Re­cent trib­utes not re­flec­tive of WHO TOSH

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT -

ONE OF the most top­i­cal is­sues in mu­sic cir­cles last week sur­rounds the cel­e­bra­tions con­nected with the 72nd birth an­niver­sary of one of Ja­maica’s most cel­e­brated mu­sic icons, the late Peter Tosh.

The main cel­e­bra­tion took the form of a tribute con­cert on Oc­to­ber 22, and a VIP launch of the Peter Tosh Mu­seum on his birth­day, Oc­to­ber 19, at the Pulse Com­plex, Trafal­gar Road in Kingston.

The con­cert fea­tured a daz­zling ar­ray of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional stars pay­ing tribute to the man who they thought played a colos­sal role in plac­ing Ja­maica on the in­ter­na­tional mu­sic map. The open­ing of the mu­seum was head­lined by, and graced with the pres­ence of, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, the min­is­ter of cul­ture, gen­der af­fairs, en­ter­tain­ment and sports, and Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness, who opened the cen­tre.

The cel­e­bra­tions and the ac­co­lades that were show­ered on Tosh by var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions were in stark con­trast to the chas­tise­ment and de­nounce­ment of his char­ac­ter that was meted out to him dur­ing the 1970s. On the face of it, the whole sce­nario seems quite hyp­o­crit­i­cal.


In a Septem­ber 1978 in­ci­dent at Skate­land, an en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre in Half-Way Tree, Tosh was beaten, clob­bered – re­sult­ing in a bro­ken arm and in­jury to his head – and thrown into the Half-Way Tree lock-up by po­lice per­son­nel, over the al­leged pos­ses­sion and re­fusal to hand over a ganja spliff. He has al­ways been a staunch ad­vo­cate for the le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana and ex­hib­ited no qualms about the way he ex­pressed his be­liefs. Tosh, who al­most in­vari­ably wears his spliff in his mouth cor­ner, in one of his record­ings ti­tled Le­galise It, (1976), urged the es­tab­lish­ment, in re­la­tion to the herb, to: “Le­galise it, don’t crit­i­cise it Le­galise it and I will ad­ver­tise it Singers smoke it and play­ers of in­stru­ment, too ... Doc­tors smoke it, nurses smoke it, judges smoke it, even the lawyers too.”

He went fur­ther in 1979 by urg­ing the burn­ing of the sacra­ment in, of all the places, Buck­ing­ham Palace, as he sang: “Light up yu spliff, light up yu chal­ice mek we smoke it in Buck­ing­ham Palace. Lend me a pa­per, lend me a fire mek we chase wey all them vam­pire.”

With such biting lyrics, Tosh was looked upon by the es­tab­lish­ment as the un­com­pro­mis­ing rebel who was in­tent on desta­bil­is­ing the sta­tus quo. And 37 years later, in a com­plete turn­around, Tosh is now be­ing lauded as one who stood up for what he be­lieved in, and for be­ing a rebel for the right cause. Amaz­ing!

It was right af­ter his per­for­mance at the One Love Peace Con­cert at the Na­tional Sta­dium in 1978, that it was ob­served that Tosh be­came a reg­u­lar tar­get for the po­lice and a vic­tim of their bru­tal­ity. Some thought that it had to do with the stance he took at the con­cert on cer­tain is­sues per­tain­ing to equal­ity and jus­tice and the le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana: While Bob Mar­ley was busy join­ing the hands of then Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley and Op­po­si­tion Leader Ed­ward Seaga in a show of sol­i­dar­ity and unity, Tosh used the oc­ca­sion to ad­mon­ish and chas­tise them for their fail­ure to en­act ganja le­gal­i­sa­tion laws.

Tosh was born Win­ston Hu­bert McIn­tosh in Grange Hill, West­more­land, on Oc­to­ber 19, 1944. He was ed­u­cated in Blue­fields up to age 17, af­ter which he mi­grated to Kingston to live with his aunt.

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