Kingston, Jamaica, paid tribute to its most famous son this weekend, celebrating what would have been the 70th birthday of Bob Marley with a series of live events that featured the singer’s sons, former collaborators and the island’s newest wave of socially conscious reggae performers. Saturday night, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley headlined Redemption Live!, a free show that attracted several thousand to Kingston’s downtown waterfront. And on Friday, the Bob Marley Museum — Bob’s former home at 56 Hope Road — was the venue for a series of informal jam sessions and performances featuring “Marley 70 ambassadors” Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid and No-Maddz.
In a fitting development, Jamaica’s Senate also passed legislation that reduces the possession of small amounts of marijuana to a ticketable, non-criminal offense not punishable by jail time, establishing the legal basis for a regulated medical marijuana industry. Damian Marley took the opportunity to address this news during his performance on Saturday night, calling for full-on legalization.
Damian’s set capped an evening that also included solo performances from his older brothers Ky-Mani and Julian. The sibling trio, who were billed collectively as “Sons of Marley,” concluded the show with a tag-team version of Bob’s classic protest anthem, “Get Up, Stand Up.”
Backstage, Ky-mani spoke of plans for an upcoming “brothers album” with Damian and Julian, as well as the absent Stephen and Ziggy. “We know that is something that our father would love,” he said. “And therefore we know that it’s a part of our mission and something that must be fulfilled. We don’t have a time yet, but it’s something we must do.”
Other performers at Redemption Live! included The Voice Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin, veteran reggae acts Freddie McGregor and Cocoa Tea and latter-day Jamaican stars Tarrus Riley and I-Octane. Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, from Bob Marley’s backing vocal group the I-Threes and accomplished artists in their own right, performed back-to-back solo sets before joining voices on the Wailers classic “Trenchtown Rock.” Notably absent was fellow I-Threes member Rita Marley, whose ongoing health battles have kept her away from the stage.