No, that other one isn't dead! Yet. But if he does die I will write a blog remembering what he meant to me. There is a story there...
I am not a morning person. Come to think of it I am not any time of day person either. It takes me a good 45 minutes to get myself out of bed. When I am in my flat in Johannesburg, or my home in Harare, I put out one hand. Slowly. The other one remains where it is. Too cold. Too numb. Too exciting. Hey this is not that sort of blog.
I reach out under my pillow. Yes I am one of those strange people who goes to bed with my mobile phones and radio remote control under my pillow. I flick the cd player on. I crank up the volume, " I want to disturb my neighbours, blow them to full watts.....". As I do this, I look up across the wall. My eyes light fully open now. They alight on his beautiful photo on that postcard I bought in a dingy shop in Brighton. He looked so handsome. Smiling that gorgeous half smile. Dreadlocks beautifully swept to one side. I put up the volume some more. Thank God I am right on a busy road, the neighbours have never complained about it. Or maybe they just think I am up to my "darkie" ways, I will never find out. "Love to see when you are moving to rhythm. I love to see when you are dancing from within. It gives great joy to see such sweet togetherness. ..These are the days when we tread through Bablylon...Jump, jump, jump, Nyabhingi....!"
At this point, I get out of bed, and try to do this jumping bit. Trust me, its quite a sight. My day is set up. From this moment on I am ready to face the world.
I love Bob Marley's music. I have all his cds. Even the old original versions of the Wailers' songs. It is the closest I have ever got to being a fanatic about anything. My late brother Jabulani, who was a music and soccer fanatic introduced me to reggae and Bob. I was very young then, and I had no idea what the music was about. I could not understand half the lyrics either. This was in the days before cds, internet lyrics, and those now ubiquitous cd. sleeves where its all there.
In those days we kept song books. These were little hard covered note-books where you wrote down the lyrics of your favourite songs. If you had a boyfriend, he would write one for you. I got one when I was in Form 2, full of saccharine songs like "you to me are everything the sweetest song that I could sing oh baby". The very nice, but really boring boy had no idea that this was not my music. I wanted to understand what "bredren, I'n' I" meant, and who "Jah" was.
All I knew was that this was important music. When Bob Marley played, my brother went into a kind of trance. He would sit on his bed, or on the floor and pay serious attention, imitating the Jamaican patois to the best of his ShonDebele abilities. This was different from how he would respond to Black Sabbath, or Led Zeppelin. This was different. This was music for the soul. I got hooked. The first vinyl record I ever owned, was Bob Marley's Coming in from the Cold, which I won in a competition on Zimbabwe's Radio 2. I still have that LP - as we called them.
The day Bob Marley died, I was so devastated. It was the first time in my life I understood what death meant. My brother Admire had died in 1976, but I was too young then to understand what it meant. It all felt like an unreal dream. When Jabu and I met during my school holidays after Bob's passing we listened to his music the whole week. Every day. Into the wee hours of the morning. And we wept as if our mother had left us.
Tomorrow marks what would have been Bob Marley's 65th birthday. I am sitting in this place where I hardly know what the social scene is like. My friend Percy who should know where they have a Bob Marley memorial night says he is off to relax in some mountains. I don't know why someone born in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe wants to see more mountains. Methinks he has been hanging out with too many white people, " We had a fantastic time in the quiet mountains....it was sooooo peaceful...." Mountains? Where there're centipedes and other goggas? But I digress.
If I was in Zimbabwe, (the hankering after my home, again), I know I would go to Harare gardens and dance all day on Saturday with "vana dread". We would skank, scream, and toast to Marley's wonderful life. But more importantly, we would listen to his music and FEEL what it means to many people throughout the world. I will not let the day pass quietly though. The party has already began. Since this morning, I have been playing Bob's music non stop.
Now that I finally understand the lyrics, (thanks to the sleeves and the internet), I can fully appreciate what he was talking about. It doesn't surprise me that every time I travel to any part of the world, and visit very poor neighbourhoods, the only music I hear on the radios, in the community halls, or on the public buses is Marley's. Because my hair is dreadlocked, I get greeted as, "eh Bob Marley!". In Ghana last May, the young men in the street markets kept referring to me as "Ras!", and I would get that fist bump handshake, then happily, I got a discount on whatever I wanted to buy. In Sierra Leone, one guy kept following me playing his Rastaman live up! I didn't feel threatened. Eventually he came close enough and we listened to his radio together. He was very excited to hear me sing the lyrics perfectly.
In Haiti, (oh Haiti!), last September, Marley's music played loudly in so many places.
In many Asian countries people in remote villages are very fascinated by my dreadlocks. They can't understand how the twisting is done and if it can be undone. So in my effort to explain the difference between locks, extensions, and braids, I keep saying, "my hair is my natural hair...you know...like Bob Marley?" Suddenly their eyes will light up, they will mimick a singer, and we know we are communicating. Not just about the hair.
And since I am sitting in this country where sex and the sexual life of a big man is in the news, I have to reflect too on my hero's sex life. Like many men of his kind; famous, powerful, popular, he just seemed to not know where to "put it". And he did put it in too many places. Children everywhere. That is the bit I struggle with. But that is the subject of another blog.
Tomorrow, I will have a one woman celebration of Bob Marley's life. I will put on my rasta cap and groovy colourful dress which my friends Nyaradzo and Trevor brought me from Jamaica. I will get up to my favourite song, based on the speech by Haile Selassie, (before he lost direction), "WAR". I have re-written the lyrics to suit my struggle as a woman.
Until the philosophy which holds one sex superior, and another inferior,is finally, and permanently discredited, and abandoned....
Until the shape of a person's genitals is of no more significance, than the colour of their eyes,
Mi say War....yeah....
Until that day, the dream of lasting peace...world citizenship,
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We African women will fight - we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory
Of good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!