Welcome to The Rastafari Chronicles, a series of articles, utterances, links from the archives of Rastafari history. This is an encouragement to all Rastafari worldwide to revive memories of InI glorious trod.
Give thanks to ones and ones for helping to uplift this initiative, to share and exchange works, greetings, stories, memorabilia, reminiscences, and ephemera of Rastafari. Let InI rise up a thunderous orchestration of Ises to the Majesty and elevation of the Movement.
One perfect love in His Imperial Majesty and Empress Menen.
The short elderly brother answered his name with an immediate retort every time, without missing a beat. Over the years Fire had transformed himself into a force of nature, a peaceful flame that burned brightly with the light of Rastafari.
He stood at the entrance to an open yard dotted with coconut palms next to a small snack outlet and guided our car into the roadside establishment. Indeed, some logs were smouldering in the yard as we parked and got out. He called to a youth who accompanied him:
“Jah B,” he said, “rise up de fire!” A little shifting of the logs expertly and the fire rose up in the afternoon heat.
Jah B, an upfull youth in his late teens, was his son and right hand man. He took photos of the threesome as we greeted each other in the open compound. I introduced Fire to Kwame, the driver who had accompanied me to Konkonuru, a sleepy village in the heights of Aburi overlooking Accra.
“This man is a pastor”, I said. Fire finally released my hand and fixed Kwame with a piercing gaze. His eyes seemed to look beyond, rather than directly at the one he was addressing. A sparse grey beard adorned his ancient face, topped by a colourful tam. He wore three-quarter-length trousers and a simple light-coloured shirt with buttons.
“Woe unto the pastors that lead the flock astray”, he said.
“He‘s a mechanic too,” I interjected. “Can fix any car in the world. Woe to the mechanics who lead their clients astray,” I chimed in, laughing. “Dat could be even more deadly.”
Kwame is about 50, with close cropped hair, a dark, handsome, quiet Ghanaian, expert with engines, but not used to the scrutiny of Rastafari. We had made several wrong turnings before finding Fire’s place, not far from Rita Marley’s spread in Konkonuru. Fire was her caretaker for many years. Now, with her patronage, he had set up his own small establishment.
For the next 5 minutes Kwame answered questions regarding his church, denomination, concept of life and destiny. We were in Jahrusalem Schoolroom and this was literally a ‘baptism of Fire’ – not pressured, but penetrating and intrusive.
In the background the sounds of Bob Marley wafted through the still air. Marley played non-stop during our 3-hour stay with the elder. This was the 5th of February, the eve of his birthday.
Fire and I had spoken several times on the phone and determined to meet face to face. Jah works.
Soon he invited us indoors to his private quarters, a small bedroom behind the snack bar, tastefully adorned in Rastafari style. InI spent what seemed an eternity, reasoning on all aspects of the movement – its successes, failures, the spread of the movement and our need to organize and centralize. His amazing life history was a revelation that deserves a book of its own – as he had been advised by several ones. No doubt he had recounted it many times before, but it was as riveting as if the incidents he described happened yesterday. His was a life lived in the love of Rastafari. He ascribed his triumphs, near-death escapes, experiences, and even his utterances to the guidance of the Almighty. He had lost faith in the Mansions – too much in-fighting, big-manism and jealousy. Reluctantly, I had to agree. He said It was up to InI who the Almighty brought together to fulfil His works, and not our own agendas. Iron sharpeneth iron. Countenance sharpeneth countenance.
Fire spoke the I-speak of Rastafari. The ultimate importance of the word.
“When a man calI I, my Lard, I man na love dat. De I know what ‘lard’ is? Is a ting wey mek from pig-fat. When lard come near fire it haffi melt!”
“Yes I,” I countered, “but His Majesty is King of King, Lord of Lords –“
“Law of Laws,” he interrupted. “Dat was what HIM give de nations in Geneva: Law of Laws.”
I couldn’t fault his reasoning. Word, Sound and Power – or even Iwa.
InI talked of 2016 and the 50th anniversary of His Majesty in the Caribbean. Fire’s eyes lit up at the memory. This was to be the crux of InI meeting. I needed to hear his testimony of that glorious event. I listened, totally engrossed, as he recalled.
“Yes I. I was dere at Paisadoes airport. Because I man short I reach up in de viewing Gallery to see every ting. Some man even climb up on de high airport tower to plant Rasta flag. De place was ram. Everyone jus’ waiting to see de Almighty. Fram early marnin. Ganja smoking openly. When de police ask de Superintendent if to stop dem, he say: “Leave dem today. Is dere God coming.”
Not a plane land in de airport dat day. One time a small plane come in and man let out a shout. False alarm. Den I go down and squeeze to de front a de crowd behind de line of police wit bayonet. One time de sky get dark, dark, dark and rain start. No man move. InI just gazing up at de sky. I see three white birds flying in de sky. Den rain stop an de sky get bright, bright. De whole crowd start to push forward. A police swing him baynet and catch me across de neck. Cyant forget dat. De baynet was cold, iya!”
“Steel!” I interrupted, “and de cold rain. One time police put a gun to I man temple. I never know how cold steel could feel, my Lo-, Iya!”
I almost slipped. My pores were raised as he continued.
“Sky get bright. Suddenly InI jus see de white plane come thru de clouds. Wah! Man jus let out a roar an break down all barriers. I too rush wit de crowd pon de tarmac. Never see so much chalice light up, iloved, round de plane, all where de signs saying ‘No naked flame’. Rasta surround de whole plane. An de propeller still spinning! I na know how it na blow up. See how good Jah is!”
I was at the edge of my seat, transported through time and space to Palisadoes 1966 with the thousands surrounding the plane.
“Well, after some time, de Superintendant get a loud hailer and call for Mortimo Planno. He was up in de Gallery. Mortimer mek one step, bam! and reach down to de plane. Him go up de steps to de top, top. Him seh to de crowd: “His Majesty would like to descend from de plane.” Den him put him hands like dis.” Fire made a gesture opening his arms wide. “An de whole crowd jus open up in one straight line, iloved. Never see notten like it. Like Moses parting de Red Sea. Clean straight line. Nobody na pushing or jostling to de front. De crowd jus open like a miracle and His Majesty come down de steps and walk thru everybody into de reception area. Cyant ferget it, Iya. Cyant ferget!”
Fire paused for a moment. There was total silence. I was lost in the moment. So was Kwame. The youth Jah B may have heard his father recount the event many times before, but he too seemed spellbound.
Fire told us how he had prophesied about his trod to Africa. At one point he had told his brethren he would travel on a lightning bolt to reach home. They had laughed him to scorn. As a youth he had cast his possessions into the Binghi fire: first his friend’s borrowed bike, then his clothes, dancing and chanting in the heights of Rastafari, while the lightning flashed as he smoked and chanted. Through Jah mystic (i-stic) guidance he had escaped a vigilante mob that sought his life.
He put on garments made of dried banana leaves and crocus bag in the days when Rasta trod earth, meeting and greeting the brethren in peace and love, despising materialism. Even nuts and bolts were deemed as man-made inventions to be abhorred.
He had known Rita as a close neighbour in Trench Town when they were children. He was ten, she was seven. They had grown apart for many years while the Marleys became famous. After Bob’s passing he had reconnected with her and become a trusted person at the Hope Rd establishment in Kingston. Finally she had brought him to Ghana as resident caretaker of her property in Konkonuru, where she had been made a queen: Nana.
He mused: “Dose who laughed at I man still dere in Jamaica, Iya. See how Jah stay? Word, sound and iwa.”
As the afternoon shadows lengthened InI prepared to leave. A beautiful young princess entered the room. Fire introduced her as his dawta, Jah B’s sister.
“Dis is de idren I was expecting,” he said. She smiled gracefully as we shook hands.
In parting, Kwame made mention of the knowledge he had gained listening to the wise-mind of the elder.
Fire and Jah B guided our car as we reversed out of the enclosure onto the tarred road.
“InI have a works to do,” he said. “Dat is why de Fader bring InI togeder. InI haffi inite de people. Like de I say, Rasta scatter in every part a de earth now. Organize and centralize. InI haffi do de works of de Almighty.”
“Yes I. With one perfect Mind InI can do it,” I said.
“Yes,” he agreed, “one perfect Mind.”
Shango Baku (Centenary Committee for Rastafari)