I was a bit disappointed by White’s description of Halie Selassie. I felt the Garvey account was enough to put the birth of Rastafarianism into context, but the curt paragraph on Selassie left me wanting more. Little did I know that the next chapter would be dedicated exclusively to Selassie. I will write on that in a subsequent post, but here I wanted to highlight a few passages from Riddim Track, the first chapter of the book.
The chapter ends with an introduction to Marley’s influence. White paints the image of the man with very broad-brush strokes. It is obvious to me now, that White likes to initially smear his canvas with the big picture, only to go back and carefully paint the minutest details.
We are led to understand that Marley and the Wailers were more than musicians. They were shamans and storytellers who played a pivotal part in not only keeping a history alive, but also in maintaining and fostering its growth:
The Rastas listening to Marley’s music were not merely bobbing their heads to One Love like their Caucasian brothers; this music was a form of spiritual, cultural, and holy communion. It is that duel level of appreciation that makes the music so universal.
I am so glad that i am beginning to better understand his music on multiple levels. A quick example: I now know the meaning of the word Duppy, as in the song “Duppy Conqueror.” Duppies are spirits of the dead. I always thought he was saying dumpy conqueror, and honestly I was not too clear what he meant, but now I know that he was using the traditional Jamaican street saw used when defying a bully: “If yuh bullbacker, me duppy conqueror.” This was a song he penned after being released from a minor ganja arrest in Kingston.
Read a preview of the book here at Google Book.
What is your understanding of the music? Have you any insights into the folklore?