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Bob Marley Birthplace!

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Jamaica is blessed with many world class iconic symbols and persons. Sometime ago, I decided to engage with the life of our most famous icon, Bob Marley.

It was an amazing two days that took me to Bob’s home and birthplace.

At the end of my tour at the Bob Marley Museum, I left with wet eyes. Members of Bob’s band recounted in a documentary that on Bob’s last tour, his body was overcome with cancer from head to toe. At his last “sound test” he miraculously rehearsed one song for 3 hours. Also, that night at the live show, it was his commitment to his fans that allowed his weak and failing body to muster up the strength to deliver his last performance, with at least 2 encores.

The Bob Marley Museum, at 56 Hope Road, showcases his life, development and successes. As I waited for the tour to start, I ordered and had a special drink flavoured with natural ingredients. Lord, it tasted good! The tour guide was excellent; he was knowledgeable, engaging and was an amazing storyteller as he took us through Bob’s house. The tour started with insights into the many albums and awards that were won by Bob Marley and the Wailers. A walk into the most famous studio in the world excited me as I acknowledged where his greatest hits were made. Upstairs, it was so intimate and revealing as I walked through his and his family’s bedrooms. I saw a hammock on the veranda where he laid and smoked “herb”, and the bedroom in which he slept. It demonstrated his artistry and spiritual persona. His massive, high bed reflected the strong persona of the man, and this was further reinforced by his designer guitar, ganja pipe and a denim suit hanging on the wall.

Strategically located upstairs was a record shop that allowed visitors to procure records, CDs and other collectors’ items. From upstairs, we exited outside down a steep staircase and through a back door into the area that represented the most dramatic part of the tour. We relived the attempted assassination of Bob Marley through a video presentation and walked through the area of the house where he was shot. Bob, Rita, Don Taylor and Louis Griffiths were shot, but they all survived.

In December 1976, Jamaica was gripped with political tension and violence; the shooting occurred two days before the Smile Jamaica Concert, was planned to help quell tension between the PNP and JLP. Seven gunmen raided the compound and started firing from the driveway to the area where they shot Bob. They were all caught, tried and executed. The walls of the house showcased the newspaper reports of the attempted assassination and the remnants and scars of the bullets. Bob famously turned up and performed at the concert even after he sustained gunshots to the chest and arm. The high point of the concert was Bob standing and holding up the hands of both Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, the leaders of the two political parties, the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), in a demonstration of peace and unity.

Outside the main house, I saw where Bob played football, his love for cars, especially a Land Rover and BMW which were in immaculate condition as well as his statue holding his guitar.

I was so inspired that the next day I decided to drive to Bob’s birthplace, Nine Mile, in St. Ann. It provided a different insight into his tremendous journey from a humble country boy to a global icon. It was with deep reverence that I walked around the mausoleum that houses the body of this great prophet. I felt like I was in a church, a spiritual place; the atmosphere was charged with the energy of a larger-than-life man. It was an inspiration for me to engage with his community, his birthplace and the history of his life.

My experience at Nine Mile started poorly. I was unaware that Bob’s home and mausoleum were part of a gated compound, very much like an all-inclusive hotel. I now know why. I made the mistake of parking outside on the road and was met with harassment and aggression by a young man. The gentleman’s face was fierce, vex and brutal. I had to declare that I am a Jamaican. I said, “my youth mi deh a mi yard, mi a yard man, a yah mi live”. That did not help. His demeanour only changed when I said, “my youth, since you parked me, you will be compensated when I return, calm down”.

Inside, we were introduced to “Meditation Rock,” where the great one used to lie down and meditate, while observing the stars in the sky. Our tour guide appropriately sang a famous tune from Bob, “cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow too”. To the right of Meditation Rock was a kitchen where Bob’s meals were prepared on an original firewall. Next to the firewall was a bag of “high-grade ganja” which was obviously on sale by a rastaman. I quickly purchased one spliff to take a picture on the Meditation Rock and at the entrance of the burial place of the great one. I also held in my hand for the first time in my life cured ganja…. yes, the good old ganja.

We were taken to a tiny two-bedroom house, where Bob grew up. It was a sight to behold. The little bed seemed as though it was designed for only one person. Again, our tour guide raised another Bob Marley big tune, singing “we will be together with a roof all over our heads, we will share the shelter of my single bed”. This house reflects the modesty of the origin of many rural people in Jamaica. Clearly, this shows that we should never be enslaved by our past and upbringing. Today, even in death, Bob’s remains have created an economic dynasty in Nine Mile for his family, the people of Nine Mile and our nation.

The strength of a black, strong, single mom, Bob’s Mom, was everywhere to be seen. Her home was most beautiful and antique in its design; her energy could be felt everywhere we walked throughout the house. The diversity of her family was on show. There were many pictures of her sons, daughters and grandchildren. The most prominent picture was of Bob, whose father was a white man. He impregnated her when she was only a teenager. As a single mom she protected, motivated and guided one of the greatest cultural icons the world has ever seen. She was an entrepreneur of no mean order. She made and sold rag dolls, pepper sauce, coffee and other products. I can still remember the smell of the rich aroma of the roasted coffee that was prepared by her.

After completing the tour, I sat and listened to a local reggae band made up of drummers and guitarists, playing and singing some of Bob’s biggest hits. Before I left, I also stopped at the bar and drank a fierce, colourful brew of alcohol. Outside at my car the security was patiently waiting to collect his protectionist pay. It was a great way to end the most spiritually engaging day I have experienced in a long while. I was blessed by the life of this icon and inspired by his growth, development and successes. I remained proud to be a Jamaican.

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