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Fervent fans mark Marley’s birthday in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Hundreds of tourists joined dreadlocked Rastafarian priests, leading reggae musicians and some of Bob Marley’s relatives at the late reggae icon’s old house in Jamaica to mark the 68th anniversary of his birth Wednesday, Feb 6.

Since his death from cancer in 1981 at age 36, Marley has become more than Jamaica’s most famous musical export. The trailblazing reggae songwriter’s message of unity and respect for human rights remains a beacon of hope for some in this Caribbean nation chronically struggling with a sputtering economy and high rates of violence.

“It’s the same struggle now as when he was alive. So his music, when you hear it, it’s like he’s singing today even though he died some 30 odd years ago,” said Mutabaruka, a famed dub poet who attended the celebration along with reggae singers like Sizzla Kalonji.

In the early morning light, some of Marley’s relations and old friends danced and chanted to the pounding of Rastafarian drums in the yard of his Kingston home, which is now a family-run museum displaying his guitar, clothing and other memorabilia. Later in the day, Marley’s songs were blasted from big speakers as people danced and chatted amid clouds of marijuana smoke.

Donisha Prendergast, a documentary filmmaker and artist who is Marley’s eldest granddaughter, said her grandfather’s message of “one love” and social revolution remains alive and well.

Updated 8:01 pm, February 20, 2013:
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