Bob Marley’s Spiritual Rhetoric, the Spread of Jamaican Culture and Rastafarianism

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Bob Marley’s Spiritual Rhetoric, the Spread of Jamaican Culture and Rastafarianism

By
Mark Haner

Senior Seminar: Hst 499
Professor John L. Rector
Western Oregon University
June 16, 2007
Readers
Professor John L. Rector
Professor Kimberly Jensen
Copyright © Mark Haner, 2007

The spread of Jamaican culture and Rastafarianism can be accredited to many events and technical advances in communication. Bob Marley is one of the main influences the spread of Jamaican culture and Rastafarianism due to the lyrical rhetoric used in his popular music. Growing up as an impoverished youth, Marley struggled to create a music career where his voice as well as others could be heard globally. Bob Marley’s lyrics contributed to the spread of Jamaican culture and Rastafarianism because the messages in these songs display the areas of class and Marley’s life in the Jamaica ghetto, Trenchtown. The nation’s capital city, Kingston and its largest ghetto, Trenchtown, was home to Marley for many years. Today it still retains much poverty and corruption, both politically and socially. The messages Marley sends out in his music brings forward his memories of Trenchtown with its racism, oppression, violence, and poverty.

The religious messages portrayed by the lyrics of Marley’s music also explore his beliefs in the religion of Ras Tafari; a religion that sprung up in Jamaica in the 1930’s. Rastafarianism helped lead a movement of cultural renewal among Africans. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Marley truly begins to accept this religion and incorporate its beliefs in his songs.

Bob Marley’s lyrics spread his spiritual and political messages. The rhetorical strategies Marley used to persuade the audienceare simple language, words, and relaxing sounds. They publicize important, and very intense political and social issues. These issues include the living conditions of Trenchtown as well as the oppression he witnessed

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during his years with the “Rude Boys” or street gang of Trenchtown by using this informative lyrical persuasion technique. Marley is able to capture an audience who may not be particularly interested in or aware of politics or social issues. Bob Marley presents himself and his beliefs in a way that attracts a great range of listeners. They include those that enjoy his musical performances, as well as those who completely understand and appreciate his lyrical messages. For many people around the world, Marley’s characteristics and person became Jamaican and Rastafarian culture. Originally from Jamaica, a country very dependent on tourism, Marley captured the attention of audiences with different political and social views and offered his message to them subtly. The article titled Walk Good: West Indian Oratorical Traditions in Bob Marley’s Uprising 1 compares and relates this to the oral traditions used in the West Indies as well as in West Africa, as tribal leaders used words, strategies, and rhetoric to capture the attention of their audiences. “In the West Indies as well as in West Africa, the aesthetic appeal of an argument guarantees it validity. And because, controversially, a truth presented without skill is hardly the truth at all.” 2 The lyrics in the music Marley wrote and sang are much like these speeches and stories tribal leaders tell. Marley’s music has an aesthetic appeal with soothing and sometimes driving reggae tones and beats. Many people who may not comprehend or even listen to the lyrics Marley sings, may still enjoy his music and the talent he displays with his instrumentation.

1

Hodges, Hugh. “Walk Good: West Indian Oratorical Traditions in Bob Marley’s Uprising.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 40.2 (2005).
2
Hodges pp. 43.

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Marley and the traditional Rastafarianism lifestyle, as well as his rhetoric, are similar to those of tribes in other parts of the world. This creates a “tribal mystic” or person whom is one with the world around him, his spirituality, and...
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