Durban celebrates Bob Marley 75th Birth Day Anniversary in Style
The spirit of Bob Marley was present and heavily felt during the Bob Marley One Love Festival which was held at the Amphitheatre North Beach, Durban in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. Revelers from all walks of life, all colours, shape and sizes, young and old, mostly clad in their best Bob Marley regalia braved heat and came together to celebrate what would have been his 75th Birth Day.
The beautiful Amphitheatre just a throw stone away from the sea, set the scene for what would be one of the most colourful memorable Reggae show. We checked in at a cosy guest house and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Amphitheatre was a just a walking distance from our lodging. After checking in we decided to take a walk along the beach and as we turned the corner we were greeted by reggae music, reggae people, the aroma and the red gold and green flag flying high, it was such a beautiful sight to behold. One thing that we did not anticipate was the Durban heat which proved to be too much for us mere mortals of the concrete Jungle known as Johannesburg. We then decided to check the vibes a bit and then headed back to the guest house to freshen up and we were back an hour later. To our disappointment, Pietermaritzburg foremost reggae band, Undivided Roots za had already taken the stage. It was still early and the crowd was still gathering and Undivided Roots performed at an almost empty promenade. It was an unfortunate situation as Undivided Roots does great covers of both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh songs and are very popular with the crowd. It was the one band I would have loved to see perform in their home turf, but sadly most of us missed this opportunity.
The Bob Marley One Love fest is probably one of the longest running and successful reggae fest in South Africa, held annually during Reggae Month. Reggae Month was officially proclaimed and first staged in 2008 in Jamaica and spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and powered by the Jamaican Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) also coinciding with Black History Month in February every year.
The Festival which is a brain child of The Meditators Band and now has been taken over by Canna Culture, was started in 2007 when Rita Marley was in the country to launch the third Annual Africa Unite 2007 cultural festival organised by the Bob and Rita Marley Foundation; and also held a Bob Marley Photo exhibition to celebrate the life and times of Robert Nesta Marley. The Meditators seized the opportunity to host an impromptu show, speaking to MzansiReggae, the Lead singer of band Ras Shante explained how it all started. “We initiated our gig on the very same night, it wasn’t in the plan but we had to make sure that there is a gig and perform. We shared the stage with Rita Marley. We then sold the idea to Ushaka Marine to host the event in the following year. We invited all the local bands and it kept growing”. It has become the go to Festival for lovers of reggae music and the holy herb across the countrywhere they gather to enjoy the music and all the edibles on offer. One thing about the Festival unlike many that host other genres is that the holy herb is sold and advertised freely without fear or favour, you will find anything from CBD oils, chocolate bars infused with the herb, delicious cupcakes (I didn’t not taste them but they looked delicious), Ice Cream and the famous space cakes that you won’t miss as the informal traders around the venue literally want to shove them down your throat at every corner you turn.
Over the years the festival has hosted an impressive range of artists from across the country. Cape Town based Azania Band, Eastern Cape based JT Muzic, Johannesburg based Don Franco Tafari had all graced the Durban One Love Fest Stage and the Durban based artists and bands were the highlight. This year’s line up was headlined by SAMA winner Black Dillinger and included Nkulee Dube, Sizwe Zwake, Luwe Da Lion, Trevor hall, Jeremiah Fyah Ises, backed by BaakAYaad Band, Sons of Selassie and many more.
We arrived just as the Durban based uprising reggae band, Roots of Kush, took to the stage and gave a sterling performance. The band led by Sista Mpumie who also play the bass guitar made the crowd go wild when they belted out Peter Tosh’s “Pick myself up” joined on stage by the Lead singer/guitarist from Undivided Roots Wadada Cele.
Nkulee Dube made her second appearance after headlining the Bob Marley One Love Fest last year, donning her signature colourful coat with a hood, Ms Dube stepped on stage and belted out one of the Legends famous song befitting the occasion “Redemption song” . Bob Marley’s mission and vision was to always preach “Songs Of Freedom” while she also performed early the crowd endured the heat and sang along to some of her hit songs like the anthem “Love the way”. Unfortunately to the disappointment of everyone, her set was cut short by ‘Technical Problems’ when the generator went off and Ms Dube ran off stage.
The highlight of the day was the Sons Of Selasie who seemingly stole the show. They gave a “killer performance”, as reiterated by a commenter on the MzansiReggae Facebook Live performance. Playing most of their original works, the band gave their all with not much effort, showcasing the years of experience they have as a band. The Band leader Bro Manchi used the platform to urge Reggae fans to “Please support the artists, please support South African Reggae Artist, the last song we sang was ‘Never give up’ we as South African reggae artists we will never give up, Keep Reggae music alive’.
The Meditators also paid a tribute by playing an all Bob Marley set without missing a beat. Jeremiah Fyah Ises who is proving to be quite the ladies’ man also gave a world class performance even though his performance was also cut short due to sound problems right before his set and that took up most of his scheduled time, nonetheless, the ladies were lapping up every lyric that came from him, the fellas too seemed not fazed as they sang along to his hit tunes. I asked him how he felt about his performance:
“We enjoyed our performance though we didn’t perform all our songs but people enjoyed and some told me that for them it was the best performance of the night and I had fans who came from different corners to come see me and The BaakAYaad Band. I am humbled” – Jeremiah Fyah Ises
The SAMA award winner Black Dillinger closed off the show with an energetic performance, one would have expected the crowd to be weary at that time especially since it had been so hot throughout the day but the crowd soldiered on and there we a few shout of encores here and there.
All in all the Bob Marley One Love Fest was very refreshing and provided a pleasant atmosphere. I’m very happy that every artist/band that came on stage gave their all and made sure the crowd got their monies worth.
“One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright”.