African Diaspora Hope Staff Writer  

The Wailing Wailers, decolonial lyricists

Long before Apartheid ended and long before the word “decolonial” was used as widely as it is today, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston were using music to emancipate people of African descent from mental slavery.

The trio started The Wailing Wailers in 1965. They recorded their first songs at Studio One in Jamaica under the famous producer, Coxsone Dodd.

Coxsone Dodd > source

One of the first conscious songs The Wailing Wailers released was “Simmer Down” in which the trio appealed to Jamaican youth to abandon political violence and to unite around community upliftment. They sing:

Control your temper, or the battle will be hotter.

The Wailing Wailers, 1965.

The Wailing Wailers eventually changed their name to The Wailers around the same time that Bob, Peter and Bunny adopted the Rastafari culture. Simultaneously, their lyrics became more conscious and reflective of the plight of African people’s suffering around the globe.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer (left to right) > source

In 1970 the band indicated their rejection of what they called the “Babylonian” political system in the song “Soul Rebel”. Babylon in the Rastafari worldview is the colonial system that took Africans away from the continent as slaves. The Wailers sing:

I’m a rebel (Rebel)

Soul rebel

I’m a capturer (Capturer)

Soul adventurer

Do you hear me?

(I’m a rebel)

Rebel in the morning

(Soul rebel)

Rebel at midday time!

The Wailers (1970).

By the time The Wailers released Burnin’ in 1973 the trio had started to grow dreadlocks in expression of their Rastafari faith and culture. Their music, Reggae, also started to take a more directed aim at the injustices faced by Black people in Jamaica, the West and in Africa under politicians.

The Wailers circa 1973 > source

One of the Wailers most famous songs is “Get Up, Stand Up” (1979). In that song, the band sings:

Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight!

They appeal to Africans to never give up the struggle of freeing their minds, bodies, souls and the African continent from ideologies that seek to cast them as being less than human.

Here is Peter Tosh’s version of “Get up, Stand up”.