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Bob Marley

Bob Marley

By Natalia Bonilla—-.

Late reggae legend Bob Marley has influenced the lives and artistic careers of Caribbean musicians, including Puerto Rican artists such as Carmelo Romero, drummer and vocalist with Gomba Jahbari, and Millo Torres.

“We were partly raised by reggae. Bob Marley’s music made us open our ‘third eye’ to the world,” Romero said Friday in an interview with Efe.

Both artists are expected to perform Feb. 6 in a concert in San Juan to mark the 70th anniversary of the Jamaican icon’s birth.

They remember how reggae music made an impact on their lives from an early age.


Romero said he mostly listened to Marley’s “Legend,” a posthumous greatest hits album that has sold more than 27 million copies worldwide on the way to school.

Torres recalled hearing Marley for the first time while traveling to the British Virgin Islands with his parents.

“His music has been a blessing to me and it has helped me shape my career,” said Torres, whose Spanish-language reggae hits include “Me gustas como quiera,” “Haciendo tiempo” and “Cosas buenas.”

Romero believes that Marley – who died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36 – has been “the best ambassador of Jamaica” to the world.

“Catch a Fire,” the first album Bob Marley & The Wailers made after signing with producer Chris Blackwell in 1972, helped the Jamaican artist gain international recognition.

Torres said Marley’s success could be attributed to several factors: a unique image thanks to his Rastafarian-inspired dreadlocks; lyrics that talked about social change; and his emergence in a decade marked by decolonization movements and upheaval in various parts of the world.

“Bob Marley left the world a legacy of social and spiritual awakening,” Torres said.

The message of equality, rebellion against the status quo and spirituality also resonated with the international audience, which felt a connection with Marley’s worldview, the Puerto Rican artists said.

“Bob Marley showed his cultural roots. He was a real person, his lyrics were honest and he came from the streets,” Romero said.

Romero and Torres took part in Puerto Rico’s 1995-2005 reggae boom.

Back then, Torres recounted, Puerto Rico “was opened to a new market of music” and promoters brought in leading international reggae artists such as Ziggy Marley (Bob’s son), Burning Spear, Alpha Blondy and Black Uhuru.

“I did 20 opening acts for those concerts,” Torres said.

The shows served as an inspiration for local singers and helped create new followers of the genre.

Romero said Puerto Rican reggae musicians “are all original, but appeal to the old recipe (of socially conscious lyrics) and do not fear to fuse rhythms.”

“There is diversity, but all are still good reggae,” Romero said.

Romero and Torres will perform at the Feb. 6 show alongside Don Carlos, Alborosie and Puerto Rican artists Misael and Vozegata. EFE

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