music and immediately fell in love with it. Everybody that knows me knows that I have been a huge reggae fan since then. Even today I still listen to reggae and buy reggae music. My interest in reggae unfortunately didn't grow without any opposition from the people around me. I grew up in a time in South Africa where we were about to be "invaded by some black force", and to make matters worse reggae artists were singing about this day that was looming on the horizon like it was going to happen tomorrow. I mean, look at the cover of the Uprising album and tell me what you think. It gave white school kids nightmares at that time. In school we were told how this represents black domination. My mom wasn't really impressed with the black faces on all my new albums either. To make matters worse some even had smoking plants on the cover. And my oh my, it was not just ordinary plants, it was cannabis. Yes, ganga spliffs on the cover of the music I showed an interest in. How do you protect your naive 13-year old boy against smoking ganga? According to her I was already growing up for the gullows. My dad brought me information about reagge music and Rastafari to warn me against this evil that's infiltrating our household. I have no idea where he got it from, there wasn't Internet in those days. I am sure he had some connections with inteligence services that was monitoring each and every move of everyone who was interested in reggae music. I would not have been surprized if they were monitoring me as well. Despite all this, I just loved the music.

I am busy reading a book about Bob Marley. I've never actualy paid much attention to his life and the meaning of Rastafari, contrary to what my mother might 've believed back then. Politics at that time of my life was stuff that grown-ups did. And boy, did they fuck it up. Even today after changing the whole government they are still doing it. I was pleasantly surprized when I read that Bob Marley had a white father. Man, had I known this when I was 13 I could've blown my parent's concerns into pieces with these facts. But who cared anyway what the facts were? And besides, I didn't feel the need to convince them. I just loved the music. I also didn't know at that time that Bob Marley was totally against racism. Even the Rastafarian's "messiah" which they believe replaced Jesus because he was white, Haile Salassie, was against racism. In the church in which I grew up we ourselves weren't even that accommodating towards other races. We were too busy fighting off the demons of black domination and other dark forces (excuse the pun). In this book I also read that even Rastafaris didn't agree on what they actually believed in. They also, like any other religion, have the whole spectrum from the fundamental to the experimental. Today there are even white Rastas, just like there are black Christians. So I still struggle to see what the big issue was.

Despite the fact that they sing openly about using the herb ("I got to have kaya now"), I have never tried it myself. I am just not interested. I know all the words to each and every Bob Marley song, but I have never joined any black freedom organization because I laid in my room singing "Come we go chant down down Babylon one more time". I also didn't run away to meet His Emperial Majesty Jah Rastafari because I was singing at the top of my voice "we'll be forever loving Jah". I still went to Sunday school every Sunday where they unintentionaly made me to believe that only white people can go to heaven, and if I miss one Sunday school lesson then unfortunately I don't qualify anymore. I also never questioned anything at that time from being "negatively influenced" by any Rasta believes. No, I just loved the music.

After many years of listening to reggae music all I can say is that I don't blame my parents for wanting to protect me. Not because of the lyrics or the black domination, but I believe they did what they thought at that time was best for their child. I appreciate the fact that they still allowed me to listen to it and that my mom never smashed my records or made it disappear while I was asleep. The first celebrity's face my son knew when he was two years old was that of Bob Marley. When he sees people with dreadlocks and he says "Bob Marley" you can see the smiles appear on their faces. Isn't this what we need in our country, understanding each other and knowing what we all believe in even though we might not agree with each other or look like each other? I have definitely not changed into a Rasta, and I am not going to try to turn my straight blonde hair into dreadlocks either. In any case, blonde dreadlocks just don't look as cool as black dreadlocks. But as long as I can believe like my Rasta brothers that "we all are one", and that we all can live together in peace, I cannot ditch the music for any other reason just yet. Frankly I really don't care what the hidden message in the lyrics is or what Rastafarians stand for, I just love the music.

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