‘Are you satisfied, with the life you’re living?’
It’s a simple lyric. But, delivered by Bob Marley to the propulsive rhythm of ‘Exodus’, the title track to his 1977 record, the words act like a clarion call to open your eyes and really look at what’s around you.
Nattali Rize, solo artist and powerhouse frontwoman for Blue King Brown, remembers growing up with plenty of Bob Marley in the family home. But Exodus was her first personal acquisition, probably purchased on vinyl from a garage sale in Byron Bay, where she began her career as a street percussionist.
The epic title track is a firm favourite.
“Exodus, this is one of the biggest, best, baddest, in the best way, grooves and riffs on earth!” she says. “I’m serious. When you hear that, l mean the live version, that’s church! Amazing groove, the musicians that played, The Wailers and Family Man (bass player, Aston Barrett), it’s different when they play that song, it’s so good.
“We would just jam on ‘Exodus’. I mean, quite often we would just drop into Exodus in the middle [of a song] because it’s such a great groove. Everyone around the world knows it, you don’t even have to sing the chorus, you just have to play the riff and it’s like instant connections!”
Such is her connection with the music that in 2014 she decided to relocate to Jamaica to develop her solo career. She’s just delivered her solo debut Rebel Frequency which features collaborations with many Jamaican artists including Julian Marley. She wanted to more deeply connect with the vibrant home of reggae music.
She’s particularly inspired to see the continued impact of the music on the next generation.
“They are strong within themselves,” she says. “They are Rasta, but embrace a oneness with all humanity. They’re on a mission, they have purpose. And they speak to themselves and their fans at a higher level of communication.
“They reclaim words as well, they don’t say ‘understanding’ they say ‘overstanding’, they don’t say ‘fall in love’, they say ‘stand in love’, they don’t say ‘a diet’, it’s a ‘live-it’. Everything you can think of, there’s a way of saying it in a positive light, because they realise that the words we speak are powerful.
“We have the ability to speak reality into existence. Every word is reflective of a thought which can manifest a different reality.”
There’s positivity throughout Exodus’ ten songs which speak of the socio-political, the spiritual and the emotional. But it’s a positivity that Bob Marley transformed from adversity and suffering, and wielded with joyful defiance.
The album, recorded in London, after he survived the attempt on his life in 1976, features the breezy ebullience of ‘Jammin’. In it, Bob sings ’No bullet can stop us now, we neither beg nor we won’t bow, neither can be bought nor sold.’ It was this track which saw Jamaica’s fierce political opponents Michael Manley and Edward Seaga join hands on stage during Bob’s return to the country for the One Love Peace Concert in 1978.
Bob Marley’s consistent strength of convictions, despite the turmoil in his life, provided great inspiration for Nattali Rize.
“When you sing about the suffering and you live it, that sort of pressure can create diamonds. But it is having that real-life experience that brings these emotions and this music to life because out of adversity can come such positivity.
“And that’s why [Bob’s music] has connected with everyone around the world because we can all relate to hard times. But isn’t it great how he turns it into such an uplifting experience.”
Indeed, Exodus features Bob Marley at perhaps his most tenderly romantic (‘Waiting in Vain’, ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’) and stirring (‘Three Little Birds’, ‘One Love/People Get Ready’).
Nattali says that the legend’s presence in Jamaica still looms large. She recalls being struck with awe the first time she got the chance to visit Bob’s Tuff Gong Studios.
“We walked in there and it was just like ‘Whoa!’ The vibe in this place is just amazing. Bob’s piano is there, you can use his Hammond. It’s just like, that studio has a different energy about it.
“Going to that studio for the first time, you know, coming from Australia, it’s like history is on the walls there, this is where things happened! This is the home base of all this incredible creativity that has inspired us so deeply.”
“We describe our music as a route to consciousness,” Bob Marley told Countdown in 1979. ”Regardless of what people might call it, we’re satisfied with any label, but we call it music, revolutionary music.”
And its continued influence on people’s lives is evident in the journey that Nattali Rize has taken and in what she’s seen in the Jamaican people.
“[They] are conscious, community minded, self-empowered, aware, awake, driving their own missions and fully aware of the trickery of the Babylon system, voicing that and making incredible art out of it.
“It’s a very inspiring place. It’s a small island with a big sound that has impacted the planet times over. For me I’m humbled and honoured to be able to go there and feel at home.”