Art on the loose in Kingston

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

PETER TOSH’S birth­day will be ‘hearti­cally’ cel­e­brated this Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 19. A mu­seum in his hon­our opens that even­ing at the Pulse Com­plex on Trafal­gar Road. It’s been de­signed by Art on the Loose (AOTL), a bril­liant team of cre­atives out of Chicago. They re­designed the mu­seum at Lib­erty Hall, the Legacy of Mar­cus Gar­vey lo­cated in down­town Kingston. They did a beau­ti­ful makeover.

AOTL em­bod­ies the spirit of that wit­ti­cism I saw at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture in Wash­ing­ton, DC. It’s a quote from The Col­ored Mu­seum, a 1986 play by Ge­orge C Wolfe: “God cre­ated black peo­ple and black peo­ple cre­ated style.” By the way, the Smith­so­nian’s African Amer­i­can mu­seum has now been dubbed the Black­so­nian. My peo­ple!

Ver­non Lock­hart, de­sign prin­ci­pal at AOTL, has stylishly trans­formed a small space in New Kingston into a world­class show­case for Ja­maican cul­ture. The Peter Tosh mu­seum will cer­tainly en­hance the im­age and sub­stance of Kingston as a cre­ative city of mu­sic.

The AOTL artists are ex­hibit spe­cial­ists, brand­ing gu­rus and cre­ative ther­a­pists. I was in­trigued by their con­cept of cre­ative ther­apy: “Our ap­proach is based on the be­lief that our cre­ative process will help peo­ple to re­solve prob­lems, in­crease self-es­teem and achieve in­sight.”


Peter Tosh would agree. This is how he de­scribed his own cre­ative process: “Some­times the in­spi­ra­tion comes, yu get a bass line. Some­times yu may be driv­ing or walk­ing and yu just get di ti­tle fi a song. Some­times yu may jus see some­thing hap­pen and it look mu­si­cal and yu jus try guh into it and yu find sey yu can ma­te­ri­alise some­thing out of it, some­thing in­spi­ra­tional. Some­times yu get the melody a di song. There are many ways of get­ting a song ... . In the gar­den of in­spi­ra­tion, songs, mu­sic is un­lim­ited. Un­fin­ish­able.”

Tosh cer­tainly used his in­spir­ing lyrics to fight against downpression and to fear­lessly stand up for equal rights and jus­tice:

“Ev­ery­one is cry­ing out for peace, yes None is cry­ing out for jus­tice I don’t want no peace I need equal rights and jus­tice.” Tosh gave a clas­sic cri­tique of the un­just pol­i­tics of ‘peace’ in his dread ser­mon de­liv­ered at the so-called Peace Con­cert in 1978: “Dis con­cert here whey dem say is a PEACE con­cert, I man nevva did a go come inno. Yu know why? Cause wha was a PEACE con­cert. An ah won­der if many peo­ple re­alise what de word PEACE mean. Eeh? Yu see most in­tel­lec­tual peo­ple in so­ci­ety tink de word PEACE means comin togeda. PEACE is de dipluma yu get in de ceme­tery.”


Out­spo­ken Peter Tosh was a man way ahead of his time. Forty years ago, he re­leased his vi­sion­ary sin­gle Le­gal­ize It, de­mand­ing the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of ganja: “Le­galise it Don’t crit­i­cise it Le­galise it, yeah yeah And I will ad­ver­tise it.” Tosh was a walk­ing ad­ver­tise­ment for the holy herb. But it wasn’t just ganja. It was all kinds of weed – valu­able plants that were dis­missed as un­de­sir­able. Tosh knew the health ben­e­fits of eat­ing vi­tal plant foods that were nu­tri­tious.

In Mys­tic Man, Tosh at­tacked junk food with typ­i­cal fear­less­ness. He wasn’t look­ing for spon­sor­ship from the pro­duc­ers of these harm­ful foods that have con­trib­uted to the global obe­sity epi­demic: “I man don’t Eat up your fried chicken Not lick­ing I man don’t Eat up them frank­furters Garbage I man don’t Eat down the ham­burger Can’t do that I man don’t Drink pink blue yel­low green soda

Cause I’m a man of the past And I’m liv­ing in the present And I’m walk­ing in the fu­ture.”


On Thurs­day, the an­nual Peter Tosh Sym­po­sium takes place at the Univer­sity of the West Indies, Mona, at 6 p.m. in Lec­ture The­atre I, Fac­ulty of Med­i­cal Sci­ences. Dr Carter Mathes, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of English at Rut­gers Univer­sity, will speak on ‘Peter Tosh in the tra­di­tion of the Caribbean black rad­i­cal ac­tivist’.

Roger St­ef­fens, reg­gae ar­chiv­ist, will fo­cus on ‘Peter Tosh as prophetic philoso­pher’. Her­bie Miller, di­rec­tor/cu­ra­tor of the Ja­maica Mu­sic Mu­seum, will high­light ‘Peter Tosh as pi­o­neer­ing ad­vo­cate for le­gal­i­sa­tion of ganja’. The pub­lic is in­vited and ad­mis­sion is free.

On Satur­day, the Peter Tosh trib­ute con­cert will be held at Pulse at 8:30 p.m. Pulse CEO Kings­ley Cooper has re­assem­bled Tosh’s Word, Sound and Power band: Fully Full­wood, Santa, Steve Gold­ing, Mikey Chung, Rob­bie Lynn and Don­ald Kin­sey. The last time they worked to­gether was for Tosh’s mag­is­te­rial Reg­gae Su­per­jam per­for­mance in 1983. That was his fi­nal con­cert.

Satur­day’s trib­ute fea­tures An­drew Tosh, Mar­cia Grif­fiths, Lu­ciano, Tar­rus Ri­ley, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyra­mid, Etana and Mer­mans Mosengo from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo. Then I don’t know if Etana has changed her mind about vot­ing for Trump since the re­lease of that nasty Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood video. She bet­ter not go any­where close to him. She’s a beau­ti­ful woman. Trump might just feel her up.

All pro­ceeds will go to the mu­seum. On Sun­day, there will be an ex­cur­sion to the Tosh mau­soleum in Bel­mont, West­more­land, or­gan­ised by the fam­ily.

Peter Tosh was the ul­ti­mate rebel of reg­gae mu­sic: vi­sion­ary, mil­i­tant, un­com­pro­mis­ing! Wher­ever in­jus­tice ex­ists across the globe, Tosh’s po­tent words will con­tinue to in­spire the op­pressed to rise up and claim full free­dom.

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