Robert Nesta Marley or simply Bob Marley in pop-culture is one of the legends of the reggae world. He’s known for his “No Woman No Cry”, “Buffalo Soldier”, and “One Love”. Raised in Jamaica, he incorporated his beliefs in his songs – from political, cultural, and religious views. This probably touched a lot of listeners around the world that made him so popular even today. One of the most talked about songs of the reggae legend is “Duppy Conqueror” – probably one of his weirdest songs ever. The thing is, it was not Bob Marley who wrote this intriguing song but his colleague Lee “Scratch” Perry. Before we talk about how Lee Perry came up with this song, let us figure out what a “duppy” or a “duppy conqueror” is.
Duppy in Jamaican Culture
Even before Jamaica was known for their music, this country is so rich; culturally and spiritually. The Jamaicans live in two separate worlds – the modern and spiritual world. While they sit back and relax listening to the radio, they are somehow concerned about spirits and anything supernatural. Although Jamaicans nowadays have diverse religious affiliations, most of them still believe in their Jamaican folklores. It might be because it’s already engraved in the roots of their cultural awareness, or preserved in a modern way. Either way, it’s an interesting topic that intrigues the world most of the time.
Identifying the origin of the term “duppy” is quite difficult since it has been used by Africans for a long time. In the study of African language, this term has two meanings – a spirit or a child, which depends on a group or region. In Jamaica, the term revolves around the cultural spirit lore that might be a soul of a dead person that can be human in form, a supernatural being that’s associated with the dead, or soul of a dead person that manifests in different types of animals or beasts. Jamaicans believe in the concept of multiple souls, where a human being is composed of two different souls – the good (one that reaches the heavens), and the “duppy” (one that can get away from the coffin and form into different shapes).
Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Duppy Conqueror
Now we know something about the term “duppy”, we can already incorporate it to Bob Marley’s song – “Duppy Conqueror”. It’s not really surprising for Bob Marley to perform this song since he’s also known for his Rastafarian movement – the roots of reggae music. The question is: how did he come up with this song?
Bob Marley once said that he had an evil spirit that haunted him most of the time. This spirit or “duppy” (that actually came from his own body), will always try to defeat you as a person. They will enter a dream – which is actually considered bad luck in Jamaica. Bob Marley added that the spirit who that haunted him stopped because he was able to conquer it – this might be the origin of the title “Duppy Conqueror”. This supports the story about Lee “Scratch” Perry into composing this song because Bob Marley was so tired about his profession. Lee knew that it was an evil spirit but Bob was able to conquer.
The Modern Day Term
The term “duppy” has passed through time and still used nowadays as a slang term for being attacked or killed. You can say, “He got duppyed” if you want to say something about a man getting killed from a gang fight or accident. It can also be used as a derogatory term for white people since it came from an African culture. Sometimes, it is used as a slang term for a ghost you see in TV shows or movies – although most of the time, it’s incorporated with something supernatural in the modern world.
As for the song “Duppy Conqueror”, it still reached the four corners of the world and revived into a different beat of reggae music. The reggae band “The Wailers” – which once been lead by the reggae legend, “The Gladiators”, and other popular bands have kept this song alive and possibly be one of the immortal songs of BoB Marley. If you’re haven’t hear about this song, it’s really great to listen to in a hot summer weekend getaway with your friends!