By Aj. Dagga Tolar

How significant is music to the task of liberation and making a revolution. We can argue all day round the clock without all not agreeing for or against. There are so many that will choose to stand with the two sides. But Fela Anikulapo-Kuti says outrightly that “Music is the weapon”. Does he mean a weapon as in a weapon with which any combatant can employ to eliminate an opposite combatant. But truly no matter the creativity exhibited by art in whatever form in becoming a weapon it must like all weapons be destructive. Is art, in this sense music destructive? Is destruction evil? Certainly not when it seeks to pull down a wrong order. But are women and men not the real agency of destruction. Are they not also the agency of change, of revolutionary transformation of a destructive order. What then is the role of music in the lives of human existence? Can it really pull down a wrong order. Can music in the words of Bob Marley in reality “Chant down Babylon”. Can the beloved “Reggae Music, chant down Babylon!”.

Yet Bob Marley who passed on today, May 11, some 43 years ago. He has earned all his fame more or less on the basis of the above claim. The Biopic released Feb . 14 tries to belittle this fact, hiding behind the moral claim of a universal appeal of the theme of the song: One Love . The biopic earns it’s title from the song. And behold a Bob Marley that is made out to be loved by all, unmindful of race and class. And this is where the injustice begins against the fact that Music as delivered by Bob Marley is a weapon and a tool for liberation & revolution. Certainly this is not Ziggy Marley’s interpretation of his father in the biopic he directed.

The real Bob MARLEY is too dangerous to this disorderly universe. Indeed his life and lyrics are obstacles to the Big business’ craving and status that the biopic aims at and aspires to attain? The goal of the biopic is simply to reshape and build a new Bob Marley that will be more business friendly and amiable to this Babylon system. Of course this new image of Bob Marley is not expected to encourage new voices in the direction of issuing a cry of “Redemption Song” for I & I to “emancipate -ourselves from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds…”. We are face to face to a Bob Marley’s biopic deliberately crafted to fit squarely into the demand of running a business empire on the legacy of Bob Marley’s music of activism for a revolutionary change. The idea that a people can bond themselves together and by so doing orgainse to free themselves, both mentally and then physically is not something they want to get into the consciousness and mind of the oppressed working masses world wide.

Is Bob MARLEY in REALITY a PACIFIST CAMPAIGNER, who put forward moral platitudes of love, calling on people to love themselves. Can the oppressor and the oppressed, the ruling class and the working masses without first abolishing the class divide between them fall in love with each other outside of a master and slave status. Is this condition of oppression  not the essence defining Marley’s status as a rebel. Can we dare to side with the bloodline, since they offer us a distinct definition different and far away from the claim that Marley was a rebel.

So what then is Bob MARLEY? What is Bob Marley’s Reggae Music? How can it truly be classified. But let’s hear from Marley himself. In Rebel Music, Marley queries:

“*Oh, why can’t we roam*

*This open country? (open country)*

*Oh, why can’t we be what we wanna be?*

*We want to be free, yeah (wanna be free)”*

This is the real MARLEY, with his all out cry for freedom. For the freedom for humans to be what they want to be. If this doesn’t make him a rebel. Hear him out in “Get up/Stand up”.

*”We’re sick and tired of your ism-schism game*

*Dy’n’ and go to Heaven in-a Jesus’ name, Lord*

*We know when we understand*

*Almighty God is a living man*

You can fool some people sometimes

*But you can’t fool all the people all the time”*

In clear crystal words, the Wailers come out railing against religion. Indeed there is no greater insight into the destructively role played by religion in subjugating the working masses to their dehumanised living condition than this song. It completely knocks the bottom off all versions of messianic grandstanding as put forward by religion calling on the working masses to see the light and get up and stand up and fight for our right to live in a better world. And make no mistake. It is also a knock against all of the messianic titles now worn on Emperor Haile Selassie I, who within the frame work of Rastafari has become tramnuted into a deity that some refer to as God Alimighty. Some others come down a rung lower as presents him to be Christ in his kingly character or is it Jesus Christ in his second coming. Whicever, we must be bold to say that what we condemn in other religious philosophy cannot now be correct, if it is now robed in black skin and no longer a white skin. Whether Rasta like to hear this or not Bob Marley validates Marx maxim that “religion is the opium of the people”, when he states that:

*”Preacher man don’t tell me/Heaven is under the earth*

*I know you don’t know/What life is really worth”*

Again, he sings:

*”Most people think/Great God will come from the sky*

*Take away everything/And make everybody feel high*

*But if you know what life is worth/You would look for yours on earth”*

How blunt are these lines. It dismisses all the illusion in life after death. Call heaven. Call it Zion. It calls on humans to seek for their worth on earth. In this physical material realm of existence. This is the light he refers to and calls on the working masses to Get up and Stand up. Get organised and Mobilised. For he states that there is no way this two classes of oppressors and oppressed can work things out.

*”We no know how we and dem a-go work this out,*

*We no know how we and dem a-go work it out*

*But someone will have to pay/For the innocent blood*

*That they shed every day/Oh, children, mark my word”*

There is no redemption of sin for the ruling class for their crimes against the humanity of the working masses. And those who think that the big Business and capitalist bosses and the employee can ever be friends, Marley’s educates the working masses on this account, categorically stating:

*”But we no have no friends/Ina high society, yeah*

*We no have no friends/Oh, mark my identity*

*Oh, we no have no friends, oh-oh, yeah”*

WHERE THEN IS THE LIE COMING FROM THAT MARLEY IS A FRIEND OF ALL. Of course, we know where this is coming from. It is coming from quarters of the rapious desire of private capital and their marchents of Big Business to control everything and transpose everything into a commodity from which to profit from. This is what has transformed Bob Marley, and his music to a mere commodity. But hard as they try, they fail. Marley’s rebel status stands. There is no taking it away from him that he was an artist for the revolution. For black liberation. And a renewed order existence for the working masses world wide.

“It takes a revolution (revolution) to make a solution“. And it is not a task that can be accomplished by any category of politicians. In the same song: Revolution, Marley says:

*”Never make a politician (aaa-aaah) grant you a favour(Doo-doo-doo-doo)*

*They will always want (aaa-aaah) to control you forever, eh(Forever, forever)”*

TO NOT KNOW THIS IS BOB MARLEY, is SIMPLY TO NOT KNOW BOB MARLEY. Even too many Rastas there are who simply robe him up and present him as a symbol of the Rastafari faith. A religious icon. No more no less. Yes, Marley held up his believe in the Rastafari and a religious practice. Confessed it unendingly, and bore all of the features of this faith till he died. But there is no denying the fact that Marley cannot be boxed in a religious cocoon. “The criticism of religion is the basis of all other criticism.”  says Marx. And Marley had already climbed that necessarily overcome the contradiction that religion constitute in the quest for a better universe. For like Leon Trotsky rightly pointed out one cannot hope to want to go to Heaven/Zion and at the same time be an able fighter for a better world here and now.

This is for me, is *My BELOVED BOB MARLEY*, who played no little part in urging me to step out of Ajegunle on my own in 1985 to journey to go look for what is Rasta and met the likes of Black O’ Rise, Ras Kimono, and the whole of the Jahstix Crew inclusive of Majek Fashek, Amos McCroy, George Orwells, and others like Judah Levi, Ehi Duncan, Ras Farmer into the fold of  The Rainbow Organisation of the Rastafarians of Nigeria (ROOTRON). The whole of 1984 and thereon handed me all the free time to explore reggae music to all of its heights, and coming top for me then was King Yellow man. Of course U-Roy, I-Roy, Peter Tosh, Mutabaruka and many others were to leave their imprint on me. My journey to becoming a song writer, a lyricist and a poet where laid in this period. That music is nothing more than a tool and that it cannot on its own transform society is not in dispute, given the fact that it major preoccupation is entertainment that it can now become educative does not now automatically transforms it into a tool for revolution.


For revolutionary programme to be articulated detailing how the society with regards to the key sector of the economy and the polity can be reorganised to function for the benefit of the working masses. And not less important is the class, the alliance of classes of the oppressed that must accomplish the task of the making the revolution. And indeed the leadership of the revolutionary mass of oppressed classes belonging to no other class than the working class, a consequence of the fact that the meeting of the needs and aspiration of the working masses in all spheres of their existence cannot be accomplished  without the outright development of the means of production to the greatest of height that science and technology makes possible in the best of friendliness to the environment.

What can however not be debated is that music is a tool and vehicle with which consciousness can be impacted. I need nott search too far than of myself to bring this pont home. It was this same reggae music that set me on the course to embracing Rastafari as a philosophy, from there on to Marxism. I have Bob Marley, and indeed the wailers to thank for who I have become today. A poet and a Marxist. Bob Marley helped in shaping me for the whole of the 1980s and setting me about to ask the right questions, began for me the journey to break free from religion which was wholeheartily accomplished by Marxism. Reggae Music with all of its accomplished valid protest lyrics won be over completely to the idea of revolution. But it is to Marxism, through the instrument of university education and through the encounter with Adewale Barshar in 1991, exactly ten years after the exit of Bob Marley that I fully joined the fold of Marxism in what was then known as Labour Militant.

And finally I got the the answer to the question of how the revolution can be accomplished. This is where music, indeed all artforms become not enough. The best of revolutionary music on it is own cannot and will not transform society. Yes, it will provide level of excitement both in terms of feeling and good moods. But the fact remains that the task of dislodging Babylon. Of bringing an end Capitalism and its monstrous quest for profit and more super profit at the expense of the wellbeing of the working masses cannot be accomplished by a song, a poem, no matter how militant.

Revolution can only be accomplished through the instrument of the working masses themselves getting organised in their millions as a single unit in a revolutionary organisation of their own and therein posing the question of power … The working masses must themselves seize history come into the arena of struggle and accomplish a revolution. All of the issues touched by Marley in his songs are still here plaguing the universe more than ever before. War, in the quest for liberation and self rule by Palestinians against the Israeli state back by the bombs of US imperialism ever so desperate to want to dominate the Middleeast and its wealth with his Israel as its major bargaining chip in the power play of Arab dictators and a  Hamas that subscribes to counterproductive means of terrorism as its tool of liberation as ippose to uniting the working masses in palestine, seeking for unity of the working masses across the plaestine-Israeli divide to take on both Netenyahu and the Israeli ruling class and as well as US imperialism. Of course there is Ukraine transformed into a battle ground for the proxy war of dominartion between US Imeprialism and it is NATO axis against its quest to bring Russia complate under its control or weaken it as much as possible as part of it preparetory scale of hostiliies against the rise of China. it is the same Rat Race all over again that Bob MAELEY warned against:

*”When you think is peace and safety

A sudden destruction.”*

The question of humanity’s “collective security for surety” is suspended. In the song the “Real Situation”, he reecnoes the same sentiments:

*”Check out the real situation/ Nation war against Nation*

*Where did it all begin?/Where will it end/*

*Well it seems like: total destruction the only solution”*

The universe is still alive with all of the issues raised and sang by Bob Marley, he continues to be a symbolic representation of the cry of the working masses to be rid of their lives of misery and poverty in a world so rich blessed, but also polarised into divides of rich and poor into rich nations and poor nations. And the working masses come into full consciousness of themselves as a class of their own and break with all forms of sentiments and premodial attachment to religion, birthplace, ethnic or nationality origin to uniting all of their numbers into single unit to contend with the ruling class and dislodge them from power and full take reponsibility of governing society on its shoulder and by so doing ending Capitalism (call it Babylon if you like). Do otherwise so long will the vampire continue with *”Sucking the blood of the poor sufferers”*. So long will poverty, war continue on the face of planet Earth and don’t be deceived:

“You can’t educate I/For no equal opportunity:

(Talkin’ ’bout my freedom) Talkin’ ’bout my freedom

People freedom (freedom) and liberty!

Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long:

Rebel, rebel!

Yes, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long:

Rebel, rebel!

Babylon system is the vampire, yea! (vampire)

Suckin’ the children day by day, yeah!

Me say: de Babylon system is the vampire, falling empire

Suckin’ the blood of the sufferers, yea-ea-ea-ea-e-ah!

Building church and university, wo-o-ooh, yeah!

Deceiving the people continually, yea-ea!

Me say them graduatin’ thieves and murderers

Look out now: they suckin’ the blood of the sufferers (sufferers)

Yea-ea-ea! (sufferers)”