"One day France will be Africa"

Bob Marley interview with Patrick Barrat, Tuff Gong, Jamaica (1980)

Gael Doyen recently took the time to transcribe and translate an interview that Bob conduted with Patrick Barrat at the Tuff Gong studio's in Jamaica 1980. The interview was first in the Nouvelles Littéraires magazine in 1981

Patrick: But everybody doesn't think the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was the incarnation of God.

Bob: It sounds strange to them, for people are programmed. But those who program the people are intelligent enough to know it's not strange.

Patrick: Does it disturb you if people say you are a prophet?

Bob: If people say that, it's a good news (he bursts out laughing).

Patrick: And the first Third-World superstar?

Bob: No, I don't agree. I don't have many words to talk about myself, but I am what I am, not what people want me to be. Those who say that are into politics. Pouah!

Patrick: When did you start feeling you were becoming popular?

Bob: Who? Me? ... I have always been as popular in Jamaica as I am now. It means that if I have five good friends, that's enough for me to feel popular.

Patrick: Are you often in a defensive position?

Bob: Well, yes. I don't want to hurt anybody but I don't want anyone to hurt me. I am brazen faced. Sometimes, people ask me questions that make me wonder if I am taken for a joke. All of this is not a joke, we have to suffer in life and opression is constantly there. Journalism is funny: when one doesn't agree with something, they talk rubbish (implicating little smile)

Patrick: Is it true that your first visit to the United States, in the early sixties, led you to the way of rasta?

Bob: I went to the United States. In front of all these buildings, I said to myself: "rasclaat". They showed me pictures and kept on telling me: "God is white". I said to myself: "What a damned place! The only thing I could be here is a slave." Those guys believe in money. On their dollars they wrote: "In God we trust". I had to choose between this white God and a black Jesus. I have chosen...

Patrick: What do you refuse in Babylon?

Bob: In everything there is good and bad, even in technology. And when the white man is in power, he doesn't want to acknowledge the black man is his brother. Men must learn to live together, in harmony with each other. All of what the white leaders did has been machine guns and bombs. So, we disqualify them as leaders, or they rather disqualify themselves because they ignore the right way. They still think they must kill to survive. The white man failed to rule the world. Now the black man's time has come...

Patrick: On what is based the white man's failure to rule humanity?

Bob: The color of the skin doesn't matter. The problem is that the white people have set up a system that takes them over. The establishment is controlled by the white race. In every community, you can find people suffering, dying, and others taking advantage of it. That's called the "system".

Patrick: How could South Africa become independent like Zimbabwe, former Rhodesia?

Bob: We just hope the white people will get up and fight for the black people's rights, and won't let another war between races settle. All the satisfaction a white man can give to a black man now is to fight for the black man's rights. That will bring justice, love and peace on earth. Because if we ever have to fight against white people to liberate Africa, then when the war is over each white man will still be considered as a white man by black people.

There, in Zimbabwe, it's different... we have an impact on people we defend. There is a meaning to all of that. There, I was considered as someone who knows truths about african traditions, africanism and Ethiopia. In Zimbabwe, I saw an old map of the ancient Ethiopia continent that covered all Africa. It was beautiful. And I had never seen people dance like that! Nobody can dance reggae like Africans. Reggae is good for all the people, but it belongs to one country: Africa.

Patrick: What is the meaning of your fight for the black people? Will it eventually lead to african unity?

Bob: I just want the black conscience to unite all the black people because white men already have what they need. Africa is not built yet because it's not united. The time has come for unity. All these liberation movements in Africa show that all these brothers are aware of it now. With Jah Rastafari, that's the best thing that could happen to the black people.

Patrick: Are you talking to the Third World as a whole, or only to Africa?

Bob: That's not the way I see things. Humans have the right to eat and live correctly everywhere. Some work for that everyday. But there are still too many people in post-slavery who can't get out of it. Man can be so evil towards his brothers, it's frightening. But, for an unknown reason, the evil man rules.

Patrick: Isn't Africa a bit a dream for you?

Bob: No, no, it's a reality.

Patrick: Will you go and live there one day?

Bob: Yeah man. We will all live in Africa one day, for even France will be Africa.

Patrick: How come?

Bob: But of course, France will be Ethiopia! When the french were in Africa, they used to control some places and declared them french. The times will change and France will belong to Africa. The tables are turning, but this time, there won't be blood, people won't be forced. They will agree. Africa is the fruit basket of the earth. It will unite without opressing the people for God loves Africa.

Patrick: Do you regret that people in the west who appreciate you don't know what is the meaning of your music?

Bob: Yes, it's really too bad. To them, I say that Rastafari is God and that the Christ government will rule the earth. And the Christ is Rastafari. If you are a bit interested in this, one has to know the Christ came from Africa. God came out through Ethiopia, known as being Africa according to the tradition. Haile Selassie is african and ethiopian. He didn't come as a simple human being but as an example.

Patrick: Do you really believe in african unity?

Bob: I believe first in the african unity, but I also believe in the unity of all the people for Rastafari is unique. The whole black continent used to be called Ethiopia. But the white man has divided Africa. Everytime he took a piece of it, he called it Africa.

Patrick: Do you have the feeling this unity is taking shape right now?

Bob: It will take a long time. But with time, more and more people are concerned in their identity. Soon, the whole truth will be revealed.

Patrick: You seem to make a difference between talking "to" the people and talking "for" them?

Bob: That's true. I am a kind of lawyer. Someone explains him what the situation is, and then the lawyer goes to the court to talk in their name. We talk with the people but we also try to talk in their name. We want people to live well. We don't intend to promote "sufferation". Sufferation must end, so we must talk about it. But we also have to talk about what real life should be like: love, poetry, music...

Patrick: How to suppress racial barriers?

Bob: Men must learn to live together, in harmony with each other. To achieve this, everyone should be able to travel from times to times.

Patrick: Have you checked Islam?

Bob: All I know is that muslims are good. I can't really tell you more.

Patrick: What do you think about Asians?

Bob: As the white man didn't manage to rule the world, they will have to do it. If the Bible had revealed God was Chinese, the Chinese would live in Ethiopia today. He would have been crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Patrick: You sometimes talk about the Last Judgement. In your opinion, when will it happen?

Bob: The Last Judgement happens everyday. Many things will happen.

Patrick: What for instance?

Bob: The bomb for instance. The only way for man to last is to do nothing to destroy himself. "If you live by the weapons, you will die by the weapons".

Patrick: What do you fight then?

Bob: I don't have time to fight. If I fight, I hurt myself. I leave the judgement to God. The rocks in a river never prevented the water from flowing.

Patrick: What is the place you like the most on this earth?

Bob: Saint Ann, the village where I was born. In Europe, winter is too cold, summer is too hot, spring is too short and autumn is too short as well. Man can only live in a place where climate is like the one in Africa.

(Bob goes in the yard to play football. He keeps on talking about...music :)

Bob: I like to play music, but I don't feel comfortable on stage. I wish I could turn the show into a friends meeting. I would talk with the people, we would reason while playing a few songs. That's a nice situation when everyone is cool and chats.

Patrick: Does music only mean reggae?

Bob: I like and respect Stevie Wonder. Calypso is the first music I have ever liked, but I didn't know how to play it. How could music be perfect when it's played by a man? Music opens heaven's doors. It leads you to other dimensions, which many people don't understand.

Patrick: What about ganja, is it important?

Bob: Ganja develops your talents. Even scientists should smoke. It's good for meditation. It should be allowed anywhere in the world.

Patrick: Does this BMW, close to the mango tree, belong to you?

Bob: Of course. Bob Marley and the Wailers. You got it?

(A while later, in the recording studio, the interview resumes)

Bob: Right now, I can't imagine anything else. Some think reggae will soon run dry, but this music is a rasta music and therefore has no end... When Disco music appeared, people didn't understand reggae And disco worked, but people will come back to reggae. That's where the roots of music are...

Patrick: But what do you listen?

Bob: Listen, listen carefully (he listens very carefully, I do the same). Do you hear that? Now, that's night, that's really the music I listen to: crickets, frogs, the sounds of nature. If you go to the countryside with a tape recorder, you find the music of the hills. It's different from commercial music. Once you record, that's commerce, that's "bizniz". Music is the chant of the earth. If you listen to it, nature is music... and music is there for changes, it brings the strength of the rhythm to the people.

(A while later, during a rehearsal)

Bob: You see, sometimes I play guitar alone. The song comes and I turn it into reggae. Sometimes, the music and the lyrics come together. But you need a lot of concentration to write music.

Patrick: What about politics?

Bob: I am neither on the right side nor on the left side, I go straight ahead. Nobody thinks about going straight ahead. Do you understand? That's true. Do you remember when they crucified the Christ? There was someone on the left and someone on the right. They were both thieves! It's the same for ideologies.

Patrick: Your music is not political then?

Bob: People say my music is political, but I just tell the truth and what is right. No politician likes the people. They like those who vote for them, and hate those who vote against them. Politics is madness. And politicians think the Christ is dead because they are dead themselves. The Christ can't die, that's why we are alive.

Patrick: How do you spend your money?

Bob: I give it. I give it here and there, to hundreds of people who come here everyday to ask help. Money is the root of all evil. Money was created to keep people chained, it's a substitute of reality.

Patrick: You also have detractors.

Bob: They won't get me easily. They will have to try very hard. They say I betray my pople. No, no and no I stay true to the masses. Nobody can change it... my only vice is having many women.

Patrick: What about death?

Bob: We don't deal with death. All the meaning of rasta is in life. The gift of Jah is life. The path of sin is death. If man doesn't sin, well, we know miracles have happened to people and they still live. We know there are wonderful paths. We have a guardian angel that guides us. If you do something bad, then this spirit is vexed and you can die. Humans give importance to death because they don't understand God. They don't see Rastafari is God. They know nothing about the changes on this earth. There is no end. There will be no end.