Friday, July 4, 2008

Leave Bob Marley Alone!


As an enormous reggae fan and a long-standing devotee of the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley O.M.
I'm not too chuffed with Vodafone's latest "Roaming" campaign.

I've noticed that the advertising world has been pillaging reggae music more and more lately. It started as a gradual shift away from the old soul-style advertising music, y'know, the enormous glut of gospel and American roots music that became popular after Moby's "Play" came out. Until then I had admired Moby, a brilliant composer, multi-instrumentalist, DJ, dance music innovator and much more besides. Though this time around he decided he was just going to make an album that would get stockbrokers and bank managers into dance music. He would make techno by numbers then sell it off, en-masse, to advertising companies. And when he got stuck for material he decided to rip off entire tracks of old, forgotten American Negro folk music so that he wouldn't have to pay any sampling royalties.

It was this album that resulted in six years of Moby rip-offs and endless TV ads by banks, finance companies and insurance brokers with gospel/folk music in the background, as though plundering some soul from Negro spirituals would help them appear to be more homely, down-to-earth and give faceless corporations the illusion of posessing that which they have stolen, a soul.

Since then, however, due to an over-saturation of Mobyism, white housewife gospel choirs and insurance companies singing "Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie", that soul has long since been sucked dry and so they started looking for new roots to nibble on. The more keen-eared among you have probably noticed, whilst listening to advertising on TV, two distinct trends over the past number of months. Firstly, that African-inspired music is at its highest levels since The Lion King came out and secondly that more and more companies are starting to use reggae and ska to sell their products.

Now, that, in and of itself, is hardly new, (Ooooh! Ooooh! The Night Saver!) especially in summertime, not to mention companies like Malibu and Lilt and so on. (And ska, too, has been used quite a lot, especially during the 80s, but it was always the cheekier English Madness-style ska.) Flick on the TV now though and, from breakfast cereals to yogurt, from dancing dreadlocked fabric people to babies bopping along to Roland Alphonso whilst flinging babyfood everywhere, reggae and ska, especially old-style Jamaican ska, is the new gospel. Or to put it another way, having sucked black America of its soul, the advertising execs, the pirates of soul, have decided to head south to pillage the Caribbean.

Obviously the idea, and I'll admit it's a very clever one, is to impart some sense of fun and lightheartedness and general wackiness to the company, particularly if the company/product or service isn't all that fun and wacky to begin with, like, for instance a lending company who charges astronomical interest rates. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think you should hear the words "terms and conditions apply" when there's reggae playing in the background.

To me, though, I didn't really feel like kicking up a fuss until the other night when I saw Vodafone's disgusting "We're Roaming" ad. As I said, I'm a huge Bob Marley fan, and to me, Bob was always more than just a reggae singer, he was the greatest music star the world has ever known and ever will know. Some people might say that's Elvis, but they don't listen to Elvis Presley in Abuja, you won't hear Elvis pouring out the windows of buildings in Port Au Prince or Puerto Rico, in the projects in New York, council flats in London, Banlieues of Paris, shanties in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Marrakesh, Moscow, Manilla, Aukland, Istanbul, New Delhi, Durban, Dublin or Dresden...
But no matter where you go in the world, you'll hear Bob Marley, and you'll hear people singing his songs, word for word - even if they don't speak English and know what the words mean, but yet, through that voice and through that music, the meaning becomes all too clear.

That's because Bob was more than a singer, he was the Third World's first superstar, a cultural icon and spiritual leader, an idealistic rebel and born leader who stood against injustice wherever he saw it. A man who ranks right up there in the same pantheon as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Ché Guevara or Martin Luther King. And has nothing, I repeat, nothing, to do with hawking extortionate mobile phone roaming charges.

So, in other words,
Leave Bob Marley Alone!
Share |
Digg this


Brionglóid Media said...

You can also add Dawn Penn as yet another victim.

Anonymous said...

Moby ripped off Third World with his Extreme Ways