Monday, February 6, marked what would’ve been the 72nd birthday of music icon and global reggae evangelist, Bob Marley. In Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, celebrations for the hometown hero were well underway long before his official birthday. On Sunday night in particular, Marley’s legacy came alive as hundreds gathered at Half-Way Tree Station – a massive bus terminal that was converted into a concert hall for the evening – for the annual “Redemption Live” concert.

As visitors from a place that is experiencing a particularly vitriolic kind of social upheaval, one that is dividing people even further along macro and micro lines – whether it’s race, religion or even rhetoric – there was a particular kind of irony in being there. Standing in the middle of the posthumous celebration of a man whose music and beliefs were so rooted in grassroots social activism, the equalization of the oppressed and the rejection of damaging social structures, that his message was able to cross cultures, religions and lifestyles, reaffirmed the power of song.

At the same time, it also made our current reality feel all the more bleak.

Skkan Media for Red Stripe

The public concert, which started seven years ago, is free and open to all and has been the kick-off to a week-long series of Marley birthday celebrations since its inception. One of the major goals behind the concert series is to uplift reggae music around the world; this year performances were live-streamed in the U.S., Canada and across the Caribbean.

Major sponsors like Red Stripe – which has been making considerable effort reconnect to its Jamaican roots after moving brewing back from Pennsylvania last year – were also on hand with beverages and crowd giveaways.

Headlining performers included self-proclaimed king of the dancehall, Beenie Man, Capleton, Richie Spice, Tifa, Garnet Silk Jr., and of course Bob Marley’s son, Ky-Mani Marley. The latter made an appearance with brothers, Damian, Julian and Stephen, who joined him in performing rousing renditions of some of his father’s most beloved songs.

When asked why he felt his participation in the festivities was so vital, Ky-Mani told Highsnobiety, “I feel my father’s legacy and music serves as a daily inspiration to many including myself. The positive vibes and the “Love Of All” message is my life mantra.

See another side of Jamaica with Hood By Air’s editorial featuring Kingston’s “Gully Queens” here

  • Images:Skkan Media for Red Stripe
Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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