Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley Author(s): Mike Alleyne

Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley
Author(s): Mike Alleyne
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Caribbean Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3/4, Extended Boundaries: 13th Conference on West
Indian Literature (Jul. - Dec., 1994), pp. 224-241
Published by: Institute of Caribbean Studies, UPR, Rio Piedras Campus
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25613257 .
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Positive Vibration?:
Capitalist
Textual Hegemony
and Bob Marley
Mike
Alleyne*
the transmutation
This paper addresses
a direct consequence
of popular
Caribbean
music
as
its
here
of its transnationalisation,
meaning
source
its
the
creative
under
of
regional
origin
beyond
It is
of multinational
record companies.
corporate,
capitalist auspices
that the analytical criteria usually applied
only to
implicitly asserted
relevant to the contextual
scribal texts are equally
interpretation of
movement
music.
ideology
is largely
paper
determine
which
The
for the contemporary
the principal propositions
international
record
representation
underestimated
within
issues
aural
textual
and
of power
cultural
and
manipulation
is that the transformative impact of
industry capitalism
musical
the Caribbean
the region. Accounts
increased commercial
frequently celebrate
stark capitalist contexts
positive
with
recorded
of Bob Marley's music,
itsWestern
of
cooptation
implications
are
in this context. One of
discussed
Caribbean
The corporate
representation.
and the aesthetic and political
of
concerned
potentialities.
on
the
articulation
text has
been
of major market
and
grossly
penetration
it from
stature by displacing
its
often counterbalance
and realities which
is
characterised
The
by a
industry's impact
'Universityof theWest Indies,Cave HillCampus, Barbados.
CARIBBEAN
STUDIES,VOL.27,3-4 (1994):224-241.
224
Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley
consolidation
of Caribbean
ofWestern
music,
cultural
imperialism through commoditisation
of the resultant economic
the application
and
profits to sustain the hegemonic imbalance in the global political
economy1
thereby reinforcing Caribbean
is characterised
Such marginalisation
influence
marginalisation.
by an acute lack of political
economic
fora, and enormous
in global
decision-making
upon international financial institutions which undermines
dependency
Its cultural facet involves, among
Caribbean
sovereignty and autonomy.
other elements, undue reliance on Western
arbiters regarding the value
and
representation
of regional
creativity.
Before assessing Bob Marley's work in the context of the global
recording industry's capitalism and cultural influence, some functional
definitions of -text*and -hegemony* are essential. References here to the
to its lyrical
limited solely or specifically
and their various possible meanings,
constituents
but primarily the
instrumental framework within which the lyrics exist and are articulated.
text of music
aural
are not
It is argued here that the overall
textual character of music
is determined
in
and subsumption
of creative elements
by the variable foregrounding
the recorded representation.
to Gramsci's
The references
in this paper
concept of hegemony
circumstances
in which
subordinate
generally apply to sociopolitical
classes
appear
to actively
support
and subscribe to values, ideals, objectives, cultural meanings, which
bind them to, incorporate them into, the prevailing power structure.2
the subordinated
Consequently,
ultimately consent to the existing social
since
the
dominant
classes
achieve a naturalisation
of -systems
system
of class relations.*3 Hegemonic
transcends analyses
theory, however,
of class
division
and polarisation.
As has been
critically observed,
to
contribution
the
great
study of culture is the understanding
that culture is inseparable
from relationships of power.*4 His cognisance
Gramsci's
of the inextricable
echoed
in Ngugi's
connectivity between
contention
that
representations
is
of power
for a full comprehension of the dynamics, dimensions and
workings
of a society, any society, the cultural aspects cannot be seen in total
isolation from the economic
The
and political ones.5
for the emergence
and maintenance
are serious since
counter-discourse
hegemony
ramifications
musical
225
of Caribbean
suggests
that
Mike
?conflict is contained
Alleyne
and channelled
In the context
of popular
music,
as
hegemony
functioning
undisguised
textual incisiveness:
into ideologically
safe harbours.*6
the Gramscian
model
identifies
cultural
co-optation
disarming
be made simply to incorporate themusic safely
of leisure and recreation. With the music thus
contained, any progressive edge of subversive meaning would
to the dominant (ideological)
become
functions of
background
music
in
service of
?entertainment
the
and
relaxation
popular
consumerism and the reproduction of labour power. In the extreme,
the idea of revolution itselfwould become a mere posture in the
...the attempt would
within the domains
hegemonic
landscape.7
is
So through cultural hegemony,
the revolutionary potential of music
defused
of
the
the
transnational
ideologies
by
inherently capitalist
of
record
industry.8 The
superstructural
(ideological)
implications
to the structure
and their direct relationship
formulation
in
will
this
be
paper.
-Authenticity* as
(economy)
strongly emphasised
to
artistic
form
of
relates
the
representation by the
applied here,
original
creator of the work. The term is not used here to impose monolithic,
Gramsci's
static or one-dimensional
While
the
parameters upon Caribbean cultural expression.
is
fusion which
eclectic
gave birth to reggae
as
are
economic
identified
forces
external cultural and
innate
acknowledged,
reducing the congruence
its root components.
of the internationally
commodified
form with
to have been taken for granted regarding the career
appears
for
and work of Bob Marley which
possibilities
seemingly subsumes
and alternative readings. Basically, many of us
critical reassessments
Much
unquestioningly
economic
and
accept
cultural
his
forces
iconic
that
considering
instinct have
creative
status without
external
to his
influence on his musical
representation and expression.
not have been enough
would
?Raw
talent
As Carolyn Cooper
suggests,
of international capital.*9
without
the operations
exerted enormous
commercial
This paper does not seek to diminish Marley's considerable
to employ his work
Itdoes attempt, however,
and artistic achievements.
as
exemplifying
commodification
It also
for the mass-market
establishing
precedents
culture in the global recording industry.10
of Caribbean
some myths of artistic and ideological
to deconstruct
and
attempts
retrospective analyses of Marley's work,
purity which often characterise
this paper represents
in broader contexts. While
and impede evaluation
226
Positive
Capitalist
Vibration?:
an indictment ofWestern
it challenges
Textual
Hegemony
and
Bob
Marley
capitalism and not of Marley,
accounts of his career by
previous
context within which his creativity flourished.
entertainment
unbalanced
arguably
the economic
emphasising
It is being
of Marley
that Island Records' presentation
of textual
features
instances
1972
highly significant
dictated by Western
capitalist imperatives, which have
asserted
and his work
here
since
reconfiguration,
intervened in the articulation
and representation
of the original
cultural
texts.11
Implicit here and throughout this paper is the idea that even explicitly
as Marley's?
are not immune
texts ?such
to
counter-hegemonic
ideological mediation and defusion by the capitalist forces which
facilitate their access
to discourse. As Cushman
suggests, ?In itsdiffusion,
was
a
music
of
transformed
from
form
cultural criticism into a
reggae
cultural commodity.*12 Furthermore, in this industry based on economic
and ideolog
power, a relationship exists between such commodification
ical appropriation.
Hence,
understanding the political economy of themusic business is essential
for an understanding
of popular music
and there is a rough
correspondence between the ?commercialisation? of popular music
and
its ?cooptation.?'13
Paul Gilroy describes
the general approach of Island Records, and in
towards the representation of black
particular itshead, Chris Blackwell,
musicians
in theWestern market, suggesting that
their
?having adjusted
music
to the expectations
of white
rock audiences*
the
to
as
?sell
stars.
them
The example
of Bob
company proceeded
pop
the most acute illustration.*14
Marley provides
on
and
image
The very signing in 1971 of theWailers to Islandwas based not only
a desire
to broaden
?an attempt to
but was
audience,
reggae's
anticipate trends in the rock market....*15 Thus, theywere signed largely
on the basis ofWestern market conditions.
Moreover,
reggae was at this
time a singles-based medium, whereas
theWestern market was dominated
by the album format. In order to achieve textual conformity for reggae,
Blackwell
itsmovement
from individual short-story mode
spearheaded
to cohesive narrative
compilation, based on long-term capital oriented
that
goals. Simon Jones explains
Blackwell's
establish
decision
theWailers
to market reggae as an album music and to
as more profitable transnational artists
heavily
227
Mike Alleyne
shaped the production
Island Catch a Fire.16
and packaging
of theWailer's
debut LP for
in reggae
also sought to establish a group image and consciousness
in effect, channelling
the
where none had previously existed. He was,
to conform toWestern market dictates in themanner most likely
Wailers
He
to generate
role in the album's
significantly, BlackwelPs
saw
to
him
Davis,
-emerge as interpreter
according
post-production,
and translator of Bob Marley's prophetic music to the world at large.*17
to culturally and commercially
From the outset, Blackwell determined
capital. Most
recontextualise
achieve
the Wailers
broad-based
music
multi-market
and packaged
produced,promoted
in
this
the
sense,
Thus,
group was
the
Notably,
seemingly anomalous
(and
that to
perceiving
to be
-would
have
reggae
image),
crossover,
like any other pop or rock music.*18
to become
culturally homogenised.
retention of the group's explicitly
in fact wholly
congruent with Blackwell's
was
political messages
commercial objectives,
involving exploitation of their rebellious image.19
So for several reasons, Catch a Fire was
-arguably the most important
album in reggae music*20 at the time, and significant for Caribbean music
generally.
The original
a Fire took place
in
for 1972's Catch
themselves.
and mixed by the Wailers
performed
recordings
Kingston, Jamaica,
But this original representation became
subject to textual reconfiguration
and
sanctioned
in London
of Blackwell, who
under the supervision
conducted
sessions,
remixing and editing of the Kingston
personally
including
the
was
deemed
of overdubs.
The material
recording
was
to
the
album
white
audience
towards
which
for the
inappropriate
the textual editing which
be commercially
directed, thus necessitating
creative
of
thework by introducing
the
weakened
authenticity
arguably
to
context. According
its
cultural
statements divorced
from
musical
Hebdige, Blackwell
brought Marley's voice forward and toned down the distinctive bass.
He also added some flowing rock guitar riffs recorded by British
session men to the original tape.21
a
by Blackwell was not merely
but a reformulation of the text of reggae
minor, cosmetic modification,
to theWestern
rock
inwhich
the elements considered most appealing
The
audience
transformation
were
brought
foregrounded
about
at
the expense
228
of
its primary
Afro
Positive
Vibration?:
Textual
Capitalist
Hegemony
and
Bob
Marley
The overdubs
and other post-production
on
the
surgery performed
original Jamaican tracks ignored any necessity
for retaining a holistic textual authenticity.
Jones suggests that
Caribbean
characteristics.
As part of this process, session musicians were brought in to overdub
rock guitar, tabla and synthesizer parts over theWailers' music. In
addition, Blackwell accelerated the speed of theWailers basic rhythm
tracks by one beat, thinking that a quicker tempo might enhance the
music's appeal to rock fans. Afro-American influenced rhythms and
back-up vocals were also employed to lend a -cosmopolitan* flavour
to themusic.22
The
textual difference of Catch
a Firein
transcending the traditionally
is succinctly identified by Anglo
of Jamaican music
dub
Jamaican
poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson. He suggests that through the
new style of Jamaican music had come
?awhole
into
Wailers
debut
I can only
being. It has a different character, a different sound... what
describe as 'International Reggae.'*23 While acknowledging
the creation
featured elements
of an internationally marketable
hybrid form of reggae with its eclectic
of the direct textual
incorporations, Johnson does not evince awareness
intervention
He does, however,
implemented
by Blackwell.
clearly
identify the significant textual departures of theWestern
representation
of the work on Catch a Fire from the established
tenets of reggae
recording
doctrine.
He
observes
that
Instead of concentrating exclusively on a bottom-heavy sound with
the emphasis on drum and bass, you had on this record more of a
"toppy" mix, a lighter sound. The emphasis ismore on the guitar and
other fillers.On no other Jamaican reggae recording... was such a clear
cut attempt made to incorporate the modern electronic sounds of
metropolitan
music.24
Despite initiallylow sales forthisdebut album?only
England ?the
characterising
remixing of
a mode
established
post-production
career
with
Island inwhich
Marley's
instruments
14,000 copies in
of representation
-The addition and
a permanent
feature
albums.*25
subsequent
became
of
Island's
of all the group's
production
A benchmark for the extent of textual
reconfiguration which manifested
itself on theWailers'
Island debut is the response of the group's hard
core Jamaican fans, many of whom
reportedly ?felt that Catch a Fire's
a
a Babylonian
to
sellout
music cartel....*26
murky gloss represented
229
Mike Alleyne
The
events
this album
raise
concerns
the
regarding
in the textual reorganisation of his
actual extent of Marley's participation
He was
work, both then and subsequently.
reportedly present during
a
the guitar overdubs
for Catch
Fire, and the overall reshaping of the
surrounding
at least partially collaborative.27
If, then,
in
commercial
revision
of
his
reggae texts
Marley actively participated
to enhance
economic
incentives must certainly
internationalisation,
project
to have been
appears
have
resurface
even
and issues of cultural cooptation
figured prominently,
in this context of apparent artistic empowerment.
Despite
on
a
Fire
and
inclination
Catch
collaborative
input
probable
Marley's
toward a
it is being argued here that the ultimate
degree of creative compromise,
economic
to determine
the commodified
recorded
textual
power
was
exercised
and
with
Blackwell
rested
representation
hegemonically
to great long-term effect.
instance
A highly pronounced
artistic and
commodified
of ideological
divergence
career
in
Marley's
representation
between
surrounds
The album was actually originally titled
the 1974 album, Natty Dread.
and the implications which emerge from the conceptual
Knotty Dread,
the two titles acutely delineate both the pronounced
differences between
and
and counter-hegemonic
positions,
hegemonic
record industry. While
the power dynamics of theWestern
linguistic
the
aural
be
raised
indistinguishability
probable
regarding
questions might
distance
between
in Jamaican
parlance
of the word
choice
?knotty? and ?natty,? it is the significance
commodified
in the context of its international
between
distinction arises.
cultural and ideological
taken
title of this third Island album by Bob Marley was
was
from theWailers'Jamaican
45 release and, moreover,
conceptually
sociocultural
rooted within Jamaica's
context, as seen by Marley.
representation
The original
from which
?knotty>?implied forBob a wild jungle Rastaman, a natural,
thoughtful man... Knotty was dread, a cultural agent provocateur,
spreading psychic terror through Jamaican society....28
The word
race
?Knotty>?implied a sense of uncompromising Rasta militancy and
consciousness
symbolised by the extolling of locks.29
involved a
Natty Dread...
ambiguous
The contextual
change effected
subtle, but critical, shift inmeaning.^0
on
considerations.
commercial
blatantly
cooptation
premised
The
title's alteration
to ?themore
230
Positive
Vibration?:
Textual
Capitalist
Hegemony
and
Marley
Bob
To Bob, as he told a friend, theword 'natty'described some Rasta in
a nice new cream serge suitwith well-groomed
locks, not the ropey
street locksmen that Bob knew.31
?Natty?had connotations of ?hip?style and being ?fashionable? inwhite
parlance.32
In effect, the -dreadness* of the album title, like the music
itself,was
more
made
culturally compatible with Western
by Chris Blackwell
norms and became
diluted by this mediation
process.
ideologically
the
album
titlewas a complete shock to
the
that
of
fact
Despite
change
Marley,
he merely
it one
but
among many undesirable,
a potently anti
business. Nonetheless,
in the original titlebecame a harmless affirmation
considered
of themusic
inescapable vagaries
establishment statement
typifying a process whereby
come
and groups
classes
of the status quo,
against dominant
was
as
legitimate
and groups....*33
for itshighly commercial
content, with
of interests of dominant
promoters
Natty Dread
-cultural texts directed
to serve
also notable
classes
the hit ?No Woman,
No Cry? described
by one critic as ?a love-song
at
aimed directly
the pop charts....*34 While Marley also witnessed
the
on this album, Chris Blackwell maintained
overdub procedures
his
the textual reconstruction.35
status, determining
supervisory
The Wailers'
release, Rastaman
Vibration, drew
the general incongruity of commercial
and provoked
further considerations
of
fifth Island album
which
responses
success with
underscored
critical acceptance
textual influence. Commercially
Western
the United
itwas
a major
success
in both
States and England, where
remarkably large advance orders
were
But
Davis
suggests ?perhaps
registered.36
controversially ?that
?was
the 1976 release
also the first
Wailers album to be widely considered
fans.... [T]he new
album seemed unmilitant,
disappointing
by Wailers
formulaic and a little contrived.*37 While most of the album eschewed
overtly political discourse,
others perhaps
felt that the political
significance
of ?War?,
which utilised the textof a 1968 speech by Ethiopian Emperor
Haile
Selassie, was
adequate
commerciality. Nonetheless,
character of Marley's work
Western
economic
for the album's overwhelming
recompense
the clear implication here is that the textual
had
altered
in a manner
which
privileged
imperatives. As Jones points out,
such as Exodus, Kaya and Uprising included a greater
proportion of love-songs and softermelodies designed to appeal to
thewidest audience possible.38
Albums
231
Mike
Alleyne
these albums were not entirely dominated
Although
by romantic
or
even
the
three
four
of
such
themes,
songs in a Marley
presence
on overtly
collection
the greater concentration
starkly contrasted
in the early albums. The
concerns
love songs and lighter
political
material
assumed
as singles.39
an even greater prominence
commercialisation
Marley's
from
the
themes and mood
discontinuity
Thus,
through being
effected
a
form of
released
narrative
his earlier textual
characterising
to Kaya, which was notably mixed
like a
rock record, appears to have been particularly strong. Davis suggests that
ten tracks recorded
in London had been remixed into a
the album's
articulation.
Negative
reaction
dance
pastiche of love songs and easy-skanking
a
hint
and
of
Bob
familiar
rebellion.
defiance
barely
Marley's
was widely
of going soft and selling out.40
accused
mellow
tunes, with
Bob Marley
of Kaya's
the dominance
?themes of love, doubt
Marley explained
of both the
and dance* by pointing towards an intentional avoidance
social suffering, and of
of profiting by exploiting mass
appearance
Seen in the context of the then recent assassination
thematic stasis.41
creating more
attempt on Marley, one might also posit that he avoided
enemies by temporarily sidestepping overtly political issues. In addition,
influenced by
and Kaya were
of both Exodus
the romantic emphases
with
the
Bob's
extra-marital
1976 Miss World,
relationship
ongoing
Cindy Breakspeare.42
at Marley
levelled
The criticisms of sentimentality and commercialism
are seen by one
critic as typically
Kaya
over
for -international
dichotomous
artistswho
at the outset demonstrate
any
and cultural consciousness.?43
degree of public commitment
inwhich
thematic focus during this phase
of Marley's
The expansion
were made more central raises several
concerns
love
formerly marginal
to political
Prominent among these are the extent towhich commercial
questions.
and the actual gender
factors might have influenced this development,
texts
the
politics of love relationships.
exploring
implications of his lyrical
a premeditated
commercial
Although this emphasis may not have been
audience
by
Marley's
and
less
with
disturbing
intensity
overtly
counterbalancing
political
the nature of this focal
even innocuous matters. Hence,
challenging,
strategy,
it undoubtedly
broadened
own aura
marketability
by capitalising on his
to amorous conquest
of sexual potency, making his image as applicable
success
as itwas to sociopolitical
rebellion. The immediate commercial
shift enhanced
of Uprising
Marley's
versus
the moderate
sales
232
of
its thoroughly
politically
Positive
focused
Capitalist
Vibration?:
Survival
1979 predecessor
duality.44
The
Euro-American
Textual
audience
and
Hegemony
Bob
illustrates the market
has
Marley
value
of such
demonstrated
continually
a
propensity for adopting reggae oriented material on the basis of its
aestheticallypleasing surfacequalities ratherthanforexplicitlypolitical
content. A cursory survey
of the hegemonic
landsca
pe reveals thatmajor chart
successes by reggae artists
and pseudo-reggae
songs
white
artists
utilise
pop
by
elements
syntax while
of
the music's
simultaneous
ly divorcing it from the
political polemics of Ras
tafari.45 Under
these
cir
the emergen
cumstances,
ce of love issues in
Marley's
texts
accomodated
The transformative impact
of capitalism on the
articulation
and
representation of the
Caribbean musical text
has been grossly
underestimated...
the
commercial
of theWestern
audience.
conditioning
As Cooper
a notable
to the
ambivalence
notes, Marley displays
female figure in songs from Exodus, Kaya,
and Uprising.46 His lyrical
characterisations
in love's oneness
(-Is
range from positive partnership
This Love*) to indictment of slavish
in life's carnal and
indulgence
material pleasures
the revolutionary
Paradise*).
(-Pimper's
Ultimately,
nature of Marley's
is
not
in his
political
lyrics
similarly reflected
consideration
of love relationships which
seems to signify maximum
in his career.
commerciality
Gilroy offers an interesting defence of Marley's
cross-cultural
suggesting that there was a conscious
imperative guiding his acceptance
record industry. He states that
of manipulation
commercialisation,
and black diasporic
by the transnational
There are good reasons to support the view that this foray into pop
stardom was a calculated development
inwhich he was intimately
realised
that
the
solidification
of communicative
involved, having
networks across the African diaspora was a worthwhile
prize. The
minor adjustments in presentation and form that rendered his reggae
assimilable across the cultural borders of the overdeveloped
countries
were thus a small price to
pay.47
233
Mike Alleyne
But Gilroy's
proposition
that Marley's
commercial
acquiescence
was
guided solely by a long-termagenda of achieving diasporic unity is
surely only a partial representation of the scenario. The capitalist bases
fruits reaped by both Island and
of the record industry and the economic
are wholly
in
de
music's
of the
consequence
assimilability
Marley
in Gilroy's critique.
emphasised
in making major
of Chris Blackwell
the autonomy
Furthermore,
seems
ideas of
creative and marketing
decisions
incongruent with
Marley being ?intimately involved* in either the textual or promotional
to compositional)
secured his market
(as opposed
strategies which
success. As has been demonstrated
earlier, the textual reconfigurations
was
hardly -minor adjustments.* This is not to suggest thatMarley
somehow blissfully unaware of record industry politics, but his recognition
does not appear to have translated itself into
of prevailing circumstances
the stage of basic recording.
efforts to control representation
beyond
were
There
that
is little evidence
Island
supervised
international
iterated by Davis,
to dispel the impression,
for the
of ?Marley's music
the production
to
attention
and precise
with a crispness
marketplace
that some complained was
robbing
of its raw spontaneity and soul.*48
detail
theWailer's
reggae of some
The posthumous
corporate promotion of Marley's
phase ofWestern
an
calculated
is
characterised
work
raiding of the vaults for
astutely
by
Island seized upon at least five albums
previously unreleased material.
as a means
of
are still being exploited
and
Marley's
mythologising
gains by sustaining
extending
status as a legend.49 Even the release of material which Marley
musical
since
is unpreventable,
for public exposure
unsuitable
had considered
theWestern publication of these texts is facilitated through itseconomically
based cultural imperialism.
Of themany posthumous
releases, the most significant in the context
to
most
is
the
also
of this paper
Marley
compilation
comprehensive
worth
of unissued
songs which
economic
in August
released
1993, and particularly
of Freedom,
of
three
inclusion
for
the
songs said
previously unreleased
noteworthy
Rita
in the private vaults of
to have been -discovered
Marley....*50 (This
date,
Songs
interestingly mirrors the ?lost tapes marketing strategy* employed
in the posthumous
corporate exploitation of Jimi Hendrix, whose music
and Bob himself).51
heavily influenced at least one of Marley's guitarists,
scenario
One
of these three songs, the single ?Iron Lion Zion,* recorded
234
in the early
Positive
Vibration?:
Capitalist
Textual
Hegemony
and
Bob
Marley
remixed in a manner
70's, has been substantially and controversially
removes
it from its original temporal context in an attempt to
which
transplant it into the Nineties.
inconspicuously
Remarks
in a recently published
interview with
illuminate
Wailers
Island's
former and original
textual
perennial
member,
Bunny Wailer,
in ?Iron Lion
strategy of reformulating Marley's work, as represented
2ion.? Bunny Wailer vigorously asserts that his vocals (as well as those
on the original version of the song, but were
In
from the final mix for Songs of Freedom.
?discovered?
items, he states,
of the late Peter Tosh) were
removed
subsequently
reference to the newly
those songs were Wailers songs thatwere there in the can because
maybe Chris (Blackwell, head of Island Records) turned itdown for
the Catch a Fire album or something like that.And he just held them
there and he just did what he did.52
Wailer
further states that he created
the song and
that Island's
?totally illegal.*53
The circumstances
Zion?
deviation
for
harmony arrangement
is
from the original representation
the vocal
?Iron Lion
intervention surrounding
the impression that both the release and
is not motivated
material
by
posthumous
but by strictly capitalist concerns (made
considerations,
of textual
forcefully underscore
reconfiguration of Marley's
benign, aesthetic
even more
apparent
transnational Polygram,
of Songs OfFreedom'slS
since
Island's
1989 takeover by Dutch-based
forover $300 million).54 Even after the compilation
and
songs, over 200 more Marley compositions
remain available
for commercial
performances
although
exploitation,
?few of them could be classed as genuine unreleased
rarities.*55
success
The central contradiction
of reggae's commercial
through
Bob Marley ispoignantlyhighlightedby JohnStorey,who demonstrates
how
the counter-hegemonic
the hegemonic
forces which
stance of Rastafari in popular music
fuels
facilitate itsdissemination.
He suggests that
What we have here is a paradox inwhich the anti-capitalist politics
of Rastafari are being ?articulated? in the economic
interests of
music
is
the
the
very system it seeks to
capitalism:
lubricating
condemn.56
the adoption of an oppositional
stance, ?the politics of Rastafari
Despite
are expressed
a
in
is ultimately of financial benefit to the
form which
dominant
culture (i.e as a commodity which
circulates for profit).*57
235
Mike
Alleyne
while
reggae acts as
Paradoxically,
it
change,
simultaneously
economically
the status quo.58
a force
for counter-hegemonic
the power base of
consolidates
In a more
general and recent context this paradoxical
position was
a
in
reiterated
remarks
inadvertently
prominent Jamaican staffer at
by
Music
of
several
dancehall
(home
Sony
performers
including Shabba
Ranks):
People are beginning to see the power of this (reggae) music. To pull
on a world economy with a product empowers the country. It's like
having an oil well that theworld is ready to pump.59
Note
the alarming
contradiction:
The
is theoretically
country (Jamaica)
of its popular
culture, yet it is
empowered
through the dissemination
the world which
is extracting the ?oil,? reaping the economic
benefits.
cannot be fully addressed
here,
quetions, which
about the implications of recent dancehall
signings by major labels. The
overall scenario reinforces the idea that ?access to discourse
is always
This
raises
serious
to material ?meaning
in a capitalist global order, economic?
is being
implemented
power.*60 What
by the record industry is an
than
rather
lethal
racism,61 all the more
incorporative
exclusionary
linked
it creates
because
illusions
of power
which
more
easily
defuse
revolutionary potential.
Gilroy's assessment of Bob Marley, which was criticised earlier for its
in a cultural context
of conscious
creative complicity
assumptions
understating capitalist imperatives, does nevertheless highlight important
positive
career
achievements:
Whatever the ambiguities inMarley's music and mode of presentation,
he provided a heroic personality around which international mass
marketing of reggae could pivot.
By consolidating
reggae's position on the charts outside novelty
categories and becoming a star,Marley created a new space inpop.62
It must
also
uninterrupted,
commercialism.
career was
not marked
that Marley's
by an
unconscious
into lyrically and musically
linear decline
be
said
1979 album, Survival
strongly contradicts such a
in its incisive reiteration of the -compulsive
unity of
proposition
and
Rasta
and
themes*63
cohesive,
populist
anti-imperialist
politics
The
236
Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley
so characteristic of the early albums preceding
hard-edged music
a
Thus with Survival
commercial
he achieved
Marley's
breakthrough.
more
militant
with
the
of
his
while
audience,
segments
rapprochement
simultaneously
fulfilling the economic
As
Garofalo
company.
suggests,
imperatives
of
the
record
commercial success and artistic quality are not mutually exclusive, nor
does commercialisation necessarily preclude an artist from contributing
to a culture of resistance.64
such a contribution, forwhich
Marley can be said to have made
as ?themost politically influential recording artist
he has been described
of the twentieth century*,65 a general correlation may still be drawn
While
between
his commercial
success
and
musical
the dilution
of his
lyrical and
is the
achievement
though, his major
militancy.
Perhaps,
of an enduring musical
successful
message
cultural
and
artistic,
meanings
ideological
despite
it has undergone.
commoditisation
which
creation
in conveying
the extensive
Caribbean audiences usually view Bob Marley and his music as
treasured
and the recorded representation
cultural possessions,
of his
as authentic. While one can argue that in some sense this remains
and commercialisation
of
so, the persistent reformulation, amendment,
his music suggests thatwe have been listening to an alien, appropriated,
work
inauthentic
representation.
our principal consideration
iswhether
the long
But, in conclusion,
term political,
cultural
and economic
and
actual
implications
career for Caribbean music constitute a
of Bob Marley's
vibration.*
The argument embodied
in this paper
sufficiently ?positive
are being ?remixed* out
that Caribbean
hopefully demonstrates
people
consequences
of autonomous
creative
on the world
representation
stage, having
defused
and subsumed
by a simultaneously
and historically resonant Western
hegemonic
agenda.
cultural
exclamations
foregrounded
Transnational
record industry exploitation of Caribbean music should
in isolation since it reinforces, at several
not, therefore, be examined
levels, international power structures inimical to regional development
and decolonisation.
Gutzmore
suggests
he deprecatingly
refers as Whitesick)
mobilise and manipulate African-Caribbean
which
flowed to Europeans....*66
237
that Chris Blackwell
(to whom
?the ability to
cultural and financial resources
demonstrated
Mike
Alleyne
some analysts may contest what appears
in this paper as neo
to
economic
the simultaneous
influence
reductionism, and point
to this transcultural
of other, less easily defined
factors contributing
While
Marxist
phenomenon,
the economic
element
remains pivotal
in this discussion.
Thus, in considering the hegemonic power wielded by the Euro
of
record industry, there should be no underestimation
text or
either the power of mixing differentials to reinterpret a musical
to
of the assimilative
of
cultural
aspect
transmogrify and
imperialism
American
reinscribe
based
Caribbean
cultural
texts.
The seemingly paradoxical
dominance
ofWestern critical perspectives
in this analysis occurs not as an oversight, but as a conscious means of
of commodification
for the relative marginalisation
compensating
inCaribbean cultural criticism. In any event, all observations
consciousness
individual
textual
evident upon
upon here are demonstrably
of
remain
valid
their
and
thus
and contextual
regardless
analysis,
source.
geopolitical
drawn
238
Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley
NOTES
1.Keith
inthePopular
andConflict
MusicIndustry
Pop:Culture
Negus,Producing
(London:
14.
Edward
Arnold
1992)
2. John
An Introductory
andPopular
GuidetoCultural
U of
Culture
Storey,
Theory
(Athens:
119.
GeorgiaP1993):
3. Thomas Cushman, ?Rich Rastas and CommunistRockers: A Comparative StudyOf the
ofRevolutionary
Diffusion
andDefusion
Musical
ofPopular
Culture
Codes,?Journal
Origin,
25.3 (1991): 18-19.
4.William
RoweandVivianSchelling,
andModernity:
Memory
PopularCultureinLatin
America(London:
Verso,1991)10.
wa Thiong'o,
5. Ngugi
TheStruggle
for
Cultural
Freedoms,(London:
MovingTheCentre:
James Currey, 1993) xiv-xv.
6. Storey, 119.
7. Reebee Garofalo, ?How autonomous is relative:popularmusic, thesocial formation
and
cultural
Music6.1 (1987):89.
Popular
struggle,*
8.Cushman
discussesthisphenomenon
inhisarticle.
comprehensively
9.Carolyn
Noises intheBlood:Orality,
Genderand the
Cooper,
BodyofJamaican
Vulgar1
Culture(London:
Macmillan,
Popular
1993):5.
10.Simon Jones,Black Culture,White Youth:The Reggae Traditionfrom
JA toL//C(London:
Macmillan, 1988): 61.
11.The Islandera of reconfigured
Marleymaterial ispredated by JohnnyNash's exploitation
anddilution
ofseveral
Now.While
songsonhis 1971hitalbum,/CanSee Clearly
Marley
theWailers providedpartof the instrumental
backing,Marley's vocals were (naturally)nota
featureof these texts. Inaddition,thefinalproductwhich included
many overdubs bysession
musicians on theWailers basic contributions
was reportedly
considered byMarley to have
been overproduced. Stephen Davis, Bob Marley (Vermont:Schenkman,
1990): 91,98.
12.Cushman, 38.
13.Garofalo, 79.
14.PaulGilroy,
There
NoBlackInTheUnion
Ain't
Jack:TheCultural
ofRace and
Politics
Nation(Chicago:
ofChicagoPress,1991)169.
University
15. Jones, 62.
16. Jones, 63.
17. Davis, 99; Sebastian Clarke, JahMusic: The Evolution of the
Popular Jamaican Song
Heinemann,
(London:
1980)107.
18.DickHebdige,
CutW Mix:Culture,
andCaribbean
Music (London:
Identity
Comedia,
79.
1987):
19. Hebdige, 79; Jones, 65.
239
Mike Alleyne
20. Rebekah M. Mulvaney,Rastafari and Reggae: A Dictionaryand Sourcebook (Westport,
Connecticut:Greenwood, 1990) 100.
21. Hebdige, 80; also see Davis, 104.
22. Jones, 64.
23. Davis, 109.
24. Davis, 109-110.
25. Jones, 64.
26. Davis, 118.
York:
27.Timothy
ofSobMar/ey
CatchaFire:
TheL/fe
234,236.
Holt,1992),
White,
(New
Henry
28. Davis, 138.
29. Jones, 65.
30. Jones, 65.
31. Davis, 138.
32. Jones, 65.
33. Cushman, 18.
34. Jones, 67; Paul Gilroy,?Steppin'out ofbabylon?race, class and autonomy,?Centre for
ContemporaryCulturalStudies, The Empire Strikes Back: Race and racism in70's Britain
Hutchinson,
1982):298.
(London:
35. Davis, 132.
36. Jones, 67; Davis, 163-164.
37. Davis, 163-164.
38. Jones, 67.
39.White,Catch a Fire,336-340. This sectionof theBob Marley Islanddiscography illustrates
withwhich the?love songs and softermelodies? were released as singles,
both thefrequency
and theirproportionon respectivealbums.
40. Davis, 196-197.
41 Davis, 197.
42. Davis 184-185,196; White, Catch a Fire, 287.
43. Mulvaney, 101.
44. Davis, 228.
Dread InA
America:
ofReggaeLyricsinNorth
45.Cushman,
36; LiseWiner,
intelligibility
MA (1990):36.Cushman
ofEnglish
A Journal
ofVarieties
World-Wide:
English
Babylon,?
cites pop-reggae hits by Blondie, The Eagles, and especially The Police as examples of
He also notes thatnewer
appropriationof themusical textminus itsphilosophical import.
of the
& theMelody
Makers)are ?moreoftenproducts
reggaebands(e.g.Ziggy
Marley
Western culture industry....))(37).
46. Cooper, Noises, 127.
240
Positive Vibration?: Capitalist Textual Hegemony and Bob Marley
47. Gilroy,Union Jack, 169-170.
48. Davis, 211.
49. Davis, 254.
50. Melinda Newman, ?lsland BringsOut MarleyBox InStyle,?BillboardAugust 8,1992:10.
between1962and 1980.
Thealbumcontains
78 songsrecorded
Hendrix:
TheRecordStraight
51.John
McDermott
withEddieKramer,
(NewYork:
Setting
Hendrix
and
Crosstown
Traffic:
Jimi
Warner,1992)319;Davis,132;CharlesShaarMurray,
Faber,1989):96.
pop (London:
post-war
77?e
Beat 12.3(1993):44.
withRogerSteffens,
52.Bunny
Wailer,interview
44.
53. Wailer interview,
B.Buck&Marlene
MusicAt
54.Negus,4; DeannaCampbell
Elizabeth
Cuthbert,
Robinson,
TheMargins:
MusicandGlobalCultural
(London:
Diversity,
Popular
Sage, 1991)51.
55. PeterHowell, ?Songs Of Freedom a living
SfarOctober 18,1992:
Marley tribute,?Toronto
C6.
56. Storey, 122.
57. Storey, 122.
58. Storey 122.
59.Qtd. in?Riddim
Billboard
Triumphant,*
My 10,1993:R-7.
60. John
Johns
Cultural
UP 1991):16.
Tomlinson,
Imperialism
(Baltimore:
Hopkins
61. Gilroy,Union Jack, 153.
62. Gilroy,Union Jack, 170.
63. Gilroy, ?Steppin'?,298.
64. Garofalo, 84.
65. Shaar Murray,95-96.
66. Cecil Gutzmore, ?The ImageofMarcus Garvey inReggae Orature,? Storms of theHeart:
AnAnthologyofBlack Arts& Culture, ed. KwesiOwusu (London:Camden Press, 1988) 277.
241