Bob Marley Roger Trilling - Essay

Roger Trilling

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kaya is, I think, the most international pop album I've ever heard. To Jamaicans, it sounds harder and more roots than anything Marley's done since breaking up with the (real) Wailers, and for Americans, it has a brighter, clearer feel, with more up-tempo hooks and legible lyrics. It avoids the thinness of Rastaman Vibration and the opacity of Exodus….

Exodus was a blurred skein of Rasta maxims underscored by deep personal melancholy, a musical echo of the rootless wanderings that followed his self-exile from Jamaica. Exodus spoke of the personal through the universal; Kaya speaks of the universal through the personal. It is easier for Americans to empathize with….

Romantic love has replaced Armagideon as central motif and metaphor, and there is scarcely a mention of Rasta. The love songs "have meaning to me deeper than that," Marley said, "but me invite the people …"

… to "Easy Skanking" with "Kava," the first two tone-setting tunes on the album. What follows is a neat and increasingly up-tempo progression from the very dramatic "Sun Is Shining" ("When the morning gather the rainbow / Want you to know, I am a rainbow too"), through "Is This Love" ("I wanna love and treat you right / every day and every night"), to "Satisfy My Soul" ("satisfy my soul, satisfy my soul").

The world is introduced on side two, and the reverie is soon shattered. "She's Gone," he sings, "she couldn't / take any more / the pressure around me …" "Misty Morning" follows, then "Crisis," then "Running Away," which is the center of the album, "Exodus" personalized, haunting yet taunting, a response to the rumors that followed his departure from Jamaica in 1976….

Reggae is topical music. Bob Marley is the first third-world rock star.

Roger Trilling, "Bob Marley Satisfies His Soul," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1978), Vol. XXIII, No. 16, April 17, 1978, p. 75.