Category Archives: In PRINT

RasTa MOVIE POSTER | Adam Jarvis, designer

By ADAM JARVIS

When I was approached by Len Henry of Fashcam to work on a logo for a featured length documentary about RasTafari – I was very honoured. Although, I am not a Rasta myself, I was born in the Caribbean, and was brought up to respect people of all colours and creeds. Working closely with Len and Corwin Hall of Yaudie, we developed a logo that captured the spirit of the movement.

This project presented a grand opportunity for me to educate myself on the religion. What I was not expecting, was to reach such artistic depths within myself. It pushed me to create something, then elevate it into a “work of art”.

A large bulk on my creativity ends up here on Vectorvault. It is my lover letter to vector art and my favourite software Adobe Illustrator. But this project required me to activate the Photoshop side of my brain as well.

With countless layers and textures, this poster finally came to fruition. “It” let me know when “it” was finished.

As a Creative Director with over 16 years behind me, I can honestly say that this project was far more enjoyable than any “ad” I have ever done. I enjoyed the process of reading faces and revealing the story through images…

THE JOURNEY OF A SOUL
Donisha Prendergast, Grand Daughter of the legendary Rita and Bob Marley is on a quest. To discover the “Roots of RasTafari”. It inspired the film’s branding imagery. – What a great “client brief”.

A GROWING MOVEMENT
The poster image took on the shape of an organic tree. It was built using the faces of Rasta. The historical icons and everyday people who keep the religion alive around the world. Donisha travels introduced her to many faces – each with a story.

THE ART
The colours and shapes were all pulled together from various stock sources. Including Vectorvault’s own collection of RasTa themed vector art. Including a series of drips and splatters that I used to enhance the branches and dreadlocks. Combined with stunning production photos, and a little creativity – an image was born.

………..

Be sure to pick-up your own copy, unsigned or better yet, signed by Donisha, at RasTa’s FESTIVAL LOUNGE, 221 Yonge St. (Sept. 6-19)

NOW Magazine: Marley Vibe

By SAIRA PEESKER

If Bob Marley were alive today, he probably wouldn’t be making music. That’s what his granddaughter says anyway.

There’s just too much other work to do in the world, Donisha Prendergast tells an eager crowd packed closely around her in a grassy patch between the library and the outdoor pool at Alexandra Park on Friday night, August 5.

Promising a dialogue on youth, spirituality and the much misunderstood Rastafari, the charismatic actor and activist addresses a mostly adult group and speaks of her grandfather as a Rasta first and foremost.

If Marley were alive today, he’d be focused on doing positive work in the community, she says. “There’s lots of good singers.”

In his day, she points out, the reggae king was spreading Rastafari through a newly popular form of music, but now the movement has reached all corners of the world.

Prendergast, who was born after her grandfather’s death, is here promoting a soon-to-be-released film, RasTa: A Soul’s Journey, in which she visits Rastafarian communities in Toronto, Ethiopia, Israel and South Africa, as well as other cultures that share some of its practices, like the dreadlocked, pot-smoking Hindu mystics of India.

Anyone looking to get a straight answer about the basics of the movement is out of luck at the Scadding Court event, an unstructured, two-hour Q&A. Audience questions jump from racial profiling by police to the cultural significance of the Queen of Sheba.

Asked to explain the culture, Prendergast says, “That is your decision. You must know when the time comes, and you must know what it reveals.

“Rastafari represents African-ness. There is no other movement in the world that shows Africa is the way forward right now and identifies an African king and an African queen. If you take Rastafari out of this world, then the colours, the dreadlocks, the music, Bob Marley, all of that is gone. You understand?”

The idea of sacrifice and public service comes up again as she traces her own evolving understanding of what it means to be a Rasta.

“It represents love, unity, peace, sacrifice, service and justice for all. And inspiration. And we are all divine beings. The only way I feel whole is if I do service,” says Prendergast, who helped start a recycling company in Jamaica, where such services are uncommon.

“I grew up Rasta, but it wasn’t until I began this journey that I realized I wasn’t Rasta.”

The film’s Toronto-based executive producer, Patricia Scarlett, says she first became aware of Rastafari’s reach while travelling the world for her job at TVOntario.

“It has spread to cultures that are not in any way connected to Africa or Jamaica,” Scarlett tells NOW. “There’s something in the message as spread through reggae that people relate to. It’s really a reinterpretation of the Old Testament.”

While it’s not clear how many Rastas there are in Toronto, Stats Can figures for 2001 put the number at 415. Beliefs vary among different Rastafarian communities, but many believe in the Bible and see Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Selassie (emperor until 1974) was highly regarded on the world stage for bringing Ethiopia into the UN and writing his country’s first constitution.

Many are vegetarians and adhere to an Ital diet: food that comes from the earth, without preservatives or other chemicals. Some also avoid salt unless it comes from the ocean.

But while ganja smoke may be one of the few things outsiders associate with Rastafari, Prendergast mentions it only once, while encouraging people to check out Jamaica’s inaugural Manifesto Festival in November, a collaboration with Toronto’s Manifesto crew.

“There will be lots of concerts, lots of life, reggae music, greenery, everything nice,” she says.

Link to article

InsideToronto.com:
Learning about Rasta movement from filmmaker

Though her grandfather, reggae legend Bob Marley, died three years before she was born, Donisha Prendergast can feel his spirit with her wherever she goes.
“I’ve felt his spirit, I hear his music all the time so I feel like I know him,” said the 26-year-old, who dropped by Oakdale Community Centre at Jane Street and Grandravine Drive Wednesday, Aug. 3 to promote her soon to be released documentary Rasta: A Soul’s Journey. “Making the documentary helped me become a little closer to his mission. He was a freedom fighter, not just a musician.”

The documentary, which was shot over four years in eight countries and will be released in the fall, explores the Rastafari movement and aims to dispel myths often associated with it.

Prendergast, who spoke to some 60 local youths, said a Rasta is someone who does the work – not just “the braids, the marijuana, the red, green and gold (flag).”

“We are about truth, rights and justice,” she said. “The documentary is my journey as a young woman and Bob Marley’s granddaughter, discovering the roots of Rastafari. It was an eye opening experience. I was watching myself evolve as a Rasta woman and not just Bob Marley’s granddaughter being Rasta. It’s not just a black movement. I don’t want to picture a world without Rastafari. It’s created so much balance in an otherwise unbalanced world.”

Before filming, Prendergast, who calls Jamaica and Miami home, said she thought the movement was all about reggae music, peace and love.

“As I was travelling, I realized there is so much work to be done, truth and rights work,” she said. “I think the biggest misconception is that people wear dreadlocks and do bad things and don’t have work to do. I hope the documentary makes people realize it’s OK to reevaluate your life and challenge the things you thought at certain points in your life.”

The Rastafari movement began in the Jamaican slums in the 1920s and 30s. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life than a religion. The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one’s hair in dreadlocks and vegetarianism.

The movement is named for Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930.

“It’s a great day,” said Phil Edwards of the community recreation program at Oakdale Community Centre, who dug out his Bob Marley T-shirt especially for the occasion. “(Prendergast) can speak directly to the youth, the youth have heard Bob Marley’s music and have been affected by the culture.”

By Fannie Sunshine – article

JamaicanXpress: Bob Marley Granddaughter,
Star of film ‘RasTa’, coming to Caribana

By CLIFTON JOSEPH

Donisha Prendergast, the granddaughter of Bob and Rita Marley, and the star of the upcoming documentary film “RasTa: a Soul’s Journey”, is coming to Toronto to headline a float at Caribana promoting the movie and to do a series of presentations and youth events.

The 26 year-old whose iconic grandfather died before she was born, is the daughter of Sharon Marley of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, grew up in the U.S., studied acting at Howard University and immersed herself in an acting career before becoming a devotee of the Rastafarian faith in 2003.

While in Toronto, in addition to headlining the “RasTa” float at the Caribana Parade, Prendergast will appear at a number of other events, including presenting at the Irie Music Festival on Friday July 29 and again at the Festival’s “Tribute to Bob Marley” on Sunday July 31; meet with youth groups and appear on a panel about Rastafari and “green” living.

“Rasta: a Soul’s Journey”, produced by Toronto’s Scarlett Media, helmed by Patricia Scarlett, which has been described as “one young woman’s global journey to explore Rastafari, the spiritual legacy of her grandparents, Rita and Bob Marley”. Filming took Prendergast to eight countries, including Jamaica, Canada, the U.S., Ethiopia, Israel, India and South Africa, on a personal spiritual search for the history and practice, international popularity and continuing impact of Rastafari.

The JamaicanXpress newspaper caught up with Donisha Prendergast for an exclusive interview, on/the/phone from Miami, where she was filming interviews with her grandmother, Rita Marley, and her uncle, Damian Marley, for “RasTa”.

She was forthcoming, thoughtful, energetic and enthusiastic about the film and her trip to Toronto. We asked her about the iconic importance of her grandfather Bob Marley, and she told us that:

“His place in history has been made clear in his music and the effects he has had on the social consciousness of people. He’s a rebel but a rebel with a cause and he is like David, the man of Psalms to me in this time. If I had to look at the Bible I would say that my grandfather was a kind of David figure and he and his message stands today in the hearts of the people, because in each heart there is a song.”

The JamaicanXpress also wanted to know how she was able to filter through all the reggae and Rastafari iconic imagery of Bob Marley, to get to an understanding of him as flesh-&-blood, a man, her grandfather. The granddaughter didn’t jester with her answer.
“Through my grandmother, mainly,” she told us, “because she didn’t look at him like an International superstar, like everybody. To her he was just Robbie, this youth that she and him fell in love. And he didn’t come from any great social circumstance. In fact I just interviewed her, to be included in the documentary, and just learning more and more about him, like when she and him first started to court, he used to sleep on a door in Sir Coxcone Dodd’s studio, and it was she who let him in her home so he could sleep on her floor in the nighttime and sneak out early in the morning before her auntie would wake up, and it was no sexual relations or anything like that, it was just out of respect for her brother, as my g/mother said that even though he was her husband he was still her brother, you know, so its through her stories, her reflections, her memories of him that I am able to see him as a man, because there’s no one else that can tell the life-story of Bob Marley like my grandmother. She’s the closest one to him that is still living today”.

Prendergast told us that her introduction to “RasTa”, the film, coincided with her own interests in doing a documentary about Africa, after her moving experiences with her grandmother’s foundation’s annual trip to Africa, in South Africa, where after a speech about honoring young girls, she was besieged by a deluge of questions from moved young girls about what else she was going to be doing. When she got back to the U.S., she decided that acting wasn’t/her/thing and started looking at doing a documentary on the negative portrayal of Africa. That’s when Patricia Scarlett, of Scarlett Media, called her.

“Patricia contacted me, saying that she just got back from Jamaica, shooting a film on Rastafari called “Rastafari Then and Now”, and she has some ideas to do a global film. Then she told me her history and connection to Rastafari. She was in love with a Rastaman and was drawn to the philosophy, but before they were to be married, he died. Earlier he had told her to do a film to teach the world the Rastafari philosophy that he had taught her, and it was so touching, and reminded me so much of my grandmother, and the sense of duty. She was left with this duty to carry the message all over the world, after my grandfather passed away; and it just resonated in my spirit. I was immediately drawn to the project and we didn’t know exactly how we were going to go about doing it. All we knew was that we had to go around the world; and the documentary just evolved into what it is. It started out with the working title of “In search of Rastafari” and eventually evolved into “Rasta: A Soul’s Journey” because it’s a journey inside of you, it’s a road you have to trod yourself. You can’t look to somebody else and know. Who feels it knows it, as Bob say and now I understand”.

Prendergast passionately told us about growing up in the atmosphere of reggae and Rastafari and how she eventually went through a personal transformation.

“I just automatically assumed I was Rasta. It wasn’t like an experience I thought I had to go through. I didn’t really realize that there was so much history in Rastafari. All around the world there are people who see Rastafari and reggae as something solely connected to Bob Marley, and then because I am his granddaughter, it’s almost like I don’t look any further, but like what my mother said when I did decide to locks my hair in 2003, ‘this vibration bring positive and negative energy’; and when I did start to feel that imbalance in my life I really started to realize that there is something deeper than just this surface thing, to Rastafari. Then I started asking questions of the elders, and sit at their feet and listen while them talking, and you listen to their reasonings, their experiences, the pain that they went through, and you hear that life is Rastafari levity. And it’s so much more than these colors that you wear, than the dread-locking your hair, so much more than the ganja that you smoke, and wanting to say that you are free and that you are Rasta. No! Its about building and establishing a reality in people, letting them know, yow, you worth something, you come from strong lineage, you is somebody, you is an African and we have a King to identify in Haile Selassie I the First, so look no further for identity, because it is here in the present state of Rastafari”

We also wanted to know how the experience of working on the documentary has changed and charged her, personally.

“Rastafari is a call to action, that is what I have come to overstand from the experience of this documentary. It has totally changed me. It has put things into perspective, like my grandmother says “everyone is on a journey, but who is on the mission?” and that is what I am coming to understand now, “when does your journey become a mission?”
After a pause, she continued, “When you become exposed to certain truths then your journey becomes a mission and you can even decide to do something, or not, or just continue journeying. Since I been back off of this journey, I have been on my mission in Jamaica doing a lot of social programs in different inner/city-communities. I have also been traveling to different schools in the region—I went to Trinidad recently—doing presentations on Rastafari, and to ask questions and also to give myself up in that space for the youth to ask me questions, because I realize that everybody is searching, everybody is trying to understand what the truth is.”
With so many people still searching and journeying for truth, she told us about meeting up with some white dreads in Israel, and how they came to the faith of Rastafari.

“When I went to Israel I asked them “how come you a white man with freckles and orange hair. How come you are Rasta? And he said, ‘You know the first thing that brought Rastafari to us was reggae music through Bob Marley and others. Once the music came and we understood reggae music and that the thing of reggae music was to carry the passion of Rastafari, we embraced it. Because it was all very natural to us.’ And this was a white man talking, which goes to show that it goes so much deeper, and you know how you can study a book and study a book and one day you might be walking down the street and the book finally makes sense? That’s what Rastafari was to them, they told me.”

She was deeply moved doing this film, she says, and want people to let their guard down and come with an open mind to the film.
“This film will show people a true honest expression of my journey to understand what this thing called Rastafari is, and who I am, because I am Bob Marley’s granddaughter, yes, but what does that mean? Who was he beyond the music? What about Rastafari made him dedicate his life to it, and they took his life for it, for carrying this positive vibe around the world? It’s about answering serious questions like those. And sometimes they hurt. There’s a lot of pain I endured going through the documentary realizing certain truths, even coming to accept & understand that somebody did take my grandfather’s life. All my life I heard that he bucked his toe and so, but doing the film and traveling, I came to realize that there’s no way he could just up and dead so. I have come to realize the importance of his time lived and what he did and accomplished with that time. And also what my grandmother did, too. Many people don’t acknowledge her because she’s overshadowed by Bob Marley, but people should listen to her story to find out more about who Bob Marley was, and go beyond the fame. That is what this documentary will show, that at the root of it, we are all the same, looking for that same thing, truth, justice, happiness and love, one love”.

The JamaicanXpress also asked Prendergast to relate an experience doing the film that was mystic, and she was quick/with/it.
“We were in England”, she said forcefully, “and it was cold and raining and I had just done this interview where the guy was basically challenging me on Rasta and he wasn’t a Rasta. He wanted to talk about just the music and the politics, about the development of reggae music in the U.K., and how it was hooked up to the freedom struggles and politics that were happening there then, and after the interview I had so many questions running through my head about Rastafari and what am I doing with this documentary?

And then I hear my grandfather voice on the radio. The song just comes out, and I hear him say “Jah Live, children yeah, Jah Jah live, children, yeah”, and tears just came to my eyes. It was a real moment for me, and I don’t think anybody else in the bus realized what was happening, but when that happened, I just..just..just… the emotions came over me and the tears just started to run and it was if I could see him there with me, and that just gave me a strength.”

The JamaicanXpress also spoke with the film’s Brand/Manager Len Henry, who’s been on/board for the last two years of the film’s seven year journey. ”I came onboard to help position and package and handle the branding of the film”, he says, “Patricia’s been smart with the way she’s done it. I mean, she could have done it like the traditional indie-film, and just try and find five-cents, here-&-there and try to do a movie, which she has done, but she thought it was important to build awareness and an audience, at the same time, and it’s been a real pleasure recently going to different events like at Afro-Fest, where lots and lots of people already knew about the film. It shows that that approach is working. “

Acknowledging that plenty/plenty films have been made about Rastafari over the years, Henry insists that “Rasta: A Soul’s Journey” is different in scope, strategy and approach, and that it also has “so many things to say”.

“The prime aim of this film is to demystify Rastafari so that you don’t want to judge a book by its cover,” he told us, “You don’t always know what’s in somebody’s heart if you don’t understand what they are about. Donisha’s passion about being here is to share the message, words, history and legacy of where Rastafari has been and how it has touched the world broadly. And Patricia had a strategy of traveling the world and reaching out to all the countries that have influenced Rastafari. We went to India to talk to Sadhus, because that’s where the dreads and the ganja smoking came from, from the Indian indentured workers who came to Jamaica; to Israel and the Star of David, and where that fits in; to south Africa for the political; Ethiopia for the spiritual roots; and Canada for the multicultural, one love vibe. And to have Bob and Rita’s granddaughter right there, going on that journey and experiencing the history and present vibrations and going through her own changes in relation to fully understanding Rastafari. The film has a wide, deep, layered scope.”

According to Henry, the last bit of filming has been done, they’re layering and adding music and the final set of interviews, and they are gearing up for a momentous couple of months of “RasTa” activity. He went on to tell us about “…a special concert to celebrate the film’s release. After that the film will go to a number of festivals before its release theatrically at the end of the year, followed soon after by its television premiere on CityTV. ”

Henry says that the film’s Facebook page now has 25,000 members and hopes to have 40,000 by the film’s premiere in September, and that the float is designed to spread the awareness of the film. “The theme is “”one love/one world”, honoring the mansions of the faith that exist: Nyabinghi, Twelve Tribes of Israel, Orthodox Rastafari and Bobo Dreads. The float will honor all of those with banners and the colors and elements of Rastafari.

“RasTa” is directed by Stuart Samuels from Patricia Scarlett’s screenplay, written by Roger McTair, and produced by Patricia Scarlett, Marilyn Gray and Stuart Samuels.
For more information about the Caribana float, Donisha Prendergast itinerary in Toronto and about “RasTa”, the film, please contact www.rastaonline.ca

Bob Marley, Then and Now

Thirty years after he left us, at least in the physical sense, it’s easy to forget that Bob Marley used to be regarded with enormous suspicion by the more conservative members of society, whether that society happened to be in Jamaica, England, the United States or a Canadian city that was trying to distance itself from the indignity of being scorned, from sea to shining sea, as “Toronto the Good.”

Let me take you back to the old Gardens, on College Street, the hockey shrine in which the Leafs actually won a few Stanley Cups. The year is 1978, and Marley, who is touring North America in support of his Kaya album, is taking a break from sound-check chores to sit down for a backstage interview with an up-and-coming young television personality.

After an opening exchange of pleasantries, it becomes obvious that Sandie Rinaldo is out to do a hatchet job on Marley and on Rastafarians in general. Which, strange as it may seem more than three decades later, was not particularly surprising in Toronto in the ’70s. We’re talking an era in which one of Canada’s great newspapers (this one) carried a police top ten most-wanted list in which the description of one of the villains included the information that he was “a Rastafarian”. There was no mention, needless to say, of the religious affiliations, if they had any, of the other nine.

After introducing Marley positively and listing some of his achievements, Rinaldo quickly shifted gears and started to bombard him with aggressive questions that, today, sound almost bizarre. She told him, among other things, that Rastafarians have “a very bad reputation” among the upstanding citizens of Toronto, that Jamaicans were notorious for being involved in “the trafficking of marijuana” and that his appearance (and these are her exact words) was “quite strange.” Marley, despite looking at first bemused and then as though he could cheerfully strangle the glacial white woman who was trying to sandbag him, fielded the questions adroitly; he’d had plenty of experience of dealing with journalists trying to goad him into saying something he’d regret and which would give them a snazzy headline or a lively sound bite.

Things change. Sometimes for the better.

Fast forward just over three decades, the world’s a different place and Toronto’s a different city. You can get a beer in a bar on a Sunday, and Toronto the Good has evolved into a multi-racial, multicultural, multi-everything metropolis in which Caribbean culture flourishes, hand in hand with dozens of others. It’s a city where, on February 6, Marley’s birthday, the mayor of the moment has, for the past 20 years, proclaimed it to be officially “Bob Marley Day” and invited Torontonians of all backgrounds to celebrate the music, the message and the legacy of the King of Reggae.

And it’s a city in which, on May 11, just four days away, a lot of tears will be shed as we mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Robert Nesta Marley.

A lot of music will be played, too.

Music like “No Woman No Cry.” “Crazy Baldhead.” “Exodus.” “Positive Vibration.” “Trenchtown Rock.” “Slave Driver.” “Burnin’ and Lootin’.” “Concrete Jungle.” “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock).” “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry).” “I Shot The Sheriff.” “Kinky Reggae.’ “Midnight Ravers.” “Natty Dread. Talkin’ Blues.’ “Lively Up Yourself.” “Get Up, Stand Up.” “Want More.” “Roots, Rock, Reggae.” “Rat Race.” “War.” “No More Trouble.” “Rastaman Chant.” “Is This Love?” “Jammin’.” ‘Easy Skanking.’ “Africa Unite.” “Johnny Was.” “One Drop.”

It’s worth listing so many songs not only because for tens of thousands of reggae fans, each one of them is as familiar as Marley’s aquiline features, arguably the best-known in the history of the world, but also because they’re all among the numbers he performed during his four visits to Toronto.

Marley played here first on June 8, 1975, during a landmark tour in support of Natty Dread, the first album recorded as “Bob Marley and the Wailers” after the departure of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, the other core members of the original group, to pursue individual careers. Like just about every other show on that historic tour, the Wailers’ performance at Massey Hall was a huge success, and a prelude to one of Marley’s most momentous concerts. The tour wound up with a handful of shows in England, one of which, at London’s Lyceum Ballroom on July 18 – tickets cost £1.50 – resulted in the release of a live version of “No Woman No Cry,” the hit that catapulted Marley from being a huge star in the Caribbean with something of a cult following in North America and Europe to international superstar.

The following year, despite the fact Marley and the Wailers were about to be honored as “Band of the Year” by Rolling Stone magazine (in those days the arbiter of what was hot in pop music), Marley was still playing modest-sized venues in most cities. His second visit to Toronto was to the U of T’s Convocation Hall, where he did two shows on the evening of May 5, 1976, early in his Rastaman Vibration tour. The tour was memorable for many reasons, not the least of them being that it brought together one of the most dynamic incarnations of the Wailers’ oft-changing lineups, with Earl “Chinna” Smith and Donald Kinsey on guitar, Earl “Wya” Lindo and Tyrone Downie on keyboards, Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass and Carlton “Carly” Barrett on drums.

There would be some eventful turns in Bob Marley’s life before he returned to Toronto in June of 1978 — and not all of them were positive.

When Marley flew back to Jamaica in the early fall of 1976 after winding up the Rastaman Vibration tour, he found his island under a state of emergency, which had been declared in the wake of a deadly outbreak of political violence among supporters of the then-prime minister Michael Manley and his bitter rival Edward Seaga, leader of the opposition. Marley decided to organize a huge outdoor concert in the cause of unity, and it was scheduled for December 5. But two days before the Smile Jamaica concert, as it was called, a gang of gunmen found their way into Marley’s Kingston home and headquarters at 56 Hope Road and started shooting at the terrified musicians and friends during a break in rehearsals for the big show.

Astonishingly, no one was killed, but four people, including Marley, were hit by bullets. The concert went on, with Marley defiantly brandishing a wounded arm in front of a huge crowd in Kingston’s National Heroes Park, but after it he decided Jamaica was just too dangerous. To this day, no one knows the identities of the men who carried out the attack, and the fear at the time was that they would try again. Marley and the Wailers went into a lengthy exile in London, where they recorded the historic Exodus album in 1977 — and where the cancer that would eventually kill him was first diagnosed.

Marley was told he had melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, in the big toe of his right foot, which had stubbornly refused to heal after being injured during a soccer match. In accordance with his Rastafarian beliefs, he refused to have the foot amputated and instead had a skin-graft operation in Miami, with the big toenail being removed along with the cancerous tissue next to it, which was replaced by skin from his thigh area. The operation appeared to be a success, and Marley, after recuperating in London for several months, was persuaded to return to Jamaica to appear at what would be the most momentous of his many epic performances: The One Love Concert for Peace in Kingston’s National Stadium on April 22 of 1978.

This time, despite considerable tension and a massive presence of armed soldiers and police, there were no violent incidents, and Marley, headlining a remarkable array of the stars of reggae’s great roots era, brought Manley and Seaga on stage to clasp hands with him during an electric rendition of “Jammin’.”

A few weeks later, Marley was back on tour, this time in support of Kaya, and on June 9 he returned to Toronto — but this time it wasn’t to a small, cosy venue. The Wailers were now one of the world’s biggest live attractions, and despite the suspicion that may still have existed among the more conservative elements of Toronto society, their concert had to be at Maple Leaf Gardens. They returned to the Gardens on November 1 of 1979, this time in support of the Survival album — and no one, perhaps least of all Marley, had any inkling that this would be his last visit to Toronto.

A talented athlete and a fitness fanatic, Marley had started to appear a little gaunt, and was complaining of terrible headaches. Pictures of the Wailers taken in London in 1980 show him looking almost haggard, and in the early autumn of that year, soon after the Uprising tour had taken him to the US after setting attendance records that still stand in Europe, he collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park. A New York neurologist delivered a harsh diagnosis: Marley’s cancer, which he thought had been cured, had spread through his body to his brain, and he had only a few weeks to live. All but one of the remaining tour dates (he had been due to play in Toronto in October) were cancelled, and Marley’s final concert, on September 23, was in Pittsburgh. After it, he broke the news to the Wailers that he was dying.

Perhaps driven by his ghetto toughness, Bob Marley survived for many months longer than the New York brain specialist had predicted. He was taken to the Bavarian Alps, where he was treated by a controversial cancer specialist, Josef Issels, but became gradually frailer until it was decided, in early May of 1981, that he would go home to Jamaica to die. He made it as far as Miami, where doctors said he was too weak to survive another flight, and he died in his sleep in the Cedars of Lebanon hospital on the morning of May 11, 1981, a few minutes after drinking some carrot juice given to him by his mother, Cedella, and telling her “I’m going to take a rest now.” He was 36.

Judy Mowatt, who as a member of the I-Three backup vocal trio had toured the world with Marley for years, was in Jamaica that morning, and says she knew the exact moment that the man she thought of as a brother had left her:

“It was broad daylight, and there was this great, huge thunder in the heavens. And a flash of lightning came through the house. It came through a window and lodged for about a second on Bob’s picture. We didn’t know at the time, the radio stations hadn’t gotten the news officially to announce it, but people could know that something had happened and that the heavens were really responding to a great force being taken away from the physical place of the earth.”

Since his death, in Toronto and throughout the world, Marley has been elevated to a level of fame and adoration that would almost certainly have taken this essentially modest and unassuming man, who never lost sight of his country and ghetto roots, by surprise. No matter where you happen to be in the world, it’s just about impossible to go a day without running into Bob Marley in some shape or form or hearing one of his songs, by Marley himself or one of the countless cover versions. The most pervasive examples of Marley’s visual presence are the hundreds — perhaps thousands, it’s impossible to count given the number of bootlegs — of Marley T-shirts. But his image also appears on, among other things: postage stamps, belts, hats, shoes, wallets, postcards, bumper stickers, wall hangings, posters, hoodies, track suits, drinking glasses, jigsaw puzzles, hand towels, blankets, bicycle shirts, iPod covers, London buses, cosmetic bags, necklaces, shorts, incense packages, beach towels, dog tags . . .

Marley’s “One Love” was chosen by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the anthem for their programs to mark the end of the last millennium, his 1977 Exodus was named by Time magazine as the greatest album ever recorded, he became the first reggae artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was honoured with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and in late 1999, when the New York Times decided to bury a time capsule under its head office in Manhattan, not to be unearthed until the end of this millennium, the video chosen as an example of the popular culture of the 20th century wasn’t of the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Fela Kuti, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Luciano Pavarotti or Elvis Presley; it was a 1977 Bob Marley concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre.

Abel Bekele hadn’t been born when Bob Marley died. But Marley’s music has played a huge role in the life of the young Ethiopian singer, who handles most of the reggae vocals at an African nightspot in oil-rich Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Bekele’s repertoire is heavy on Marley numbers, and he speaks of the late King of Reggae with a mix of reverence and awe.

“In Ethiopia,” he says, “every person knows him. Every person, from young people to old.” And, says Bekele, he was surprised and delighted when he discovered that things were not much different when he came to work in Abu Dhabi about a year ago. “Arab people love him, Asian people love him, and when I do my Marley songs they sing them with me,” says Bekele.

“Bob Marley is everywhere.”

Garry Steckles, a former senior editor at the Toronto Star, is the author of Bob Marley: A Life, the first in a Macmillan Caribbean series of biographies of outstanding Caribbean people.

More than one love

Bob Marley’s best-known songs, on the nine studio albums he made for Island Records, are a fraction of his recorded output from 1962 to 1980. Following are 10 of the very best that weren’t part of the Island catalogue:

“Simmer Down” (1964). This ska scorcher was the Wailers’ first big hit. It was cut at Studio One in the summer of 1964 at their first recording session as a group. An instant No.1 hit in Jamaica, it sounds as vibrant today as it did all those years ago. Musical history.

“One Love” (1965). A very, very different early version of the Marley classic that everyone knows and loves. Again in a ska tempo.

“Nice Time” (1967). One of the first hits on the Wailers’ own Wail N Soul M label. How this lovely and hugely popular melody slipped through the Island net remains a mystery.

“All In One” (1971). An hypnotic melange of snatches of nine of the songs that were Jamaican hits during the Wailers’ time with the wildly eccentric and quite brilliant producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.

“African Herbsman” (1971). A reggae version of the great Richie Havens number, also with Perry’s unmistakable hand at the controls.

“Trench Town Rock’ (1971). The song Marley would often use to start his live performances, a No. 1 for five solid months on the Jamaican charts and a prototype of the loping, mid-tempo reggae that would become his stock-in-trade.

“Screw Face” (1971). A little-known gem in the same tempo as “Trench Town Rock.”

“Rainbow Country” (1975). A jazzy, scatty, catchy showcase for Marley’s vocal brilliance.

“Jah Live” (1975). Recorded and released within days of reports reaching Jamaica of the death of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie I, the man Rastafarians worship as a living god. And simply gorgeous.

“Smile Jamaica” (1976 — four versions, two recorded at Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio, two at Harry Js). Another jazzy vehicle for Marley to stretch his remarkable pipes.

Posted in
Bob MARLEY, In PRINT
2 Comments

Donisha Prendergast; Rastafari Royalty

Donisha Prendergast is a child of Rastafari — a linkage made through her family ties to musical legends Bob and Rita Marley. As one of the granddaughters of reggae music’s most iconic figures, Prendergast grew up in a world that revered the art and life of her legendary relative. His legacy and her desire to dispel any misconceptions about the religious and cultural Rastafari movement inspired her to create the documentary Rasta, A Soul’s Journey.

It is a film that examines the global impact of Rasta culture. Along with Patricia Scarlett of Scarlett Media Inc., Prendergast travels the world, discovering the roots and the cultural expression into which Rastafari has evolved.

“I wanted to know what Rasta was like around the world,” Prendergast says of the project. “I thought I was just going to see the roots and evolution, but Rasta is a cultural expression. Not everybody who wears dreadlocks or smokes weed will claim to be Rasta … but they’re expressing Rasta in a certain essence, so it’s just about understanding (that).”

Her cinematic journey encounters Rastafari communities in the U.S., Israel, India, Jamaica, South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada and the United Kingdom. In these countries, she meets with men and women who have chosen a Rastafari lifestyle, explore how the movement evolved in that particular place and ultimately hopes to find her purpose as a young Rasta woman.

Prendergast is also hoping to banish the stereotypes that try to besmirch Rastafari’s uplifting impact. “Rasta is a life of service. You don’t sit down and beat drums every day,” she says. “You go and work with the youth, you teach and you build. You also go and talk about Africa and find ways to reach Africa. You have work to do. That is the biggest misconception about Rasta, that you don’t have work to do.”

In fact, Prendergast believes part of her work will be similar to that of her grandmother Rita Marley, who founded the Robert Marley Foundation and assisted more than 200 children in the Konkonuru Methodist Basic School in Ghana where she lives. Prendergast is also aware that her role in Rastafari will influence young female followers in the movement:

“I have two little sisters that think that I am the greatest person in the world,” she says. “And I have to be that for them, especially them. And there are little girls out there like them who are not my little sisters but still want me to be a big sister, you know?” She has special advice for these little sisters in or outside of the Rastafari movement: “Don’t be anybody else but yourself. That’s the best person you can be.”

By Stephanie Pollard for Sway Magazine.