10 Jul "Reggae Rhythm"
July 10, 1979
by Stephanie Sheppard
The music of reggae is emotional, and one of the top practitioners of this music is Peter Tosh who takes swipes at the power structure through his music.
Reggae is a music that entrances with a hypnotic beat and rhythms that combine the bass of R&B, the drums and percussion instruments of Africa and a scratchy guitar that is somewhat reminiscent of country/western music.
However, the music is much more than that for in a world where the most popular music talks of “shaking your bootie” or “come on baby, let’s push push in the bush,” reggae lyrics speak of liberation, justice, peace, and one love.
For many this is the icing on the cake; beautiful, danceable music with a relevant message.
One of reggae’s foremost artists is Peter Tosh. Peter was a member of The Wailers, a well-known group that helped evolve Jamaica’s music form into the well-loved reggae of today.
Bob Marley, Bunny Livingston and Peter achieved success after striving for years in the ghettos of Kingston. At the top, Bunny and Peter left to form their own groups.
Peter says, “Each man has his own song to sing and I, man, have mine to sing.” Luckily for us.
Bob Marley is well known in the U.S. because of broad promotion, tours, and hit albums.
Tosh labeled a rebel among rebels has been slower in getting recognition. Still, in Jamaica, some consider Peter Tosh the favorite for his outspokenness is legendary.
At a “Peace Concert” in April 1978 Peter was on stage with Prime Minister Michael Manley and Labor Party leader Edward Seaga. Blasting away at the system Peter called both men names and blamed them for the people’s oppression.
While the crowd cheered this action, needless to say, it did not endear him to the government. He has been brutalized by police more than once.
In October 1978 he was beaten by the police and suffered broken ribs, a broken arm, and a severely split head wound. Only after local citizens stormed the police headquarters demanding this release was the brutality to end- temporarily.
Peter says he is rebelling against inadequatete distribution of the earth’s resources, political victimization and illegal incrimination. He is fighting for equal rights and justice for all, the awakening of black moral and the teaching of black history.
All this is evident in his songs. The lyrics are filled with demands – “I don’t want no peace, I want equal rights and justice.” – “I can’t stand it no longer, the wicked get stronger.” – and the highly spiritual belief of the Rastafarians, a religious sect in Jamaica.
While a lot of his songs are politically motivated, many are also spiritually uplifting.
On the new album “Bush Doctor” which has gone gold in several countries abroad is a song which says, “Stand firm, live clean, let your works be seen.” Another says, “Do you remember Moses? Him not dead, him not dead.”
This latest album is his third after leaving the Wailers. Each has been successful, but “Bush Doctor” and recent tour has been a highly acclaimed critical success.
It is easy to understand why especially after viewing a live performance. Peter Tosh really puts on a show. Tall, lean, dark with with dreadlocks falling about his shoulders he makes an impression before he even opens his mouth.
Dressed in a martial arts outfit he incorporates martial art forms into his dancing and stage performance.
He is dynamic and his deep voice full of authority as he sings his message music – sometimes preaching, sometimes pointing.
His band, Word, Sound, & Power, consists of a tight group of some of reggae’s best. They keep the reggae rhythm flowing smoothly while Peter and three backup singers, playing percussion instruments, harmonize perfectly.
In Washington, D.C. at the Bayou Club they rocked the roof off for two sets that had sold out weeks in advance.