Bob Marley is a musical icon on a unique scale who is loved throughout the globe. A new documentary about his life, directed by Kevin Macdonald, seeks to put Marley’s popularity into perspective, and question why this humble Jamaican is so universally loved.
In the 1970s Bob Marley went from being a pioneering but largely unknown reggae singer to an international superstar of an unprecedented popularity. In doing so he almost singlehandedly put Jamaican culture on the map. Over the course of the 1970s Marley produced a string of international hits including ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘No Woman, No Cry’, ‘Could You Be Loved’ and ‘Jamming’ that propelled him to stardom on both sides of the Atlantic and saw him perform in front of massive crowds throughout the globe. The scale of Bob Marley’s success in the 70s was unprecedented for a Jamaican artist and indeed, few artists who followed in his footsteps would reach Marley’s level of popularity. The release of Legend, Marley’s posthumous best of collection, in 1984 solidified this popularity; the album would go on to sell 25 million copies globally. Even today Marley has an online presence comparable only to Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga; his Facebook page has in excess of 37 million likes, eclipsing the likes of The Beatles and Elvis.
Kevin MacDonald’s documentary Marley tracks the stratospheric trajectory of Bob Marley, and links it to the particular lifestyle and ideology which Marley came to represent, which was an embodiment of Jamaica’s distinctive cultural heritage and spiritual traditions. Marley’s Rastafarianism was central to his lifestyle and his music, which often sang the praises of Jah. Key to Rastafarianism is the conception of Africa as the motherland, and the idolatry of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie is matched by a political conception of pan-African solidarity. These political leanings are implicit in Marley’s music, but are often not examined by listeners, to the extent that the postcolonial subtext of Marley’s work is lost. As MacDonald’s film suggests, Marley resisted any exact expression of political affiliation and kept his political message imprecise, and most importantly positive, making it palatable for all. He became an icon of a vague sense of rebellion against the status quo, which as MacDonald himself states, is the ‘reason why he’s on every student wall’.
Kevin MacDonald’s documentary contextualises Marley’s career and his politics within the political upheavals experienced by Jamaica in the years following independence. It also looks at the social issues which blighted the country, including the endemic poverty of the Kingston slums from which Marley himself originated. What emerges is a picture of a politically committed activist who was capable of incredible charisma, something which translated effortlessly into the music he produced. As some critics have pointed out the film declines to delve into the more controversial aspects of Marley’s financial affairs and complex personal life, preferring instead to focus more on the public image, which would become so revered across the globe. For those within his own country of Jamaica, he occupied more of a defined position and was a cultural leader in every sense, one who exported Jamaican music to the world, and in doing so brought the world’s attention to Jamaica.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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