The Secret Of How We Used Reggae Music As A Survival Tool In Africa

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A major figure in world music, Jimmy Cliff has painstakingly crossed many rivers to become an international superstar.

Life is very tough and full of lessons. In Africa, during our school days and darkest periods, to avoid social problems we fought to stay focused. On Sundays, we listen to whatever the preacher tells us, but away from the pastors sight, we used the reggae music as a tool to direct us on the right track and expressed our emotions.

In the sixties and seventies in Ghana, we listened to the songs of reggae pioneers, such as John Holt, Desmond Decker etc, but the musician whose songs played a significant role in our lives is Jimmy Cliff. His music was encouraging and inspiring.  It educated and made us tough in our environment with the desire to succeed in life. Below are some of the selected tunes of Jimmy Cliff we dwelled on.

Hard Road To Travel

We listened to reggae from dusk till dawn and the lyric encouragement helps us let go of suppressed feelings.

“It’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go, but I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed, my mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through,” sings Jimmy Cliff. The hope and faith we had from such songs became our tool for survival.

Struggling Man

Everyman has a right to live, Love is all that we have to give, Together we struggle by your will to survive, Then together we fight just to stay alive, Struggling man has got to move
Struggling man, no time to lose, I’m a struggling man And I’ve got to move on.

Born To Win

I am born to win, Been lost and found, turned upside down, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Been cast aside and been despised, uhm, uhm, uhm, But I’m Daniel in the lion’s den, and Jonah in the belly of the whale, I’m not alone so I cannot fail, no, no, no. And I’m born to win.

Sitting In Limbo

Sitting here in Limbo, Waiting for the tide turn, Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo, So many things I’ve got to learn, Meanwhile, they’re putting up a resistance,  But I know that my faith will lead me on.

You Can Get It If You Really Want

You can get it if you really want, You can get it if you really want, You can get it if you really want, But you must try, try and try, try and try ,You’ll succeed at last.

While we listen to such encouraging lyrics we are inspired in such a way that we don’t feel the pain we go through in our daily hustle, often eliminating the boredomness and depression. Even though Reggae music is not much promoted commercially by MTV, the power of the music can’t be denied.

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Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh were both against Apartheid in South Africa. In the picture, Jimmy Cliff wears T-Shirt with the picture of murdered South African hero, Steve Biko

Synthetic World

Your world is plastic; Can see through to the other side, Your cities are made of wood, Antiques are what you’ve got inside, Houses are paper but folks don’t hear a word you say
Friendship’s like acid, It burns, burns, burns as it slides away.

House of Exile

There’s a day of feasting and a day of famine, Day of sadness and a day of joy, You could see in the day of feasting, Life isn’t just a little play-like toy., So the day arrived when you least expected, Cos you always thought you were well protected, Now you feel like a fish out of water, So now you’re wondering what’s the matter.

“You can change the style, Of playing reggae, You can change the Rhythm of playing reggae, But never ever, Change the message,” sings Lucky Dube in Reggae Strong, because it’s a music that carries the message of truth and the light. If you don’t like the truth, you can never be a friend of reggae.

The Amazon page of Jimmy Cliff: