For 24 hours every May 11, radio stations in Nigeria and around the world pay tribute to the legend of Robert Nesta Marley also known as Bob Marley. I used to think that this practice was limited to Nigeria until I went to Kenya. The whole country virtually shuts down and all the bars become annexes of a Marley stage concert with beer and weed competing with the sound of music for control of the air.
Yesterday, I attended a similar concert, this time in celebration of the birth of the reggae legend. Three live bands brought their guitars, drums and saxophone to St. Louis. An old cultural capital of the midwest, St. Louis never fails to surprise with new experiences and discoveries of new previously unknown treasures of jazz, live music, good food, drinks, and company. The only addition to this peculiar night was the bellow of weed smoke floating around the bar. Add to that a large collection of hippie-looking, slow talking, heavily bearded crowd members with half-closed eyelids who add “duuuuude” to the end of every sentence and who have to shout in order to be heard above the music, then you have an idea.
How a phenomenal music legend from a small Caribbean island became a global export being celebrated thirty years after his death is already a heartwarming story. Amidst the blare of the saxophone and good music, one of the true purposes of life is laid bare: to affect the world with beauty, and strength, and love, in a way that leaves it no chance of recovery. And music does that better than all the other art forms.