With another dark drive to areas in Martinique unknown – this time to Habitation Beaufond in Trois-Ilets – we made our way to the 16th annual Marley’s Marathon, the number one reggae event in Martinique according to the France-Antilles Magazine.
Bob Marley was born on February 6th, 1945, and since 1998 Ras Daniel and le Collectif Ba Lari Sènn have been organizing an event at the beginning of February to commemorate Marley’s life and the influence of his music. The Collective was founded in 2006 to promote reggae and dancehall music, artists and events in Martinique. The name Ba Lari Sènn is Creole for “giving a stage to the streets,” but also comes from the Creole expression “ba lari chènn” meaning to hang around in the streets. This is a reference to reggae and dancehall styles being born in the streets of Jamaica, proliferated by those considered the lower class in Jamaican society.
Due to this association of reggae and dancehall with Rastafarians and troublemakers, the town halls and prefecture had banned the event, arguing that “Bob Marley is not a Martinican” and doesn’t need a tribute. Two years ago, however, Bob Marley’s importance to the Caribbean as a whole, and to Martinicans in terms of their West Indianness, led the Conseil Régional and the town hall of Trois-Ilets to begin supporting the event. They provide a venue and logistical support. The event now draws attendees from all backgrounds—young, old, Rasta, tourist, and teaching assistants—to enjoy a tribute to a world-renowned artist.
We arrived just as they were starting to set up for the artists and decided to treat ourselves to the Ital food and local juice they were serving. On the menu was injera, Ethiopia and Eritrea’s national dish, which is a flatbread typically made by mixing teff flour and water and allowing to ferment for several days. On top of this fermented flatbread they placed stewed lentils and split peas, alfalfa sprouts, sweet potato, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, green beans and a stewed soya protein that tasted a bit like bolognaise sauce. The injera is meant to be torn and used to pick up the other foods for eating. Although the sour taste of the bread took some getting used to, the meal in its entirety was delicious and I entertained myself by making multiple combinations of mini sandwiches.
After a sugar cane juice and a prune de cythère (similar to the Jamaican June plum) juice the music was starting. The line-up was an attractive one: Yeahman C, Majesty, Sael, and Kali, Lu Wilson (“Live from London,” – Brixton to be exact), Ras Billy, and Rachel N among others. Most sang a rendition of a Bob Marley song and then a couple of their own. Overall, it was a nice evening out, where I indulged myself with new food, juice, and the positive vibes brought by the crowd out to hear good music and genuinely enjoy themselves.