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Message in the music

Observer senior write

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Today is Emancipation Day, a time for reflection on historical legislation in the British Parliament in 1833 that abolished slavery in West Indies. Emancipation Day actually took effect on August 1, 1834 with full Emancipation in place as of July 1838.

THE scar of slavery, for most black people, can never be removed. The reggae artiste has related stories of African bondage and resilience through many a song. Here are some of them.

Slave Driver (The Wailers) — From the ground-breaking 1973 album, Catch A Fire. Songwriter Bob Marley at his militant best.

Slavery Days (Burning Spear) —The man from St Ann tugged at the heartstrings with his emotive chanting that recalled the horrors his ancestors faced.

Declaration of Rights (The Abyssinians) — Classic round of harmonising by the Trench Town trio. The lyric, 'Look how long they brought us down here. Have us in bondage right through the years' says it all.

Sweet Africa (Earth and Stone) — A powerful 1979 song by this underrated duo from east Kingston.

Slave Master (Gregory Isaacs) — The Cool Ruler is usually associated with lovers rock, but he takes on the establishment on this 1978 classic.

Place Called Africa (Junior Byles)— Byles yearns for the Motherland on this Lee “Scratch” Perry gem.

Africa (The Mighty Diamonds) — A Channel One standard, the roots trio are at their harmonic best as they long for a place where there is “no more crying, no victimisation, no more starvation”.

Rally Round The Flag (Steel Pulse) — From the True Democracy album, an anthem in every sense of the word.

Great Kings of Africa (Mutabaruka) — Muta, with help from friends like Dennis Brown and Ini Kamoze, educate the masses of African champions like “Shaka the Zulu”.