Robert Nesta Marley, the legend himself, was honored all day Saturday at the Caribbean Festival in downtown Miami at Bayfront Park.
Through the abundance of dreadlocks and half-legal smoke-filled air, there was an aura of love, happiness and unity. That’s what Bob preached and that’s what his family continues to preach. To demonstrate their message, four cans of food for the homeless were required for entry. What a beautiful concept.
Anyway, my roommates are in the band Jahfe – and if you’ve never heard of them, shame on you – so their manager was able to get me a VIP pass around 3 p.m., an hour before they played. So I’m hanging out behind the stage listening to some roots, rock, reggae, and the next thing I know, Rita Marley, Bob’s widow, comes casually strolling past me arm in arm with her oldest son Ziggy. I mean, umm, I’m stunned, baffled, speechless. These are the closest living relatives to a man who has seriously affected my life.
Imagine changing someone’s life without ever knowing them, without ever speaking to them. He died six years, one month and seven days before I was born and still had a profound impact on my life. His words still ring true today: “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold…” Even a line like “whosoever dig the pit shall fall in” carries so much truth on the surface it is hard to ignore. The point I am trying to make is that if it would not be socially awkward, I would have immediately bowed my head in their presence. The good they have done for this world is just too tremendous.
So, pulling my jaw off the ground, I wandered past the row of trailers to the left of the stage. I caught Collie Buddz, Bermuda’s most acclaimed reggae star, prepping for his upcoming show. I also thought I saw Nas, but that wouldn’t make sense until later.
Jahfe went on as the sun was setting, a perfect transition from the smaller bands to the megastars like Capleton, Buju Banton and, of course, the Marleys.
By 9 p.m. my legs felt like Jell-O, but I was determined to stick it out. Ky-Mani Marley had just performed and next up was the vibing trio of Ziggy, Stephen and Damian Marley.
After playing some of Bob’s most popular tracks, like Kinky Reggae, Redemption Song and Three Little Birds, Damian started singing “Road to Zion” from his album Welcome to Jamrock. On the album, this song features Nas and as soon as I heard the first note of the track, I knew my eyes had not deceived me earlier. Nas performed with the brothers and left the stage.
I was more than satisfied, full of zeal. Marley Fest is more than a time or a place or a song or an artist. Marley Fest is bigger than all that. It’s a place for people to come together as one, unity. As for Bob, he might not be alive in body, but if you were downtown Saturday, it would be mighty hard to argue he’s not with us in spirit.