Rwandans celebrate Bob Marley legacy
On Friday evening, Reggae music brought hundreds together at White Horse, to celebrate the legacy and message of Peace and Love from the late Bob Marley.
Also, there were performances from the Kids’ Voice band and Holy Jah Doves band.
The event was originally scheduled for February 6, as a commemorative “birthday party” for Marley, but was pushed to March 23, in light of the upcoming memorial period.
When he was ten years old, Natty Dread’s chance encounter with Marley in Jamaica sparked the beginning of a lifelong friendship and mentorship, which led to subsequent meetings in Kenya and Ethiopia during Marley’s final days.
“He was my inspiration and teacher,” said Natty Dread, “He made me into what I am today as an artist.”
It was Marley who christened “Natty Dread” and inspired Natty Dread’s love of Reggae.
“The way that Reggae is constructed, it’s a music that goes right straight into your soul and your mind,” said Natty Dread, “The groove, the base, the way it’s played – when you listen to it, you feel like a soul that is floating.”
“You don’t feel any kind of aggression. You feel that you’re grooving, you’re dancing, that you’re always going to be a peaceful person.”
Although Natty Dread was influenced by Marley’s musical style, it was the “spiritual” message of Reggae that became his greatest inheritance from Marley.
“Reggae music teaches people to open their minds and see other human beings in a positive light,” said Natty Dread, “It’s the only music that can bring solutions.”
Born Raphael Mitali, Natty Dread calls Reggae “a peaceful weapon” and credits Marley for using the musical style to avert a civil war in Jamaica. After Marley’s passing in 1981, Natty Dread has followed in Marley’s footsteps to use reggae to bring a message of love and peace to his own country, Rwanda.
“Rwanda is a country with a long history of conflict, and Reggae is an instrument that can bring people together,” said Natty Dread, “When we play music, we don’t ask each other “what is your tribe?” we ask “what do you play?”
Following the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi, Natty Dread partnered with Marley’s mother, Cedella Booker, to organise the first Reggae festival in Rwanda in 1996. He also performed in Burundi in 2002 during a period of civil war and social unrest.
“Bombs were flying around and I was there doing Reggae,” he said, “And it really had a big impact. I could see it with my two eyes. When I played reggae, people did not look at each other with hate. Rebels and soldiers were dancing together.”
Natty Dread’s next tribute to Bob Marley will be held at White Horse on May 11, the date of Marley’s passing. The concert will also commemorate the end of the mourning period, a time that Natty Dread calls “a new era for forgiveness and getting together.”
“Music is a uniting factor to mankind and reggae is a front-line when it comes to peace-building,” said Natty Dread, “There are many conflicts worldwide, and reggae can be the one to solve it and it is doing so even today.”