Dr Michael Barnett, who lectures at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, got involved with the annual Peter Tosh Symposium in 2010. It is unlikely that anyone, even with the aid of Tosh's Crystal Ball, would have seen a posthumous Order of Merit (OM) for the late singer and musician in Jamaica's 50th year of Independence. So when the 2012 staging of the symposium takes place this evening at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre on the Mona campus, the award, officially handed over on Monday, will loom large. "We are going to basically consider - because to some people it is controversial - the question is if Peter would accept the award or not. Herbie Miller will speak to that," Barnett said.
Miller is part of a panel that includes Tosh's children Niambe and Andrew, Professor Carolyn Cooper and Dr Clinton Hutton. The symposium starts at 6 p.m. This is the second consecutive year that members of Tosh's family will be speaking at the symposium, Dave doing so last year.
However, in looking at Tosh's music, Barnett makes a comparison with the current output of Jamaica's popular performers, saying "It is also a time to reflect on the music now, the state of the music, what is being produced now, and what was being produced in Peter's time".
Barnett points to Tosh's lyrical content as "outstanding". And it is not Tosh alone, as Barnett said he has done presentations which also explore the lyrics of Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear and Bob Marley, "not singing the lyrics, but reading them as text".
He said he teaches a course on the African Diaspora in which he utilises the lyrics of Tosh's African. "Tosh was very Pan-African in his outlook, especially on the Equal Rights album," Barnett said. "Even today, many people don't consider themselves African." So Tosh's African still stirs debate, as does his stance on marijuana, most notably in Legalise It.
"There are so many talking points and social issues when you look at Peter's lyrics. When you look at artistes today, you have a few (dealing with social issues), but not as many," Barnett said.
Barnett describes himself as "just a great fan of Peter. That is my motivation, I would like to think I am contributing to the legacy, the memory of Peter's legacy. I did some work with the family. It is not just coincidence that family members are on the bill. They want to push their father's legacy".
THE LEGACY OF TOSH
However, while there is heightened interest in Tosh this year with the OM as well as it being 25 years since he was murdered, there is the matter of sustainability. Barnett said "part of the sustainability happens when people come together to push that legacy. I think you have enough people out there, but it is about combining energies. Sustainability is not a given".
"The other thing is - and I think this is a project in itself - is to introduce Peter and that generation of artistes to the youth. Some of them are not familiar with that generation of artistes from the 1970s and 1980s," Barnett said.
Looking ahead, Barnett has a Wailer on his wish list of presenters. "I would like Bunny Wailer to talk, to give a perspective. Not a musical tribute, but speak, his memory of Peter. That would be beautiful," Barnett said.
SOURCE: jamaica gleaner