Prior to visiting Jamaica, I never liked reggae music and with the exception of the major hits which somehow manage to make it into the charts, I didn’t know any songs of that genre. However, the idea of going to Jamaica without visiting The Bob Marley museum just seems silly. I wanted to know more about Jamaica and the culture. My father drove us on the 2.5 hour journey from the fabulous Ocho Rios to Kingston. Wow, what a difference. As soon as we arrived in Kingston, you could tell that you had entered a much-less wealthy part of the island. As we drove through the old Spanish town, my father couldn’t help but remark at how run-down things were: the beautiful old Spanish Town (City) Hall and derelict square were a disappointment. The square could serve as a great tourist attraction.
We drove into the parking lot in front of the museum and were greeted by one of the employees as we made our way to the cashier. Let me just start by saying that in Jamaica, there are 3 pricing scales: Locals, Returnees and Tourist. Any place which charges in US $, is bound to rip you off… So to visit the museum, tourists are charged US$20. Since my father and his wife are returnee-residents of Jamaica, we got a discount to $300 Jamaican dollars each. Hold your breath people… That works out to be approx. US$3.50. How lucky are we? How disgusted am I at such blatant abuse of tourist ignorance?! Moving on…
Our guide, Joan, showed us around the garden from Bob’s old Range Rover to his “smoking stoop” to his herbal garden. This place is amazing. Colourful, welcoming and no matter where you go, you can hear Bob’s music playing. Whilst no photography is permitted inside the house, you can take photographs around the grounds. Once inside the house, we walked through the doorways that Bob Marley himself had, strolled around his living room and spare bedrooms all whilst listening to commentary from Joan. Some of the spare rooms have been decorated with articles about the rise of Bob Marley and The Wailers, album credits and awards.
I must plead ignorance: I knew nothing about this legendary man. Everybody in the land knows the chorus of “No Woman No Cry” and “One Love”, but I had no idea that there was much more to the life of Bob. We learnt a little about Bob’s family life, and how important his family bond was. I didn’t know that Bob’s father was a white British captain in the marines, nor did I know that he hadn’t been raised as a Rasta or that he had in fact died on 11th May 1981 exactly 2 months before I was born. Towards the end of the tour, we were taken to a cinema room where we watched a 20-minute documentary with Bob talking about his life, his religion, his racial identity and music. What a wise & strong man, who lived his life according to his beliefs. In the film, Bob made 3 stand-out statements which made me want to hug him and yell “Amen!!!”:
“I no have education. I have inspiration. If I was educated I would be a damn fool.”
“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all.”
“I don’t have prejudice against myself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.”
This is a man who, despite living a world where his ethnicity was constantly questioned, didn’t care what you thought about him. He didn’t care what your background was – he just wanted a positive, happy world. His house was interesting, but those 20 minutes of listening to him talk were soothing and inspirational. When I left his home, I left with a sense of disappointment and inspiration. Disappointed because a man with such a positive goal – peace & equality – lost his life at such a young age. A man who changed life for many people and bought attention on an amazing country is gone. I feel inspired to be a better person – to open my mind even more, to love and respect others and to stand strong in my beliefs. Like Bob, I strongly believe that we are all the same, irrespective of our ‘packaging’. I may not be able to convey that message and influence as many people as he did, but what my visit to Bob’s house did, was remind me that if you believe in something with all of your being, you can make a difference. What an amazing man!
Thank you to Rita Marley and the Bob Marley Foundation for opening up their ex-home and in turn, opening my eyes.