How Rastafari Shape Bob Marley’s Philosophy, Mutabaruka Speak

Mutabaruka: "If there was no Rasta, there would be no Bob Marley"

Bob Marley
Bob Marley / Tuff Gong

Jamaican musician and poet, the erudite Mutabaruka, is not pleased with the way Bob Marley’s musical legacy has been toned down and reduced to the feel-good message in “One Love” and cautions that the singer was a radical Rastafari who was foremost for the upliftment of black people.

While on his weekly show, Muta Mondays, the renowned poet and Pan-Africanist noted that Marley’s lifestyle and heritage as a Rastafarian have been almost sanitized by how his less radical songs are promoted as his legacy.

“If there was no Rasta, there would be no Bob Marley,” he said. “The philosophy and opinions of Bob Marley was shaped by the Rasta community.”

According to Mutabaruka, Marley’s time spent living in Trench Town saw him being mentored by Rastafarian elder Mortimo St George “Kumi” Planno, who was a well-known follower of Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement in the early 1900s. This led to his adoption of the Rastafari movement, and his beliefs are included in some of his most radical songs like “Africa Unite,” “Jump Nyabinghi,” and “Black Supremacy.”

“Bob Marley became an icon not only because of the music but the militancy of the music, and that militancy comes from Rastafari. The militancy of Bob comes from Rastafari, and we have to understand that, and we can’t lose sight and focus of it because if we lose sight and focus of it, we ago feel say all of Bob Marley’s song dem a sing bout ‘one love one heart let’s get together and be alright'” Mutabaruka said.


He continued, “All them thing deh that Bob Marley sing about, people seem to forget that the man was talking about, ‘I feel like bombing a church because the preacher is telling a lie’… People forget to say him say building churches and universities [is] deceiving the people continuously, graduating thieves and murderers. People forget say Bob Marley sing ‘don’t touch a politician to grant you no favor because he will always want to control you forever.'”

Mutabaruka also claims that Marley’s true feelings about the black man’s redemption should not be forgotten or overlooked as that was his primary life focus, contrary to his legacy being reduced to someone trying to unite all people when his own people continue to suffer.

“These songs are indelible. But we know, and we understand that them woulda pick out and almost soften the movement and the potency of what Rastafari is all about. But that is how whole heap a [Rastafari singers] turn out because dem see the money, the monetary aspect of Bob Marley get big and inna fi dem world, money is power but the livity, the cultural manifestation of Rastafari that Bob spread all over the world that a whole heap of people can relate to in a different way. You know a bredren sing say you don’t have to love me, just respect me, Bob Andy sing it. And serious thing, that is what we see this movie has done, what Bob Marley has done. That you may not love Bob Marley or Rastafari but the respect is due where respect is given,” he said.

He added, “[Bob Marley’s] intention was about uniting the African continent and bringing Black people to a level of consciousness that they can be aware of themselves so as to allow others to respect us and we show respect to them. Then now we can talk about let’s get together and be alright.”

The comments by Mutabaruka come amid the release of the singer’s biopic- Bob Marley: One Love film on Valentine’s Day. The poet viewed the movie as a beginning step for the artist’s life to be shared with the world and for the Rastafari community not to lose focus on what’s vital to that community.