Bunny Wailer's "Communication" Liner Notes by Roger Steffens
Bunny Wailer has chosen to release his new album, "Communication," privately, selling autographed copies (labelled "signature series") at his shows, most recently in a booth over a two day period at Reggae on the River in Northern California. The picture on the disc itself, and in the well beneath it, is a shot I took of Bunny on stage in 1994 at the now-legendary Aspen One World Music Festival, where Bunny took stage under a full double rainbow, 10,000 feet up in the Rockies.
In January of this year, Bunny asked me to write liner notes for the new album. In the initial version of the cd, the lyrics to the songs are presented, and space was not available for explanatory notes. So here, for those who wish to penetrate farther into the wisdom of Jah B, are the unpublished notes I wrote for "Communication."
"The most essential thing for the new millennium is communication," says
from his new base of operations in Florida. "That's the key. It is the lack of
communication, peoples' misunderstandings, that have caused all the
wars and conflicts we have gone through over the dispensation of times. So
humiliation, we should enjoy some honor."|
On the album's cover, Jah B points toward a pyramid which, in his words, "represents slavery and the children of Israel and crossing over into another realm from bondage to freedom. It's a redemption symbol, of being on one side and going over to the safe side where the Imperial power rests, the revelation, the left thrown into the bottomless pit, and the right, those who are saved in the decisive moment of time, like when Moses came down from the mountain."
"Standing Ovation," the opening track, pays homage to all the creators of one of the 20th centuries most enduring art forms. "I wanted to take time out to pay my respects to all the reggae people who have been involved in its development from the beginning days in Trench Town to its international recognition - all those people who believe in it, the studio people, the engineers, the singers and players. Up to now, what has been achieved deserves a standing ovation for all those involved in those achievements."
"We've broken all the barriers," sings the living legend on "Legends." "The song speaks for itself," says Bunny. "I think our achievement in this time is within the legendary role of things. We have done the impossible in selling so many records as a group coming out of Jamaica and the Caribbean, to have actually created this music which is now serving the world. To see the children of those brothers who have passed maintaining their work from generation to generation. Plus Bob's greatest hits album, Legend, has broken lots of records in its time, and is still breaking records, so this song is related to all of that, as communication is the key. And it should be communicated on behalf of the Wailers to all the people that the Wailers survive with the music, so we are the legends, and that's no lie."
"Rockstone" is a song that has been in Bunny's repetoire for a long time, initially surfacing a decade ago as a dub plate for a sound system called Blackstone, and one of the few new tunes Bunny performs live these days. "It's meant to be a kind of song that relates to Bunny Wailer," he admits, referring to his family name of Livingston. "They call me the Great Stone that was rolled into Babylon and damaged all the unrighteous. So I'm still the old rockstone that slew Goliath. The stone comes hard. If you can survive the stone, then the dust won't hurt."
"Against All Odds," speaks of the race being not for the swift but for he who can endure. "That's a prayer for all the people who have been faced with great odds," says Bunny thoughtfully. "I'm on the battlefield, I've got to stay alive, for I know Babylon shall fall."
"Genetic Order" incorporates the words of King David the psalmist speaking of the rivers of Babylon. "Take we to the land where the lion a king," sings Bunny, referring not just to Ethiopia but to the entire motherland of Africa. "They take we out of Africa, dem can't get Africa out a we."
"The Peoples' Cup" is filled and running over and they just can't take no more. Here, Bunny demands change in the institutions of Babylon - among them political, medical, banking, transportation, and welfare, "'cause we're tired of this slave and master system. The way things are working now, we have to make changes, but we must try to avoid violence by making the changes within ourselves. To prevent is better than to cure." The song interpolates the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," as Bunny barks marching orders in the background.
"The Almighty created everything from words, so who else could be the ultimate rapper?" asks Bunny rhetorically in "Almighty Is A Rappa." "He created the world with the word, the stars, the moon, the heavens. He communicates with the saints, and He sent his son to provide us with spiritual food. So this is a religious song, and I've addressed it to the nowadays rappers, the gangsters, the homies and the yardies, the people who need this message most. It should be played in every place that relates to religion."
"In 'Help Us Jah' I'm calling on the Most High on behalf of all the people who need help, because there is no communication between the leaders and the people, or the people who send out the security forces, the army, to do their thing - they're not with them and they're not with the people. So we need a prayer here, we need the help of Jah Jah because by outselves, it can't work." With an arrangement that calls to mind some of the best moments of his 1977 Protest album, Bunny laments the "dismantled families who have no connection, not even by phone."
"These days people think they can do everything they want because Christ already died for their sins. But I don't think that's right. 'Bear the Cross' means everyone has to give an account of what they do. What you hands do, your eyes see. Even the Nazarene. He's not going to bear the cross alone and let the world go through. Every man shall be paid according to his work."
Adapting the melody of Alton (Ellis) & Eddie (Parkins') 1958 hit "Muriel," "Ethiopia" also utilizes words from the Ethiopian national anthem. "That old Alton song was so beautiful," enthuses Bunny, "but the lyrics weren't relating to today. So I changed them to reflect my feelings about Ethiopia, such a land of wonders you've never seen, wonderful land of red, gold and green. Although I've never been there fleshically, I know that one bright morning when my work is over I'll be going to Ethiopia, but I have to complete my works before that, just like Moses had to, because he was not done."
Jah B's deep baritone laughter underscores his amusement at the fact that even Christian churches "seem enticed by reggae. They've been caught without realizing it, jumping to the horn of the Binghi. Reggae came out of the heart of the Nyahbinghi, it's the bloodline of the people, so why don't they give thanks for the inspiration of reggae? It exalts the King of Kings, so the church within themselves, every tongue shall tell of the presence of the Most High Rastafari, so the church is coming around. The churches preach a lot and get the necessary returns from preaching the beautiful words, but they have yet to practice those words. If everyone is praising the same creator, then every religion is one. So Nyah is the command that the Almighty has chosen for all to come under - the truth and rights, the doctrine of the Rastaman. The Christians have not yet seen their fulfillment. So every tongue has to confess that Rastafari is the creator of every true and living substance."
"Fiya Red" is among the most thrilling compositions of Bunny's three-dozen year career, a fiery testament to the triumph of "rastology, rastarization and rastocracy." "In the very early times, when Rasta started to do this I-riginal spiritual work, it was focused purely on the burning of materialism, as the first way of breaking away from those things that would take one away from spirituality, the things that would corrupt the mind and the flesh. So Rasta went into seclusion to live the life of a hermit and be satisfied with that which is ital from iration. And in that instant the Rastaman did burn the fire of the Nyahbinghi order, which has resulted in the consummation of the negative balance, so that light would shine out of great darkness, revealing His Imperial Majesty as the true light, might and power of the Trinity of heat, air and water. And with that realization, the Rastaman has enlightened the world. So now, because of the zeal of that fire from the dungeon and from the dungle and the humiliations, it is written seek first Jah and all other things shall be added. And if material or riches come unto thee, set not your heart unto it. The message of fire reveals the honor after humiliation, them that sow in sorrow shall reap in joy. Today Rasta has a mansion and a big bank account and drives a Benz, so now is the time for this fire to be realized in the minds of this generation, as one that has been burned, the ashes of Babylon are burning yet."
"Disarmament Speech" is taken directly from the words of Haile Selassie as he directed them toward the institution he co-founded, the United Nations. "War is not the answer," declares Bunny firmly. "This millennium, this summing up, it's all goddamn war, 2,000 years of it! It's time we should have 2,000 years of peace. But we are still planning war, so how do we expect to survive? Do we really want to survive? If we do, we should beat all those weapons of destruction into pruning hooks and plowshares, like in the statue on the plaza in front of the U.N. If war is that monster that feeds on our souls, sets us against each other, then we should all come together to war against war, so there will be war no more."
"Trigger Happy Kid" was inspired by the daily news reports of "kids in school killing kids, children killing their parents. Teachers teach their students to kill in their games, even the cartoons are full of violence. People seem to enjoy watching people being killed, instead of people being embraced, being happy. Something is turning us into monsters, and if we continue this way, we will hurt all creation, all life, every living form. It's the aspect of Lucifer, his reward: death and destruction forever. So we have to reject that and turn ourselves away and say no more! Our belly's full of war, and it's turning us into maggots."
Bunny's own children, son Abijah and daughter Ngeri are heard in the chorus of the delightful "Teeni Wappaz." "I'm talking about the communication of kids with adults here, and vice versa, the growing up process. It's a serious message, a guide for the kids to grow up and respect themselves, and the hood they live in, and find better ways of surviving, and being better people, so that they can be respected and obeyed when they become parents too. I'm creating a phrase - wappaz - which is how the youngsters who can't say their r's pronounce rappers."
"Stand In Love" is based on a long-held idea. "I always wanted to write a song with that title, because I used to read a lot of love comics and novels and all the explorations of love turn out to end in divorce cases and all the hurts, families breaking up. It starts with falling in love, and ends with falling, anything that falls is going to break up, so the best way to get any relationship started is by standing. I want to lay a foundation for these youths of today to stand on, so they can survive to the next time."
The album's timely closer, "Millennium Rock," opens the door to the 21st century. "As the world enters the new millennium, I'm urging people to keep dancing and putting it on," says Bunny, quoting from one of the Wailers earliest hits. The tune also quotes "Dancing Shoes" from the Studio One mid-'60s period. "Lean up your bazooka, your M-16, get all those explosives off you and put on your dancing shoes. I'm trying to communicate that you should get fresh, get into that final perspiration, and get on your dancing gear and rejoice. I see them talking about the millenium, like they're sitting on the edge waiting to be pushed off. People worry about things in this world that they never possess. They're trying to find substitutes for their intentions. The things they lust after, they're not satisfying. They should be making health their main thing. And we need to communicate respect for each other. If we do, then we have somewhere to go - to know, to learn, you teach me, I teach you, and with that we can go up the road with one love, one heart, one destiny, one thought, one creed. I'm looking forward to the day when we all can be at one with each other and with the Father. That is all I ever pray for every time. Seek ye the Good Shepherd and He will lead you to the green pastures."
|-Roger Steffens, co-author with Leroy Jodie Pierson of the forthcoming Old Fire Sticks: The Autobiography of Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography.|