18 August 2017
The penultimate day of Reggae University celebrated the African experiences of ultimate reggae band, the Wailers. Original and next generation members of the ensemble led by Bob Marley spoke to regular panellists David Katz and Pier Tosi, as well as Wailers biographer John Masouri.
Beforehand, there was a screening of Ron Wyman’s 2010 documentary Agadez. It examined Niger’s Tuareg musical and political rebellion, featuring contributions from Tuareg guitarist Bombino – later to play Rototom’s Lion Stage. Bombino’s nomadic desert rock guitar playing has a huge following worldwide – but his lyrics are lost on the majority of his international fans. This film provided valuable political and social context to his music.David Katz led a brief question and answer session with Bombino via a translator. The soft-spoken guitarist talked about how he first picked up the guitar, combining his country’s traditional forms with reggae on latest album Azel, and how the situation in Niger has improved. “Change doesn’t come on its own,” he said “We have to make change.”
Next it was time for the main discussion with the reunited Wailers. Original members Aston Familyman Barrett and Junior Marvin were joined by Familyman’s son Aston Junior, 80s Marley family recruit Owen “Dreadie” Reid, and lead singer Joshua.
Called 2the most important figure in reggae music” by Masouri, bassist Familyman spoke sparingly, confirming a few facts here and there. Junior Marvin was more talkative, reminiscing on the group’s first trip to Gabon – which they found out was a dictatorship on arrival. He also recalled the band getting tear-gassed in the national stadium for Zimbabwean independence. Only Bob stayed on stage, chiding the others: “Now we know who are the true Revolutionaries!” “Bob was put on this earth to bring black and white together,” said Marvin “If he had to do it by himself he would”.Drummer Aston Junior, replacement for his uncle the late Carlton Barrett, revealed he was the catalyst for the group’s reunion. “It’s important because of the world right now. This music is bigger than we think”.
Joshua, the newest Wailer, quoted Fela Kuti, whose son Seun played the Main Stage the previous Sunday. Music is a weapon” he said “But I and I is Rasta so music is my tool. Africa is our mother. Whether you are born in or out of it”. He reminded that the session coincided with the birthdays of Ethopia’s Menelik II, Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie’s grandson. “One love, one aim, one destiny – Rastafari”.
As well as gracing the Main Stage in the evening, Aston Junior said the group has a new single – Stand Firm In Babylon. “The message is still the same”.