Oh, I thought you felt death didn’t exist at all.
Death does not exist for me. I truly know God. He gives me this (life) and my estimation is: if he gives me this, why should he take it back? Only the Devil says that everybody has to die.
Someone from Inner Circle told me that the money from the Peace Show never got to all the right people. Did you know about that?
All I know is that it went to everyone that wanted it. Too much people involved, too much people have too much thing to say and they don’t know anything. So many people go on about how they’re roots, and when did you last see them in the ghetto? They hide from the ghetto, they’re not in contact.
But you must find it difficult to keep in touch with the ghetto…
(incredulous) Find it difficult? Watch now. You look into my yard. It’s a ghetto. This is a ghetto you’re looking at. Look out there. I’ve just brought the ghetto uptown. My thing is, why must I stay in one place every day of my life, and all the days of my life I have to run from the police? Look in any other yard along the road and see if you see any one of my brethren out there in any other yard. When I lived in the ghetto, every day I had to jump fences, police trying to hold me, you dig? So my job all the while was to try to find one place where the police wouldn’t run me down too much. So I don’t want to stay in contact with the ghetto, in contact with the ghetto means in contact with a prison, in contact with everything that’s bad all the while, not the people. When the law comes out, they send them into the ghetto first, not uptown. So how long does it take you to realise – boy, well they don’t send them uptown, y’know! So we’ll make a ghetto uptown. EVERY DAY I jumped fences from the police, for YEARS, not a week. For YEARS. So me get afraid now, me have to make some type of move. You either stay there and let bad people shoot you down, or you make a move and show people some improvement. Or else I would take up a gun and start shoot them off and then a lot of youths would follow me, and they’d be dead the same way. I want some improvement. It doesn’t have to be materially, but it can be freedom of thinking.
But the material things have helped you to spread a little bit of freedom out to a few people, but it hasn’t helped all the people in the ghetto. Don’t you think that only more direct political action can do that?
Something more direct would be if Queen Elizabeth would take her raas away from Jamaica, take away her Constitution, call away those ways of life they have down here.
I thought that was supposed to happen when Jamaica became independent.
But it never happened. We still have a Governor-General. No one gives Jamaica people a chance, that’s why we say that the earth is corrupted and everyone has to die and leave we. It’s a selfish way of thinking, but… (mutters) fuck it…how long will they pressure we? We are the people who realise the place where they thieved us from, so we say, AH, you took us from there, AH, this is what we are. But they still tell us, no, no, this is what you are! This is what you must be…This yard (house), they call it Freedom Ground. Hardly anything can happen here. The greatest thing that could happen would never happen, so you could say God has we for a purpose and a reason.
‘Ambush In The Night’ contains the clearest references you’ve ever made to colonialism.
(absently) We always try. There’s a lot of good music we have in there, a whole heap of good stuff…I don’t like to talk, because the way I talk, I don’t know if I can be understood. Or maybe somebody might understand me the wrong way. There’s only one thing we have to say, that is, we are Rastafarian people the same way some people are Catholic. Some people are this, some people are this. They always want to interview I and I, but they don’t want to know what we really want to say. It (Rasta) becomes unreal, like something we try and make…raas…truth is like food, man – when you say food you know you mean food, and when you say truth, same way. You know, Vivien, sometimes me no get over too straight, because you are a woman, and you see things…me understand how you see things, but I can’t please you by talking to make you feel pleased. Me just have to show you say – you have to be strong.
Since you’re always covering old tunes, I thought you should cover the tune ‘Rude Boy Get Bail’. It’s still so relevant.
Well, Bunny did that in ’66, when I was in America, but me did other rude boy songs – that rude bwaoy business, bad, bad music. Only them shouldn’t have said “rude boy”, them should have said “Rasta”. You dig me? But in them times, me didn’t know Rasta. Something was going on, you felt it, and didn’t know if you were bad bad or good good – then I understood it’s good, you’re good – it’s Rasta!
When, or what, made you realise it was Rasta, not rudeness?
What is there to benefit from badness? I wondered, I looked at it and thought, boy, bloodclaat, if I thump this man here I feel the contact too. And then I said, it’s the same God that lives in my hand lives in me, and that means that it’s not him I thump, it’s God I’m really thumping. So I used to wonder about this human feeling business…the whole thing is Rasta. The way I tell you, it’s a whole experience, but you break it down and it’s just – Rasta.
Did you used to play lots of gigs in the early days?
Not a lot, just like Christmas morning and Easter, we’d be there up at the Carib Theatre. But we was always the underground, always the rebels. We came from Trenchtown. So you’d hear about Byron Lee and all that society business, but we came from down so named WAILERS, from TRENCHTOWN. So we stay, and we’re glad of it. You’ve got to be someone.