Smithsonian Institution celebrates Bob Marley - 17 Feb 2003

Smithsonian Institution celebrates Bob Marley
Monday, February 17, 2003

Washington's Smithsonian Institution last Wednesday, staged a commemorative of the life and work of music legend Bob Marley, in its ongoing efforts to highlight the culture and history of people of African descent.

The event, according to JIS News, was organised by the Anacostia Museum and Centre for African-American History and Culture and was held in the historic Baird Auditorium of the National Museum of Natural History, which maintains and preserves the world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. The museum is part of the Smithsonian's elaborate complex of archives and is the world's largest museum and research complex.

The retrospective, which entailed two hours of unreleased films and videos, involved a life narration by the award-winning Marley biographer, Roger Steffens. The founding editor of the Beat Magazine and a leading authority on reggae and world beat music, Steffens is the curator of the Long Beach Reggae Museum. The museum, which opened in January 2001, has over 6,000 items, 1,000 pieces of which are directly related to Bob Marley's life and musical career.

In his remarks at the event, Jamaica's ambassador to the United States, Seymour Mullings, praised the Smithsonian for its work in raising the awareness of the American public about the ideas and convictions of the Jamaican reggae icon.

"We are indeed delighted that the renowned Smithsonian Institution in Washington with its grand facilities saw it fit to commemorate the grandeur of Bob Marley's music and to highlight the significant contribution that this great Jamaican has made to the promotion of international understanding and to the cause of global peace and justice. On the occasion of his 58th birthday, this honour in the American capital truly underscores his phenomenal contribution to Jamaica, the Caribbean and indeed the world," Mullings said.

In his narration, which was interspread throughout the video presentation, Steffens described Marley as "perhaps the best musician of the 20th Century" and agreed with Time Magazine's designation of his 1977 album, Exodus, as the best album of the century. "This (tribute) clearly demonstrated the enormous impact of Marley's music and its capacity to reach diverse audiences in countries around the world," he said.

Steffens further noted that the video clips, which included unreleased footage of Bob Marley's performances in Zimbabwe in April of 1980, and at Harvard University's Amandla Festival in July 1979, as well as others, spoke to Marley's "incredible ability, through music, to bridge cultural and geographic divides and to also foster a sense of unity of purpose. His amazing talent for being able to promote a sense of commonality and goodwill is absolutely a clear and distinguishing feature of Marley's music."

He stressed that Marley "is without question one of the most transcendent figures of the past 100 years. The ripples of his unparalleled achievements radiate outward through the roof of his music into an ocean of politics, ethics, fashion, philosophy and religion".

Dera Tompkins, a confidante of Bob Marley, who on Sunday staged a very successful commemoration in Washington of Marley's life and music, also chaired Wednesday's proceedings. She noted that the singer's charisma and his capacity to motivate and influence his audience and to "strike a chord" with listeners who were non-English speakers, was a distinct feature of the musician's creative genius. "Marley's message remains as relevant today as it has ever been, and its themes still continue to resound just as pertinently, over 20 years after his death," Tompkins observed."

Sun - February 23, 2003 at 08:23 AM