Damian Marley – Righteousness Overcome
There is no irony, perhaps, that doctrine is defined as a “principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group,” and it’s societal employment, indoctrination, can be found as “teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically.” When you factor in an alternate meaning of the first word, “A statement of official government policy, especially in foreign affairs and military strategy,” and weigh in the religious concerns of followers of doctrines such as the Bible and Koran, a very hygienic, prescribed notion of spirituality arises.
That is, the misinterpretation of original teachings in what existed before the indoctrination process, the pages without letters, those written through experience not typography. When Bob Marley said, “Experience teacheth wisdom, but there’s a natural mystic flowing through the air,” he was grasping the heart of Rastafarian belief, one of the only “religions” existent today yet to see doctrine, propelling the idea of a hands-on life rather than one intellectualized through words and numbers.
“We as Rastas don’t really consider Rastafari a religion, it’s more a way of life,” says Damian Marley, the youngest son of the legendary reggae prophet. “You have the people who read who don’t know Rastafari, know what I mean, because every man can start reading, even as a psalm was written in the book of life. The book of life that we’re speaking of is not really written words but is in the soul of man, you understand. Yes, so you know, every man has his own relationship with God, so there can really be no outline that every man has to follow, understand.”
The young Rasta, already years into a prosperous reggae career at 23, was bred into a spirituality and music that remains pure. Evidence of this can readily be noticed on Halfway Tree, his first release on Motown, an exquisite amalgam of dancehall, hip-hop, and roots reggae. Spread over the album’s 16 tracks are serious lessons on unity and love, hardship, and most importantly, the righteousness to overcome.
“Reggae is on the verge, is on the research, know what I mean,” continues Marley. “If you listen to even to some of Timberland’s beats, they’re very close to dancehall beats, what’s recorded in Jamaica. You can listen to Foxy Brown and the dancehall influence on her new album. Gwen Stefani, she loves the dancehall thing too.
“A few years ago Jamaica got cable. I know that’s opened up the minds of the youth, being exposed to pop music, know what I mean. Hip-hop artists in general have been showing an interest in Jamaica over the last couple of years. The music comes from the same elements, and if you check the background of hip-hop, it really emerged out of Jamaican culture. The music is really the same as it is with the street youths, it is a real music, music of the people.”
Named after the geographic intersection of Jamaica where the privileged and the poor convene, Halfway Tree is a very mature, patient album, addictive and danceable, laden with modern psalms. It is medicine, the type of healing elements existent in the realm of the invisible world of sound, and Marley, coming from a lineage of shamans, teachers, and the thousand other names, continues along that worn but eternal path.
“With our music we always draw people closer to the most high, know what I mean, about the strive for perfection, yes, so you know, that goes in all areas of life, whether it be the relationship you have with your fellow brethren, or the relationship with God I, whatever it be, that’s really what the message is all about.”
And messages like that are even so much more the necessary today, in the wake of the war that phonetically doubles as the exploitation of natural resources by western governments. When his father reinterpreted Haile Selassie’s speech that became “War,” he sang “Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war,” a doctrine without doctrine, he was speaking the truth American culture is just now awakening to.
“The main changes I see is that people are more alert now, know what I mean, and more conscious of what’s going on with international relations,” Marley says. “But two wrongs don’t make a right. Everything works hand in hand. Most expect America to retaliate, but then you really start evaluating why do people hate America in the first place. We as righteous musicians realize certain things because we’ve been singing righteous songs for years. And then all of a sudden a big tragedy happens and you see all kinds of artists coming together and doing these songs that we’ve been doing for years. You don’t really want to give the real righteousness a push, know what I mean, they always wait until something happens and then you see, you know, they try to push this unity thing and what have you, the soul of Rastafari. They didn’t listen, so, you know what I mean.”
If you don’t know, check out Halfway Tree. Tracks like “It Was Written” and “Educated Fools” will show you while you dance along. Updated interpretations of “Slavedriver” via “Catch A Fire” and “Could You Be Loved” by way of “And Be Loved,” along with appearances by Bunny Wailer, Eve, Treach, and Stephen Marley, all add strong flavor to this exquisite curry. This all comes as no surprise, as recent political events only push our artists and musicians further into themselves and, subsequently, ourselves, as is the role of the soothsayer, to produce doctrines without paper, molded wax and plastic that carry the sounds of eternity into the modernity of today’s stereo.
“What’s going on is affecting the music industry, it affects everything, it affects record sales, it affects the message in the music,” Damian continues. “A lot of people weren’t really dealing with righteous music before, you hear them coming out with a few righteous songs now, it’s everybody’s life therefore it will affect everything. When we perform, you can see how we experience the music. There’s the energy and the essence, and so you experience it because it is life, you understand.”
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