It’s the coldest winter in years, and snow is falling thickly as the Zion Train rolls into the yard at Yaam in Berlin. They are more than halfway through a fifty-date tour across Europe, and there’s no time to hang about. We’re all quickly inside, drinking tea to warm up, as the crew pace about, stretching their legs.
Kingston, 1976. Jamaica is caught in an international power struggle. Michael Manley’s socialist government, in power since 1972, has made enemies in the USA by nationalised the bauxite industry, and by supporting the Cuban government. It is an election year, and the Americans are supporting the opposition leader, Edward Seaga. Jobs are hard to find, and prices are high. But mysterious shipments of guns pour into the Kingston ghettos that summer, and the election escalates into political warfare. Gunmen kill more than 500 people. The songs tell the stories. War inna Babylon. Police and thieves. One evening, singer Calman Scott made his way across town through the gunfire to record a session that changed reggae music forever. This is the story of the original rockers.
Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is War.”
These lyrics, from the Bob Marley song ‘War’, were originally found in an English translation of the speech Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia delivered to the United Nations in New York in October 1963.