First published – on April 6, 2020
Bob Marley: the Great Posthumous Cultural Ambassador of Jamaica.
Bob Marley’s signature sound has impacted generations internationally.
Bob Marley is one of the greatest Cultural Ambassadors of Jamaica, with a powerful and innovative signature sound. Since Bob Marley’s death on 11th May 1981, he has become an international cultural and musical icon, representing the sunny island of Jamaica, through the Jamaican Tourist Board, with his classic song “One Love”, which is featured on media outlets across the globe in many different languages to promote the island as a holiday destination.
Marley’s music has impacted on every cultural and ethnic group through his personal philosophy, which was based on human empowerment and emancipation from mental, physical and spiritual slavery. Economic empowerment was also part of his personal philosophy. He is a key figure in the Rastafarian religion which started in Jamaica.
Marley’s musical compositions reflect the colours of the Jamaican national flag, black, gold and green. The black signifies strength, gold symbolises the sunshine and green is a reflection of the land. The people are strong and creative, with 76.3% black, 15.1% Afro- European, 3% East Indian and Afro-East Indian, 3.2 % white and finally 1.2% Chinese and Afro-Chinese. To honour his many achievements, the Jamaican Post Office decided to issue a Bob Marley commemorative stamp on 29th December 1982. Then, nearly 10 years after his death, the Jamaican government decided to commemorate his birthday by proclaiming a national holiday on 1st February 1990.
Before Marley and The Wailers developed their musical art form, they were influenced by early R&B classics recorded by legendary American artists such as Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and especially the Impressions, led at different times by Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. The Impressions’ flawless harmonies seem to have had considerable impact. The output from Motown recording studios in Detroit was another major influence in the development from ska-blue beat to rock steady and finally to full-blown reggae, showing the same innovation and passionate approach that Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone exemplified and in the process creating a revolutionary sound that has made reggae commercially successful as an international musical art form.
This did not go unnoticed by music institutions such as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), who conduct the Grammy Award programme in USA. The organisation has now created a Reggae Awards Category. It is interesting to see that Bob’s son Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley received two Grammy awards for “Best Reggae Album” and “Best Urban/Alternative Performance” at the 48th annual Grammy Awards. Damian’s mother is Cindy Breakspeare, Jamaica’s former Miss World. Damian is continuing his father’s musical legacy with international success.