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This is BrukOut! Seani B remembers Peter Tosh

ONE OF THE GREATS: Peter Tosh had a huge influence on reggae

ONE OF the disappointments I have about the portrayal of our music and culture is what seems to be a lack of documentation regarding our history and background.

Some of our greats have passed without so much as a whimper, and although their musical legacy lives on, the stories, impact and context of their lives and work can easily be swept under the carpet.

So it was with great pleasure and excitement that during a recent visit to Jamaica I stumbled across a new musical institution.

Located in the heart of Kingston, a stone’s throw away from the renowned Bob Marley Museum, is a new homage to the legend that is Peter Tosh.

Tosh’s reputation as a musical pioneer who was a voice of the people against the system – or sh*tstem as he so famously renamed it – is the stuff of local legend.

Never afraid to speak his mind, Tosh represented the honest struggle of so many of Jamaica’s population, and also took the side of the underdog, wherever they may be in the world.

His seminal hits include Legalise It, Equal Rights, Bush Doctor and Walk and Don’t Look Back.

His live show was the stuff of legend, and his imposing and forthright views during interviews displayed the no nonsense character that he was.

Tosh's presence and impact on the development of reggae and the word and message cannot be under-estimated.

Listen to any album from the likes of South African star Lucky Dube or some of today's contemporary roots and artists and you will hear and feel a touch of Tosh somewhere within them.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Tosh's passing. Born in Westmoreland, Tosh was the original Steppin Razor’. A self-taught musician who could play guitar, percussion, drums, violin, melodica and keyboards, his musicality was one of his biggest assets.

Having visited The Marley museum on a number of occasions, I was intrigued to check out how the memory and legacy of this other great man was being represented.

The museum was opened last year as a tribute to Tosh and his work in spreading the reggae message globally.

Many distinguished guests, including Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, were in attendance. Less than one year in and one of the centre’s hosts, Janelle, tells me that its popularity is growing.

“We are attracting many visitors from Europe, and from the New York region, too. One of the pleasing things is that also becoming popular with local schools, and in particular teenage students, many of whom were not aware of Tosh before coming here, but they are leaving the exhibition feeling like they relate to what his lyrics are about.

"That is always great to see," she tells me as we walk around the impressive collection of guitars and artefacts relating to his life.

“The project is the work of a three pronged partnership – Puls8 investments, Marlene Brown (Tosh’s partner) and Niambe McIntosh, who is his daughter and runs his estate. Between the three parties, we have managed to create something which is befitting to the memory of Peter, and we give an opportunity to the watching world to see his incredible work.”

One of the things that struck me was the fact that Tosh was an accomplished musician, but never actually learned to read music. “He would watch someone play a melody and was able to recite it back just from watching their hand placements,” Janelle tells me.

It was Tosh who encouraged the other members of The Wailers to learn and play instruments as part of their development as a band. The museum is split into three key parts – the narrative of his life, some special artefacts and the history of the man himself.

I was really surprised that the cost of entry was so reasonable, too – US$20, which when you compare it to other tourist attractions across the island, is inexpensive. It’s also good to know that Tosh’s family are very active in the curation and running of the museum.

“Mr Tosh’s long-term partner, Marlene Brown, is a regular visitor here as is his son Andrew and his grandson, Dre,” says Jangle. “The legendary dub poet and radio host Mutabaruka tells stories of how he and Tosh interacted.”

I cannot emphasis how refreshing the visit to the museum was. A true son of Jamaica, honoured in the right and proper manner, with a celebratory tone and true to his own roots and perspective, this is a must see for anyone visiting the island.

I would love to see it transported across the world and displayed in some of the key reggae cities, including London. The final word goes to my excellent guide, Janelle.

“Peter Tosh was defiant. A man who stood for something at all times,” she explained.
We could benefit from having more like him today.

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