29th June, 2022
By Odolaye Aremu
By the time we were settling down to getting the full blast of heat from his red hot, scorching fame – Bob Marley’s sun abruptly suffered an eternal setting.
Don Carlos, Eric Donaldson, Jimmy Cliff and a few others were already popular in the Ibadan airwaves but not till about ’76 when a neighbourhood pothead and tailor -‘ Wuyi International played the churchy, bluesy, abundantly organic – No Woman No Cry live album. It was No Woman on the A-side, Kinky Reggae on the B-side.
In Ibadan, we knew we had a new reggae star from Jamaica! He was a star foreign to the airwaves at the time but hugely popular underground.
But years later – by his 11th studio album in 79-80, the SURVIVAL album. Bob and the Wailers were already household names. Remember the album with the sleeve decorated with the then all African flags? Where the Nigerian flag positioned right between that of the Niger Republic and Guinea? Yeah!
The two tracks that stood out to me in the beautiful album. Zimbabwe – the second track on the A-side and Ride Natty Ride – the third track on the B- side but the eighth track on the overall track listing.
Ride Natty Ride remains one of my best reggae of Marley songs. Perhaps my best ever! Captivating in the peculiar fluidity – of a rub-a-dub groove. Recorded in B flat major. The other keys to the song and most of Marley’s songs of course were the Barrett Brothers. Aston ‘Family Man’ was the man whose fat bass lines usually doubled as the rhythm section. And Carlton, his brother was the drummer that sprinkled the joy on the deep sound like grains of salt. His deep snaps actually started the track. Lastly, the impressive backing vocals of the I-Threes (Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt) kept the pockets of space packed with melodic chants. Scooby-Doo even got calls from the beautiful trio on the track. What they did with the Scooby-Doo chants was simply brilliant.
Needless to say that certain Marley songs are intoxicating. There is usually a line or two in his tracks to absolutely handcuff the soul to reality. Words on marble. Mystical. Prophetic even. His opening lines are abundantly quotable.
For example, in Zimbabwe, it is “every man’s got the right to decide his destiny…” and in the said: Ride Natty Ride, he effectively created a Western feel on his horns section and the harmonica with his troubled ‘Dreadie’ riding crazily unperturbed around time but purposefully on a kind of Mission Impossible. “Riding through the Storm. Riding through the Calm.”
RNR was the Marley song I overplayed till I kill the SURVIVAL cassettes (about three that I bought) every time! No doubt about it – Bob Marley gains immortality this morning when one of my teenage nieces was humming along to one of his vibes.
*Odolaye Aremu is an Art critic and public affairs analyst