Thursday, March 23, 2023

Colin Grant - The Natural Mystics (Marley, Tosh, and Wailer)

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company Inc. (US Edition); Year: 2011; Format: Hardcover Book

You never know what you can get at a library book sale hence whenever they happen I make an attempt to go as for a few bucks you can get a nice stack of books. A few months ago the main library in downtown Buffalo, NY had a sale and I spent a good hour amongst other book freaks looking through literally thousands of books going home with a little stack of books, amongst them the one reviewed herein. I must admit it has taken me unusually long to get through this book and I will be honest in saying that I did not always enjoy reading it as it is conceptually not the greatest book. First and foremost, and like everyone else picking up this book, my goal was to learn much more about the Wailers and Reggae itself. Wrong, I learned much more about the history of Jamaica, Rastafari religion, the politics of Jamaica and a heap of other fascinating facts surrounding and influencing the Wailers. Quite frankly I was definitely expecting to learn more about Marley, Tosh and Wailer but it wasn't to be. Tonight after having finished the book I went online to see what other people had to say about the book as I was left a bit confused and to a degree disappointed hence I was not surprised to see some reviews that mirror my opinion of this book. Colin Grant, the author of this book, is a historian of Jamaican origin based in the UK and as such an extremely knowledgeable writer when it comes to the history of Jamaica and African culture in general. My guess is that he set out to write about the Wailers but in all fairness got caught up writing more about Jamaica itself than about the Wailers. Generally speaking I don't see a problem with that at all because it's important to give the reader a good understanding of the socioeconomic background to where Marley, Tosh and Wailer have grown up. And in that sense Grant has done an excellent job providing detailed research into the history of this former British West Indian island. I learned a lot about the Post-independence Jamaica and its cultural evolution leading up to Ska and eventually Reggae. The problem with the book is that the editors could have done a much better job dividing the book into different areas so that the reader wouldn't get lost and confused. After having read thirty pages about political aspects of life in Kingston it is difficult to get back to music and then again back to other matters. As I have stated at the beginning of this review, conceptually I really think the book sadly suffers, but on the other hand one does come away with a good understanding of Jamaica in general, and that alone is worth picking up this tome. And yes, one still gains knowledge about the lives of Marley, Tosh and Wailer as well, just not as much as I and many others had wished for. Still a good read though! 

The Wailers live on BBC performing at the "Old Grey Whistle Test" in 1973.  Source: The Natural Mystics by Colin Grant 

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