Yes, Blues’ Orators, this column was inspired by Bob Marley’s Talkin’ Blues and today, as we begin the long wait to potential freedom; I thought it wise to walk you through Talkin’ Blues lyrics to demonstrate why my editor and I resolved to continue the Marley Talkin’ Blues legacy via this column.
I know reggae music may not be everyone’s cup of coffee. However, I want to ask you – if I may – to forget the soulful reggae notes from which Marley’s mournful voice rises as he sings and zings Talkin’ Blues.
The lyrics are the deal and the chorus above is as good as any a point from which to begin deciphering what Marley was singing about and why this masterpiece is as relevant today in our Malawi as it was in 1973 in Jamaica.
The cold ground was my bed last night and a rock was my pillow, begins Bob Marley. For the affluent, living say in Namiwawa or Area 43 etc., this makes little sense.
The reason is simple.
Bob wasn’t composing songs to soothe the affluent. His mission of fighting social injustice in all its forms prioritised the marginalised and here he is talking about our friends, brothers and sisters who sleep on the hard floor and for whom, a pillow is a luxury.
Now, forget for a moment the cosy life you enjoy. Think about our people living and eking a living in the rural areas or the slums. Many of whom, poor and destitute, only cross the minds of our leaders during or close to elections.
Had they a chance to listen to Talkin’ Blues, would immediately relate to sleeping on a cold floor with the same hard floor serving as a pillow. They do that each single night, seven days a week, 365 days a year, their entire lives.
I will skip the next line “…they say your feet is just too big for your shoes…” for now and move on to the next stanza.
A lamentation does not come any better. The singer has been oppressed and has suffered for such a long time that he cannot remember the last time he experienced happiness. Wearing a permanent screw = permanently screwed to tribulations and hardship. Again, this is something Malawians denied of social services in our slums and villages would relate to.
Promised the moon each campaign time, they are quickly and conveniently forgotten once the people they vote for have taken office. Priority is given to tycoons who, despite paying zero or minimal taxes, are awarded contract after lucrative contract, funded by the condemned ‘slaves’ who pay taxes.
This is a bombshell.
The singer says he is undaunted. He is determined, very determined, to fight for his rights to the bitter end. He will take no more lies and is so pissed off that he is ready to bomb a church after realising that the preacher was feeding him a lot of bull.
Now, take a moment.
Remember the many “I swear to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” choruses that were emanating from the Constitutional Court? Remember the sworn affidavits which our learned counsels were thoroughly debunking as fiction borne out of the officials’ fertile imaginations?
Now let me take you back to the National Tally Centre. Date 27th May 2019. Remember this statement which came after a prayer had been duly offered:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Commission has thoroughly reviewed all the complaints that were lodged for the Presidential Election and we declare the Presidential Elections to be free and fair and these results are the true reflection of the will of the people of Malawi.”
The technical phrase here is “thoroughly reviewed”. From the copious sweating, change of statements and all that jazz we have witnessed; did you get any sense that anyone ‘thoroughly reviewed’ anything?
This kind of behaviour by presumed messengers of God, whose lies are preceded by prayers are exactly what drove Bob Marley – in the song – to feel like bombing a church now that he knew the preacher was lying.
Now, forget about the suffering, the marginalised and often cheated rural and slum dwellers and ponder about yourself. How many times have you sat down to listen to this or that official invite a pastor or a priest to “bless the proceedings” only for lies, untruths, utter fabrications and worse to freely flow thereafter?
Going back to the line I shelved, “they say your feet is just too big for your shoes”; everything adds up. According to the Cambridge Dictionary this phrase means someone is showing arrogance and conceit or behaving as if they own the place or that they think the whole world revolves around them.
If you go back at recent developments, can you fail to name one or two people who have behaved in this manner before being trimmed to size?
Who indeed will stay at home when the freedom fighters are fighting? Not the Blues’ orators I know.