Reggae is a genre of music peculiar to the Jamaicans but which has gained worldwide recognition. It is one of the most popular music amongst Nigerians, especially in clubs and social circles. Reggae is a slow-tempo style with the combination of simple stroke of the guitar, the bass guitar, cymbals, keyboard and drums it resonates to give mystical ambiance.
Hardly is the history of Reggae written without the mention of legendary Peter Tosh. Peter Mcintosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh, was born Winston Hubert Mcintosh on October 19, 1944 and started his musical career when he was ten. He fashioned his own guitar at the age of fifteen. Peter Tosh who played on the streets of Grange Hill in Jamaica was raised by his aunt because his father never gave him care. When his aunt died while he was 15, he left the street life he was known for and immediately moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica.
Tosh became distraught after the death of his aunt and thought of how to survive. While taking a walk on the streets of Trenchtown one day, he saw a man playing a guitar, singing his favourite song. From that moment, his life changed.
He watched the man played his guitar and went home to build his own, with his own version using cane, stick and copper wire as the cord.
Tosh then approached the same man and played the same song to him with his local guitar. The man was amazed and asked Tosh who taught him. His reply shocked the man as to who was responsible.
Peter Tosh later met with Robert Nesta Marley and Neville O’Reily Livingstone, alias Bunny Wailer. Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments, and the only self-taught guitarist and keyboardist.
Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer formed the Wailing Wailers. Bob Marley became the lead vocalist while Peter Tosh and Burning Wailer were back-up singers.
The group chose the name ‘Wailers’ because to ‘wail’ means to mourn or express one’s feelings vocally. Peter Tosh taught Bob Marley how to play the guitar. The Wailers composed several songs for the American-born singer, Johnny Nash.
Tosh went solo and released his first album, Legalize It in 1976, with CBS Records Company. At the same period, Bob Marley released his popular track, One Love.
Tosh criticized Marley that he was being hypocritical ‘shitsystem’. He now released another album, Equal Rights in 1977. Peter Tosh was a devotee Rastafari. While on stage performing, he was always with his ‘smoke’, popularly known as Ganja. A six-footer; very wild. In one of his albums, he went on to sing “I’m a stepping razor, you better watch my size, I’m dangerous”.
Tosh and Marley became like cat-and-rat, for reasons best known to them. The rumour mill has it that Rita, who later became Bob Marley’s wife, contributed to their eventual separation.
Tosh started his romance with Rita before Marley ‘snatched’ and married her. One of his albums titled ‘You just a brand new second hand girl’ was directed to Rita.
Before his death, Tosh had so many albums to his credit. On September 11, 1987, he returned to his home town Jamaica. After a brief tour, a three-man gang came to his house demanding money.
Tosh tried to make them understand that he was not having money in the house, but they didn’t believe him. The gangsters stayed at his residence for several hours in an attempt to extort money from him. They even tortured him.
During this time, many of Tosh’s friends came to his house to greet him because of his return to Jamaica. As people arrived, the gunmen became more frustrated, especially the chief thug, Dennis “leppo” Lobban, a man whom Tosh had previously befriended and tried to help find work after a long jail sentence.
Tosh insisted that he did not have any money in the house, after which Lobban put a gun to Tosh’s head and shot once, killing him instantly. The other gunmen began shooting, wounding several other people and also killing disc jockeys Doc Brown and Jeff “Free I” Dixon.
Leppo surrendered to the authorities and was sentenced to death. His sentence was, however, commuted in 1995 and he remains in jail. The other two gunmen were never identified by name. It was said that they were killed in a gang war a few weeks later.
Tosh is survived by a son named Joe Tosh.