Bob Marley Trench Town Years
Bob Marley Trench Town Years and Trench Town The Birthplace Of Reggae
Reggae is by far Jamaica’s most famous cultural export.
It is this musical art form that makes Jamaica easily identifiable for its music and which has brought Jamaica great acclaim.
The ever present issues of poverty, corruption, disenfranchisement with governments, poor housing and no education has provided great material for many artistes.
One of the most famous among these artistes who has used his own harsh reality and turned it into song and indeed a movement is Robert Nesta Marley; a man many believe was the voice and liberator of the poor if not in politics in music.
But to understand why the music of Marley is still so relevant we must first look at the place where he spent most of his life honing his craft, Trench Town.
Bob Marley Trench Town Years in the squatter settlement
Born in St. Ann and relocating to Kingston in his early teens to complete his education. Bob Marley Trench Town years was an eye opening experience for Marley who, though exposed to poverty had never seen so much at once. Trench Town aptly describes a squatter settlement; where the Higgs, Mortimer ’Kumi’ Planno, and Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’"were help to shape Bob Marley’s destiny.
"These figures would aid in the shaping of his life, search for faith, and development of his musical career."
Bob Marley Trench Town Years:1970's
The trying times of the 1970’s saw those who lived in Trench Town being completely hopeless, with no jobs, hardly any food and continued political tensions, severe economic strains due to the involvement of the IMF and structural adjustment policies, it was through music that people saw themselves and identified with the struggles sung about in popular local songs.
Bob would team up childhood friend Neville ’Bunny’ Livingston, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite and two backing vocalists to record ‘Simmer Down’ in 1964. “Simmer Down” called for inner city youths to quell the violence taking place at the time as a result of tensions between the two rival parties the JLP(Jamaica Labor Party) and the PNP (People’s national Party)as well as a drastic increase in unemployment.
This song was but an example of the realities of the youth as well as signs of a new form of musical identity what was taking place in Jamaica and was being sung by those where living was hardest, in Bob Marley Trench Town years in Western Kingston.
No longer were musicians replicating what they saw American artistes doing but stared facing their own situations and trying to make it through as best as possible.
As more and more country folk moved to Trench Town and tensions rose, the Wailers as they called themselves was appropriate because they felt like the Israelites in captivity.
They were indeed sufferers wailing for their freedom, so were the poor and repressed who were crying for their freedom in Jamaica. The Wailers would represent this ongoing desire to be truly set free in neocolonial Jamaica.
The Wailers message resonated with the inner city youth and soon Trench Town became the Mecca for the talented but dispossessed of the country.
It was this dispossession that caused many to turn to the gun as their source of survival.
But is was not until about 1967-1968 that Trench Town became particularly violent when the two political parties were distributing even more guns to both political supporters as well as area ‘leaders/dons’ as the levels of crime increased so did the feelings of despair.
Many people contend that Trench Town is the birthplace of reggae and an environment that actually nurtured friendships or created bitter enemies. However this is where Bob Marley thrived and would have friendships that lasted until his death. This is where he, along with the other members of the Wailers, would write some of their most potent songs which mirrored their stark reality.
Though this inner city community was one of the poorest in the entire country it was still the home to many of the great musicians of our time, including Alton Ellis, Joe Higgs, Jimmy Cliff, and Ken Booth, who have all contributed to the musical legacy of Jamaica.
As the Israelites were seen as sufferers in a foreign land so too where those in Trench Town., many of whom were from the rural areas and had migrated to the city to seek a better life and who it seemed were trapped in a Babylonian system. The system would not let them go, it would not let them improve their situation, this was where hustlers were made you either learnt how to swim or you would sink.
It was from this environment that the Wailing Wailers would be brought up in and whose music would over the year reflect a direct and unapologetic unacceptance of this system, a new form of slavery.
Bob Marley Trench Town Years Influenced His Beliefs ...faiths and practices..
In post Independent Jamaica things were expected to get better, better housing, more jobs, increased education and improved healthcare.
This was not to be.
As slaves had done in the past on the sugar plantations of the British West Indies, using methods of African retention Trench Town itself had many different faiths and practices. Traditions found themselves in Pocomania, Kumina, Bruckins as well as the Obeah/Medicine Man.
These religious retentions influenced the mode of Trench Town and having a dual effect on the mood of the community and its own politics and Rastafarianism which was deemed to a be cult. This was by far the greatest threat to the government as Rastafarians were anti-Government and were regularly harassed by the police, arrested, their locks shaved, homes destroyed.
The most famous of the government’s attempt to destroy the Rastafrian movement was the destruction of Back-O-Wall in Kingston 1966. Indeed the constant oppression and depression that was prevalent in the late 1960’s and 1970’s have certainly increased and at the moment has cause a degradation in the sense of community and a greater push for individualism.
The realities of Trench Town gave rise to some of the greatest writings of all times, though life was tough it was the positive influence of persons such as Cedella Marley Booker, Mortimer Planno, Joe Higgs and others that allowed Bob Marley and the Wailers to stare clear of trouble and stick to what they were good at and what was positive which was reggae music.
They therefore willingly or not became ambassadors of not only the poor in their community but all across the island as they rose to prominence in the music business.
One of the most significant relationships formed in Trench Town was that between Marley and Mortimer Planno.
Mortimer Planno had a significant impact on not only the Marley but also the Wailers themselves. His introduction of the Rastafarian faith to Marley would eventually lead all the members of the Wailing Wailers on a personal quest to find their own interpretation of the truth, for most it was to be found in the doctrines of Rastafarianism.
Doctrines of Marcus Garvey and Rastafarianism
The doctrines of Marcus Garvey had a great impact on Rastafarianism.
Marcus Garvey teachings advocated for the complete dependence on one’s own race as well as most importantly a very good understanding of self and a habit of self-reliance.
Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers stuck to Garvey said ‘…look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned for the day of deliverance is near…’, the coronation of His Excellency Haile Selassie 1 and it was the inducement that the black masses needed.
The prophecy had indeed come true and therefore many found themselves intrigued by both Garveyism as well as Rastafarianism.
There was tremendous growth in the Rastafarian faith.
As a result Trench Town saw a resurgence in the levels of studying of Garveyism and Rastafarianism. It was not just Marley but also the Rastafarian elders who lived in the community attempt to provide hope to those entrenched in the squalor of Trench Town
Bob and The Wailers to Emerge as True Inner City Ambassadors
Trench Town would expose Marley and the Wailers to the deceptive world of the music industry from the run ins with Clement Dodd as well as, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry all these experiences would later prepare him to tackle the music industry and indeed succeed and ultimately create an environment in which a true survivor would emerge.
The years spent in Trench Town allowed for Bob and the Wailers to emerge as true inner city ambassadors.
As the society changed so did the attitude and songs of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Trench Town provided the relevant experience needed to create the Wailers and nothing would have emerged if there was no Trench Town.
The songs that were born out of Trench Town are important toady because the conditions of which the Wailers sang are still present and there is very little that has changed over the years.
The inner city is still wailing in government/tenement yards, the wealth of the country is still being built on the backs of cheap black labor and the “vampire” is still sucking the blood of the sufferer, therefore the relevance of Trench Town and Bob Marley go hand in hand, if there was no Trench Town it is fair to say maybe there would not have been no Bob. And so the movement of Jah people continues.
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