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My Travellin' Shoes We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

Feel Dem Spirit

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [297] | Scholarship Entry

It was with a feeling of disconsolation I reached the top of the hill to sit down away from the crowds and reflect. I’d come a long and arduous way today in the hope of getting a sense of whatever spirit this place had to inspire his songwriting, only to find rampant commercialism had ruined any such chance. And the mausoleum. Encasing Bob Marley above ground in a tomb made of silicate was about as far removed from a natural burial setting as I could imagine. No wonder Eddy stayed outside the compound with the taxi-driver.
“You Peter?” came a voice behind me. I turned to see a Rastafarian dressed in khaki with greying dreadlocks and a set of hand drums.
“er, yes... how did you know?”
“Eddy told me, mon. Him seh yuh ready fuh duh real Nine Miles experience now. Mi Bongo Joe.”
“Bob’s childhood friend?”
“Yuh, wi brudders in music. ’im mek guitar from food tins and bamboo an’ mi drum ol’cans.”
Sitting next to me, Joe started playing a rhythm I recognised from a Wailers song, ‘Rastaman chant’. I was soon able to relax and feel the humming essence of this place begin to reveal itself which I found later so well described by Lawrence Durrell who said of the desert “if you sit quite still in the landscape-diviner’s pose — why, the whole rhythm of ancient Egypt rises up from the damp cold sand. You can hear its very pulse tick”.
I then started wondering if I stayed listening to Joe talking and drumming, how soon would I be able to conjure up songs for his playing, like Bob had done presumably? I was sure that with no material distractions, Bob Marley would have had a wealth of opportunity to establish the rudiments of his musical journey out here with Bongo Joe before he was sent to live in Trenchtown, Kingston and adapt to life in the concrete jungle about which he wrote and sang so powerfully.
It was thanks to Eddy I had finally got to feel the spirit of Nine Miles. The man I had rescued from detention at Ocho Rios police station, falsely accused of stealing a wallet, had more than repaid me for any consideration I had shown him. He’d advised me to take a taxi to explore Bob Marley’s birth and resting place on my own and shun an organised tour, the ‘obvious’ way to do it. But Bongo Joe was the real and surprising alternative Eddy had provided for me. It would be hard though to replicate my experience unless Joe happens to be at Nine Miles when you go.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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