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Bob Marley Festival makes stop in Phoenix

By Brett Gerlach
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 17, 1999
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On Dec. 5, 1976, gunmen broke into Bob Marley's house and shot him. It was the day before he was scheduled to put on a free concert to thank the people of Jamaica and plea for peace on the streets.

Facing the danger of further attacks after only a day of recovery, Marley appeared on stage anyway.

Marley's courage will be honored in the 1999 Bob Marley Festival Tour, which is making a stop in Phoenix this weekend.

An expected 6,000 reggae fans will travel to Phoenix to see the show. Although the tour has made a spring-time stop in Tucson for the past seven years, this is the first year that the tour goes to Phoenix.

According to event promoter Tyrone Williamson, the festival attracted such a big crowd out of Tucson that adding Phoenix to the tour seemed like the next logical step.

The tour travels to about 20 cities each year in celebration of the peace and unity Marley preached in his music.

Born Robert Nesta Marley in 1945, this influential musician was only 36 years old when he died of cancer in a Miami hospital. Soon after, his fans began the tradition of celebrating his memory.

The annual Bob Marley Festival, started by Bob Marley Music, Inc. and the Marley family's foundation, has traveled to more than 32 cities in its nine years of celebration.

Each year, the theme of the festival comes from the name of one of Marley's songs. This year's theme is "Redemption," taken from "Redemption Song," the closing track of his 1980 album Uprising.

While this song is more acoustic than the majority of Marley's reggae songs, the message is typical of Marley's mission. It's about freedom and peace, two of the same ideals fans flock to the festival to honor.

The festival includes performances by more than 15 bands and DJs from as far as New Orleans and Chicago. There will also be dance troupes, poetry readings and a wide array of Caribbean and African crafts and cuisine.

Tucson contributes a fair share of reggae talent to the festival this year with the local bands Neon Prophet, One Blood and DJ mixer PaPa Ranger.

One Blood has appeared at the Bob Marley Festival in Tucson for three years, and lead vocalist Ira Osbourne said it has always been enjoyable.

His inspiration seems to bear a striking resemblance to Marley's own dedication to his fans. "I like to travel and sing for people. What I'm doing, it's really for the audience."

It is this dedication that keeps the spirit of Marley's music alive. Though reggae music continues to flourish, these performers will take time out this weekend to remember where it all started.

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