Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley
Bob Marley’s former home at 56 Hope Road, site of the present-day Bob Marley Museum, has a long history that doesn’t just start with the music (and babies) made within its walls. Located amidst some of Kingston’s most prime real estate, the property was purchased over a century ago by Cecil Lindo, great-uncle of Chris Blackwell’s mother, Blanche Lindo, who gave the estate the unusual title of “Odnil”— Lindo spelled backwards. In the ’60s, young Chris turned the house into the headquarters of his growing Island Records empire, granting Marley access to the property, now re-dubbed Island House, as a rehearsal studio and, eventually, residence.
By the mid 70s, the environment was more like that of a Rasta community center, the epicenter of the Bob Marley universe and everything in its orbit. Bunny Wailer, Esther Anderson and the entire family of Joe Higgs all occupied parcels of the property at various times, while music was played around the clock, attracting the ire of nearby Babylonians. The home had already become home to Tuff Gong Records’ studio and record shop when Blackwell sold the property to Marley in 1975. A year later, it would become the site of one of the assassination attempt on the singer’s life, an unusual footnote in Marley’s career recently dramatized in Marlon James’ impressive novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings.
The house and its yard were re-dedicated as the Bob Marley Museum six years after Marley’s passing from cancer in 1981, showcasing personal artifacts like Marley’s favorite guitar and his treasured Series III 1977 Land Rover. More recently, the backyard factory that once housed Ziggy’s Record Manufacturing has been converted into an exhibition hall displaying photos of Marley and family.
The museum offers tours on Mondays through Saturdays, from 9:30am to 4:00pm, closing for public holidays and the occasional special event, when it resumes its place as a community center. Such is the case every year on Bob Marley’s’ birthday, on February 6th, when the property becomes the focus of worldwide celebrations commemorating the singer’s life, beginning with a 6a.m. blowing of the Abeng, and Nyabinghi drum sessions.
Being a landmark anniversary, in addition to the usual activities, this year’s 70th birthday edition featured sets from #Marley70 ambassadors Kabaka Pyramid, No-Maddz and Chronixx as well as Runkuss and Iba Mahr. Tarrus Riley also made a brief cameo, performing “Diamond Sox” with Iba Mahr, while Bongo Herman, a friend of Bob’s from Trenchtown and a staple of the birthday celebrations, performed “Rastaman Chant” and other Bob classics.
Bob’s Land Rover, a fixture on the property for decades that had fallen into disrepair, also made its return following a two-year restoration. Notable guests included Marley kids Cedella, Rohan, Julian and Karen; Jamaican culture minister Lisa Hanna; Miss Jamaica Universe Kaci Fennell; Wailers art director and photographer Neville Garrick; and singer Kiddus I of “Graduation in Zion” and Rockers fame. Red Stripe and Marley Coffee were on hand to provide refreshments, while one of LargeUp’s favorite Kingston eateries, Mi Hungry Whol’-Some-Food brought raw food treats including their renowned live pizza.
LargeUp crew Jesse Serwer and Martei Korley were in attendance at the event, dubbed “The Legacy Continues,” holding down double duty for both LargeUp and Rolling Stone. Read their Rolling Stone report here, and check back soon for the photo galley from this past weekend’s other big Marley celebration, Saturday’s Redemption Live! concert in downtown Kingston.
See the photos from “The Legacy Continues” event in our gallery here: