[In celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday, the annual Bob Fest will be held at the Lahaina Civic Center on Saturday Feb. 9. This honors the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley & The Wailers having played here during their 1979 World Tour. Marley’s son, Ky-Mani Marley, will headline the star-studded event (which runs from 1pm-10pm), as he retraces his father’s footsteps. Click here for more info.]
There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air. I’m at the Lahaina Civic Center, sandwiched between the deep blue sea and uli mountains majesty. Every kind of weather is at play: wind, flood, and jah golden sun fueling all sorts of swirling synchronicity. More on that as we go.
Almost-exactly 40 years ago, Bob Marley & The Wailers played on this very Maui stage. I have a picture of Marley in that moment (as many do); right hand raised to the sky, rooted and reverberating with all that makes The Word Of Bob mean so much, to so many, for so long.
In that picture, you can clearly see the concrete of the Civic’s stage cove. So much is the same, and yet, things are not the way they used to be.
I try sending my mind to that 1979 time. I don’t know what that number means to you, but for me it’s ingrained as the year my biological parents wen’ grad from Maui High.
You know before? (Apply unko/auntie voice.) Here in Hawai‘i, the question, “Wen you wen’ grad?” was a mandatory get-to-know-you. But you just don’t hear that like you used to. Same soil, same stage. But boy has our world changed. Don’t ask me why.
Right now it’s Polar Vortex in America, and even our far-away ‘aina – Lahaina, named for the merciless sun – is experiencing its version.
Feeling the rain, I look to the sky and try conjuring ’79 – long before I was conceived, living as a little egg that Mom carried inside her since before she herself was born. I’ve got my nose pressed through the Civic’s chainlink like a puppy in the pound. A man approaches.
“Are you looking for someone?” From face to boots he’s well-worn by hard work, and has the kind of posture that says he’s (really) in charge. He’s kindly come to check on the odd girl with her face in the fence.
I tell him that The Son Of Bob is gonna play here next Saturday (Feb. 9), retracing his father’s footsteps from 40 years ago. Ky-Mani Marley is scheduled to call me for an interview at 2pm Hawai‘i time (which is sometime tomorrow morning in Australia, where they’re currently touring).
“I wanted to soak up some the mana of the space. I figure why not, I live right up the street,” I tell the caretaker.
“You went Lahainaluna?” he asks, studying my ‘ano.
“I wish! (See, Lahainaluna is truly the most special ol’ school in all the archipelago, and even America, West of The Rockies.) No, I’m originally from Upcountry.”
He nods knowingly and offers to open the gate. Maybe things haven’t changed so much as I lament. I step onstage and into that storied concrete cove. Flurried raindrops of cold gold alight as I look out to the field.
Fun to think about how there are kids who could’ve been conceived at that concert – who could by now have grown kids of their own. Maybe some of these generations will be at Saturday’s Bob Bash, skankin’ in a space that’s unfolding its story like paper unfurled into snipped snowflakes.
My secret wish is to set up my recording equipment and do the Ky-Mani Marley interview from the Civic stage. But brrrr-ah. This weather. Jah has other plans.
Shaking the caretaker’s hand in gratitude, he tells me he’ll leave the gate open for me – and that his name is Michael. Of course his name is Michael. That’s my estranged biological father’s name (said ’79 Maui High grad). Someone I’ve never really known but whose nuances and proclivities are living through me all the time. I’ve got this concept on my list of stuff to ask Ky-Mani Marley what he thinks. I mean, if anyone to ask…
Back home, just up the street, I set up my recording equipment and small art shrine: that picture of Bob at the Civic, a floral candle, a la‘i leaf pipe, and a blunt rolled by my hanai auntie (which I’ve been saving like a prized bottle sealed for a special occasion).
It’s cozy inside. It may not be the Lahaina Civic Center stage, however, the hale that Hubby and I have called home for 16 years was once the family residence of the architect who designed the Civic Center. So it’s as close as it gets, if not slightly stranger.
To make matters more interesting, just yesterday we found out that our house was sold. The new owner is coming to meet with us tomorrow, in fact. (Which Ky-Mani’s relative Australia-time is right now.) Like an intricate net, our hearts are woven to this shelter we share, so Hubby and I are mourning it unlike any place we have ever lived in and lost.
The floral candle is half-burned (I swear to Bob that I haven’t lit that blunt), and I’m still waiting for Ky-Mani Marley’s call from Down Under. So I spend the time Googling the architect, Ed Murayama. Turns out he’s a Lahainaluna dropout, turned boxing champ, turned self-made man who’s designed all sorts of famous buildings in Hawai‘i and abroad. Oh, and he’s the inspiration for the protagonists in books by his brother, Milton Murayama (the acclaimed novelist and author of the cult classic, All I Asking For Is My Body).
I weep a little joy in learning this just now. With all my recent Marley musings about legacy and love, who knew I’d learn so much from the old walls all around me.
The gutters gush, time ticks on, still no Ky-Mani call. To be fair, his manager had phoned some hours earlier explaining how understandably busy Ky-Mani is. But it sounds like there’s still a good chance, so I stay in queue.
Wandering thoughts drift me back to 10 years ago, when I first inked at MauiTime. My tenure only lasted three volumes, during which I lived and died a thousand times. Never mind the countless skins shed in all the years since then. Things are definitely not the way they used to be.
And praise Jah for that! I laugh a little at my old selves. Cringe, mostly – but laugh, too. My very first published piece was an interview with Bob’s firstborn, Ziggy Marley. I was scared shitless because – a bit like the architect – I’m a King K dropout with a fair share of fighting (but got lucky with writing). Funny that my first foray back in the MT fold should be with another Son of Bob. #doublerainbowcountry
This makes me think more about the weird and wonderful connectivity we have with our parents.
A decade ago when that Ziggy story hit newsstands, my folks were out fishing in Kaupo. (It should be mentioned that after the Michael mess, Mom remarried the best Dadu in the world, who adopted and raised me and bless-I with my Oki surname.)
Mom and Dadu were driving way-the-heck-out Backside when some ‘opala blew across the road right in front of them. Stopping to pick it up, they gasped – it had their daughter’s name on it?! My very first story, wind-delivered right to them, along the remotest skirts of the sea. Jah provide.
By the way, please don’t think that I’m saying all this Jah stuff to be silly or thematic or whatever. Honest to Bob, Hubby and I literally invoke the name of Jah a dozen times a day. Jah this, Jah that. To boot, we share every meal together and sincerely begin with an out-loud pule that starts with, “Ho, Jah Jah. T‘anks and praises. Etc. etc. Mahalo ke Akua.”
Jah sun has set, the candle has burnt down to the nub. The image of Bob is drenched in whatever weather has washed through our old jalousies. It’s time to disassemble my recording shrine so that we have a dinner table again.
So the Ky-Mani call never came. But no worries, I had such a good time that I don’t even care. I may not have asked any questions, but I still kinda got some answers. Because there’s a natural mystic blowing through the air. And if you listen carefully, you can hear.
AFTERWORD: The next day, the rain is gone. Jah sun shone so unobstructed that I got a dang sunburn. For the first time in my life, I tied a bow on a haku ahead of deadline. Meanwhile Hubby strummed and sang Marley tunes, right off the top of his head.
Though we’d feared an exit-plan from our special home, the cool new owner instead came bearing a re-upped lease and the promise for some overdue termite TLC.
Plus, Ky-Mani Marley kindly and promptly sent positive vibes replies to my emailed questions. Check ‘em out here. Jah Bless.
Image 2 courtesy Ky-Mani Marley