With Africa Unite, Marley’s classic records get reimagined by Africa’s new stars. It is an attempt to preach the Marley gospel to a new generation. The curation is a testament to the longevity of Bob Marley.
By Emmanuel Daraloye
Africa Unite, a reimagined project by Jamaican singer, Skip Marley and the Bob Marley estate, is a sleek attempt at bridging two music genres, – Reggae and Afrobeats – and a means to connect two different generations to the music of the iconic Bob Marley. Robert Nesta Marley, the Jamaican music legend, died forty-two years ago, yet his legacy is cemented in history. Now, the importance of his music and activism can be understood by the younger generations.
Bob Marley died early, passing away at just 36 years old. While he was alive, Africa was a focal point in his activism. He sang about the apartheid in South Africa, and about poverty and war in Africa — songs like “War,” and “Redemption Song,” addresses some of these subjects. He performed in countries such as Gabon, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia before his passing, and his sons followed suit, organising concerts in some of these countries. Damian Marley, for example, has performed in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. Marley greatly believed in the emancipation of Africa. The Blacks in the USA were not left out of his message as Marley preaches against racism in his music.
In the last few months, Skip Marley and the Bob Marley estate have planned to release an Africa-centric body of work. The work was projected to be a bridge between Afrobeats and Reggae music – the best of both worlds. Finally, on the 4th of August, 2023, the project, Africa Unite, spearheaded by Skip Marley, Bob Marley’s grandson, saw the light. It is a laudable attempt to cement the Marley legacy and win over newer fans from the present generation. The album features collaborations with stellar stars from South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
Nigerian superstar, Tiwa Savage, who is one of the featured artistes on the project, is the oldest artiste on the album. She was only one year old when Marley passed on in 1981 and probably did not witness first-hand, Marley’s music or advocacy. She, along with the featured artistes on this album, might have listened to Marley through music CDs or via music streaming platforms, and perhaps, read about him from newspapers, or heard his stories through word-of-mouth. On Africa Unite, these artistes bring to play their love and respect for Marley, as they reimagine some of Marley’s popular songs and sing new lyrics to pair up his songs. The project is a beautiful mix of old and new.
Forty-two years is a long time. Music production has moved on from analogue to digital and on this album, this change is noticeable as Marley’s vocals are altered while the featured artistes tactfully flow on each song. However, the messages in the tracks remain the same. In the opening track, “So Much Trouble in the World,” (originally released in 1979) Nutty O and Winky D (both from Zimbabwe) bemoan the state of uneasiness in the world. Now in 2023, people face a different but similar challenge. Nutty O sings about the Covid 19 pandemic, xenophobic attacks in South Africa, cyberbullying, and so on, as newer troubling problems. The song is a smart way to address present challenges.
The global state of poverty forms the bedrock of the Skip Marley and Nigerian singer, Rema-helmed “Them Belly Full.” The Mavin Records star comes through with assurance-filled lyrics, dashingly offering words of consolation to the depressed, while urging the people to strive for greatness. On his part, Skip Marley tends to the theme of poverty and famine as he digs deep, and blames those in power for doing little to ameliorate the suffering of the people.
Ami Faku, a 2017 The Voice South Africa contestant, provides the needed impetus for Marley on the classic tune “Redemption Song.” The repertoire on this project is admirable, and Faku skillfully croons. By featuring a South African-born artiste on “Redemption Song,” the album’s production team skillfully project a cause. With South Africa’s history of apartheid, and recently, its xenophobic attacks, Faku becomes the torch bearer for changing the narrative.
“Waiting In Vain,” is all shades of R&B and Reggae. Tiwa Savage comes through with her enchanting vocals. She is easily the ideal collaborator for this song. The sunny saxophone, piano, and trumpet collide to make a beautiful song. At the mid-section of the track, a solo guitar takes the song to another level.
Marley’s music is not all advocacy and protest songs. His discography is replete with love and arty-pivoted songs. On this project, Afro B, a popular Ivory Coast star, provides support on the shindig track, “Turn Your Light Down Low.” With support from a bright chorister and a superb guitar, a tuneful track was made.
The motivational-filled “Three Little Birds,” had input from Oxlade and Teni. It is a beautiful duet from the Nigerian artistes. Teni seems to better understand what is at stake than Oxlade, who mostly shows off his vocal range rather than giving brilliant lyrics.
The song “Buffalo Soldier,” reflected on the Black US cavalry regiments, known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” who fought in the Native American Wars after 1866. Marley linked their fight to a struggle for survival and recasted the song as a symbol of Black resistance. Over forty years after the song’s release, the fight for Black emancipation hasn’t changed, howbeit taken a new dimension. For example, countries such as China, the US, and England still scrabble over Africa’s resources such as its mineral wealth. Same problem, different era, one may say. Ghanaian music star Stonebwoy, the featured artiste on the reimagined version, has a good grasp of the song. His lyrics are in-depth as he rouses listeners. It is a history-filled verse that highlights the scramble for Africa’s lands and the death of some of its revolutionaries.
Ghanaian veteran rapper Sarkodie’s signature pace, cadence, and wit permeate the song, “Stir It Up,” which was released in January 2023. The track is produced by the revered Ghanaian producer, MOG, and combines his signature guitar strums and soothing bounce.
Produced by Nigerian producer Pheelz, “Jamming,” features Ayra Starr, who shines through with her sultry vocals as she appreciates the giver of life while calling on the listeners to party without worries. Nigerian Patoranking, the “Abule” crooner, appears on “One Love.” The track, which is one of Marley’s classics, preaches love and tolerance. Patoranking delivers a brilliant verse which emboldens the message of the song.
With Africa Unite, Marley’s classic records get reimagined by Africa’s new stars. It is an attempt to preach the Marley gospel to a new generation. The track curation is a testament to the longevity of Bob Marley. The featured stars were impeccable with their delivery, and at the end of the spin, a quality project was produced. The album is a bridge between two generations. It is a legacy-pivoted project.
Lyricism – 2
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 2
Rating – 7/10
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.