Tue | Oct 20, 2020

When Peter Tosh lit up São Paulo, Brazil - ‘Dis ya music, reggae music’

Published:Monday | October 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM
The Wailers display at the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition.
The indomitable Peter Tosh.

The Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, which was mounted by Brazil’s Social Service of Commerce (SESC) in São Paulo in March 2018, featured artefacts from across the spectrum of Jamaican music, but Peter Tosh’s place in the space was arguably the focal point of the extensive display.

In fact, Patricia Queiroz, expo coordinator, confirmed that the Peter Tosh area of the exhibit was the most visited and by far the busiest of the six-month-long expo on Jamaica’s most famous cultural export.

The introduction to the Tosh section of the exposition was titled ‘The Indomitable Peter Tosh’. It was beauty and simplicity of high order.

The first image reflected Tosh’s second-most salient message (the first is his advocacy for equal rights and justice) and one for which he experienced severe persecution when he was the avant-garde messenger back then. Today, the original advocate of marijuana is given high praise for his foresight. The Steppin Razor was dapper and sharp. In the photo, Tosh sports his signature tam, a pipe, and a black jacket, and beneath it, a red T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Legalize it!’

Tosh’s iconic M16 guitar was the central subject of the hugely successful exhibition. On loan from the Peter Tosh Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, the guitar was on its second trek in one year. The guitar’s recent air miles between Europe and South America could readily rival the time when ittravelled in the hands of its owner. The M16 guitar had now been ensconced in a pivotal place of the Brazilian instalment.

Accompanied by Tosh’s nunchucks and a couple of his handwritten songbooks, the guitar would stay in São Paulo for six months. The exhibition, which was conceived by the Cité de la Musique, Philharmonie de Paris, and curated by French journalist and film director Sebastian Carayol, occupied 1,300 square metres, the entire fifth floor of the SESC Cultural Centre in the heart of São Paulo.

Noteworthy Artefacts

Artefacts from Jamaica, Britain and France were included in the exhibit, which also documented the massive influence reggae music and Rastafarian culture has had on Brazil. There was quite a bit to learn, too. Reggae and dancehall balls with an active sound system culture are commonplace in São Paulo, and places such as Recôncavo Baiano are purveyors of Rastafarianism. The northeastern city of São Luís is known as the Brazilian Jamaica.

To complement the fine art inside the museum, musical performances and nightly planned, as well as spontaneous, jam and dance sessions were on course in a specially created space right outside the cultural centre. The Brazilian dancers could easily rival the home grown talent. They were excellent.

It was a holistic and highly sensory experience of what Peter Tosh famously declared:

Dis ya music, reggae music, as far as I see, roots music, it’s got a hold on me. It will make you feel so happy!”

– Romae Gordon