2000 – 2001
When Nordic Black Theatre decided they wanted to stage a play about Bob Marley, they asked Nedland Kultur’s Sigbjørn Nedland to write the play for them. The result was a musical theatre play that did not give a biographical and historical account of the life of Bob Marely, but that described Mareley’s presence in the world today. Taking the audience on an imaginary bus trip to various places where Bob Marely’s legacy is very much present, the play focused on Marley’s message, and how his songs and his ideas are still inspiring and encouraging people around the world. Sigbjørn Nedland’s own meeting with Bob Marley, and the long conversation these two had in London in 1978, was the main inspiration in the writing process.
The characters of the play are a group of “Marley tourists” travelling with a tour guide to places and environments that show the presence of Bob Marley and his legacy in the world today. The characters in the group, whith their different personalities and approaches to the Marley legend, give various insights into the importance of Bob Marely and his music and words in people’s lives. Bob Marley is also a character on stage, but he stands apart and does not interact with the other characters. In fact he is not noticed by them, he is only visible to the audience. Also, the author has not written one single of Marley’s lines in the play. Everything he says are quotes of what he has acutally said in authentic interviews, conversations, or in writing. He becomes a commentator, a “Greek chorus”, an observer reflecting on the various events described in the play, and on what his followers and critics are saying about him.
Bob Marley’s songs are an important element in the play, and the were performed by a full band, with various members of the cast and the band as vocalists, and with instructor artistic director Cliff A. Moustache portraying Bob Marley. The Marley character in the play sometimes approaches the role of a “Grek choir”, commenting on what goes on in the play. In addition to the Bob Marley songs, Sigbjørn Nedland also wrote two original songs. One of these tells about the experience in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, that sparked the original idea of the play. In a busy market street in Kariakoo, the author saw a tall young lady coming towards him with a plastic bag filled with beans on her head. Printed on the bag was the portrait of Bob Marley, the very same picture that was eventually to be used on the posters for the theatre play.
“On a carrier bag: An image/Of Bob Marley’s smiling face/Carried proudly by a lady/Moving through the market place/On her head she’s put her burden/And she carries it with pride/And Bob Marley’s gently swaying/Looking almost dignified/Bob Marley’s living/Singing, “Don’t give up the fight!”
When planning the PR for the theatre play in Oslo in the autumn of 2000, Nordic Black Theatre, inspired by this story, and by the “original” plastic bag from Dar Es Salaam, produced a large number of plastic bags like the one on the left, and gave them to the people selling vegetables, fruit etc. from market stalls in Oslo. So for many weeks, you would see people all over the place carring their purchases in these bags, and thus advertising the theatre play.
Nordic Black Theatre is a self-run theatre foundation established in Oslo in 1992. The core activity is theatre production. They also run a theatre school for young transcultural actors: Nordic Black Xpress (NBX). Nordic Black Theatre is run by Jarl Solberg, director, and Cliff A. Moustache, artistic director.
Having assembled the band, and hearing the quality of the musicians and vocalists, Nordic Black Theatre and Nedland Kultur decided to produce a studio recording of the music from the play, and entered into a collaboration with the Norwegian record company MTG to release a CD called “Bob Marley Lives On”. In addition to the theatre’s own actors and musicians, some guests were brought in to enhance the performance. Esrom Rudala and Anania Ngoriga from Tanzania, main musicans on several of Nedland Kultur’s music projects in Africa, were invited to Norway to be part of the band both in studio and on stage. Three of Norway’s finest singers were invited to each do one song on the CD: Anneli Drecker (also known from the internationally renowned group Bel Canto) did her version of “Is This Love”, while Caludia Scott sang “One Love” and Steinar Albrigtsen did one of the original compositions for the play: “Bob Marley lever”. None of these artists had been associated with reggae music before, and they gave vital and creative musical inspirations to the band, while also showing new sides of their own talent.
After performing the play for two weeks at Parkteatret in Oslo, the decision was made to take the whole theatre group to Africa the following summer. Thus, in the summer of 2001, the Norwegian theatre play about Bob Marley was performed in an English language version at the ZIFF festival in Zanzibar. The performances at the old fort at the centre of Stone Town was a success, and there were also performances at free events outside the festival area. A visit to the Seychelles (Cliff A. Moustache’s native country) was met with unforseen difficulties with the authorities, and the group had to stage performances in more improvised locations there. Later, the play has been shown a few other places in Norway, and for the centennial of Nordic Black Theatre a shortened version was played at the theatre boat Innvik, which was at that time the home of the theatre group.
The English language version of the play is available for any theatre group that might be interested in staging it. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org