Nepali Times
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The raja of rasta and reggae


ANOOP PANDEY


"I love the development of our music, that's what I really dig about the whole thing. How we've tried to develop, y'know? It grows. That's why every day people come forward with new songs. Music goes on forever."
Bob Marley, August 1979

Bob Marley would have turned 60 on Thursday, 6 February. But a generation after his death, he has left a living legacy not just around the world but here in Nepal as well.

Marley's music from three decades ago remains as timeless and universal as it was when this obscure Jamaican singer first burst upon the world music scene. Robert Nesta Marley has been called 'The first Third World Superstar', the 'Rasta Prophet'. Everyone who was a teenager then remembers the brilliantly original and evocative revolutionary music Marley gave the world. He was and remains one of the most charismatic performers ever to have graced the music industry with his distinctive blend of Jamaican reggae and Rastafarian spirit.

In a musical career that took off in the 1960s Bob Marley was named ambassador for peace and awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit. His hit songs include, 'Exod&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;s' 'One Lov&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'Buffalo Soldie&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'I shot the Sheriff' and 'No Woman No Cry'. His music has spanned the globe and has found a surprising sanctuary in Nepal. It is hard to explain the Bob Marley craze in Nepal but no one can deny that the raja of reggae with his rasta locks has found a certain resonance in here.

Legend has it that Bob Marley visited Nepal in the 1970s and went up to Mustang. Today, just below the temple of the eternal flame in Muktinath is his shrine, the Bob Marley Restaurant, where he is said to have rested. Late at night, the sound of 'No Woman No Cry' emanating from the restaurant and disco echoes in the craggy mountains below Thorung La. In the remotest corners of Nepal, trekking porters who don't even speak English hum Marley's tunes. Taxis, rickshaws and corner shops in Kathmandu and long-distance buses are resplendent in the Rastafarian colours of green, gold and red. Marley's Rasta stickers are readily available and ubiquitous defiantly showing off the cannabis leaves and waving the Ethiopian tricolour.

The Bob Marley stickers are printed in Bangkok and distributed by dealers in Marhu Tole, Ganesthan to local shops. A small sticker costs only Rs 5 and the bigger ones go for Rs 10. It seems no rickshaw or taxi driver in town can resist the bright colours with the black silohuette of Bob Marley-even if they don't know who he is.

At nightfall these days, the streets of Thamel are alive with Marley songs and his beat blares out into the streets. Hippie relics and wannabes roam with dread-locked hair and Rasta Style cap-bobbing to the rhythm of Marley's music.

Bob Marley memorabilia is everywhere and one can just imagine what it will be like next week during his 60th birth anniversary. Shops specialise in Rasta hats, T-shirts carrying cannabis leaves against a backdrop of the Rastafarian tricolour are selling like rolled weeds.

During Marley's days, Thamel was the boondocks. The place to be was Freak Street of Basantapur. Jhonchhe was the kundalini of hippiedom, where the world's youth congregated in search of peace and eternal happiness. Many attained their private nirvanas with the assistance of mind-altering substances that was freely available on Freak Street.

It wouldn't be surprising if Marley was there too. Maybe he came to trace his Rastafarian roots? A recent Nepali visitor to the Bob Marley Museum in the singer's former home in Kingston probed the records to find any reference to the singer ever having visited Nepal. There were none, but that doesn't mean he didn't come here, especially since Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Janis Joplin had all visited Nepal during that period and were inspired enough to write songs.

Marley didn't sing about Nepal but his infatuation with Nepal and vice-versa could have something to do with the similar outlooks (and looks) that the Rastafarians have with Hindu sadhus. Bob Marley is seen by some as a Bishnu incarnate and we wonder if this is the missing link that connects the famous Jamaican star with Nepal?

Marley died of cancer at the age of 36 in 1981. The people of Jamaica gave him an official funeral, and his body was laid to rest in a mausoleum. On his 60th birthday, his remains are to be exhumed and re-buried in Ethiopia, the spiritual home of Rastafarianism.


Rasta sadhus

The influence dread-locked, ganja-smoking sadhus or wandering ascetics, well-known figures in Hindu society, had on the Rastafari is little known. But there is a link. The Hindu sadhu and the devout Rastafari both have long unkempt hair, ash-smeared bodies, very little clothing and the trademark chalice pipe, making it difficult to distinguish who's who. The sight of bands of sadhus living in Rasta-style camps and smoking marijuana from a formally-blessed communal chalice-pipe is common place. A good place to watch them in action is at Pashupati during Shivaratri on 8 March.

Ethiopian utopia

It's difficult to properly understand Bob Marley's music without considering Rastafari. This spiritual culture is at the very core of his music. Rastafari is a movement of black people who believe Africa is the birthplace of humankind. The movement grew out of the darkest depression that the descendants of African slaves in Jamaica have ever lived in and they took Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as their mentor. Out of the filth and slime that humanity was built upon arose a sentiment pure, without anger and full of love-the philosophy of the Rastafari faith. The green, gold and red flag of Ethiopia is the symbol of the Rastafari tri-colour. It's motto is 'Freedom of Spirit, Freedom from Slavery and Freedom of Africa' and has 700,000 followers worldwide with its own 'Black Man's Bible'.

Marley in Muktinath

Bob Marley's contribution to the world of music is immense. He furthered a religion, promoted peace and sang for the people. He brought Jamaica to the world and the world to Jamaica and more importantly he brought reggae to Nepal. And one of the strangest sights while trekking in Nepal is to come across the Bob Marley restaurant and lodge at Mukitnath (pictured). Here, birds of a feather (reggae fans, Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims) flock together to pay homage to the eternal flame that comes out of the ground and the eternal music of Bob Marley.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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