Many years ago when I was just starting out on an acting career I was studying with a movement coach. In one of our first classes she said that movement could be broken down into ten levels: zero was so relaxed that you couldn't move and ten was so tense that you couldn't move.
She then when on to try and give us images to use to help us recreate the various stages in between the two extremes. The one that has always stuck in my head was how she described level three: "picture yourself walking down a beach on a beautiful warm sunny day next to a bright blue ocean, with a bright clear sky overhead, a breeze off the sea, and your listening to Bob Marley on headphones"
I was reminded of this yesterday when I slipped Africa Unite: The Singles Collection by Bob Marley and the Wailers into my player yesterday afternoon. I live in the wrong Kingston for this time of year; Ontario not Jamaica, and there is about three feet of snow on the ground. We've had that type of raw cold that gets into your bones like cold water and makes your shoulders hunch up to your ears.
Couple that with the usual seasonal stress and the ability to relax physically seems almost impossible. But against the power of Bob Marley and the rhythms of Reggae these seemingly insurmountable problems melted into nothing. As the first throbbing bass notes of "Soul Rebel" from 1970 came pulsing out of my speakers the music started to work its magic.
Africa Unite: The Singles Collection is exactly what it says it is, a collection of all Bob Marley and the Wailers' singles dating back to their pre Island record days of 1970. "Concrete Jungle" from their 1972 Island record debut Catch A Fire is the first single on this disc that would be familiar to a wider audience, and as the music progresses we enter into the more familiar territory of "Is This Love", "Jamming", and "Exodus".
Of course it doesn't matter whether you're familiar with the song or not, the infectious back beat and scratch guitar can have you on your feet and moving in spite of yourself. Aside from perhaps Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru, there has never been another Reggae band or performer who has been able to match the intensity and drive of Marley. It shows in the power his songs have to lift you off your feet.
In far too many Reggae bands I have found that the rhythm simply overwhelms, but in the case of Marley he is strong enough that his personality and his message shines through. Whether it is his songs of protest or pleas for universal love; they are strengthened by the form, not overwhelmed.