Peter Tosh Museum Opens Today in Reggae Icon's Hometown: 'We Have Barely Scratched the Surface'
The legacy of the late Peter Tosh -- known for an iconic reggae style which melded visceral reggae with unrelenting activism -- has been grandly commemorated with the opening today (Nov. 1) of the Peter Tosh Museum in his home city of Kingston, Jamaica.
The museum hosted a soft launch on Oct. 19, Tosh's birthday, with media and invited guests given the chance to view the museum's exhibitions, photos and artifacts from the revolutionary musician's life. Those include his M-16 rifle shaped guitar -- a gift Tosh received in 1983 from a teenaged fan while on tour in California -- and his Grammy award for Best Reggae Album, awarded posthumously in 1988 for No Nuclear War.
The museum is a partnership between Pulse Investments and Andrea Marlene Brown (Tosh's common law wife at the time of his Sep. 11, 1987 murder) and the Peter Tosh Estate, now administered by Tosh's daughter Niambe McIntosh and managed by music industry veteran Brian Laturre. Located in the capital city's New Kingston business district, the museum was designed by Chicago's Art On the Loose, with Jamaica's Dr. Donna McFarlane as consulting curator.
Several days of Peter Tosh-related activities surrounded the Oct. 19 debut, capped by a commemorative concert on October 22 with marquee Jamaican acts including millennial sing-jay Chronixx, vocalist Luciano, and Tosh' s son Andrew performing Tosh's songs backed by original members of Word, Sound and Power. "My father's name resonates with different people all over the world, lawyers, doctors, Rastas," Niambe observes, "so whatever the estate does has to reflect his vision, and we have barely scratched the surface for the potential of his brand."
A founding member of The Wailers (alongside Bunny Wailer and the late Bob Marley), Tosh was the first artist signed to Rolling Stones Records, unanimously chosen by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Tosh's 1978 debut for the label, Bush Doctor, featured "Don't Look Back," a duet with Jagger, which they performed on Saturday Night Live; in the show's second performance segment Tosh sang "Bush Doctor," its opening words "legalize marijuana" said to be the first ganja championing lyrics broadcast on US television.
Around that time, "Peter had just completed the Mama Africa world tour, he had the hit 'Johnny Be Good' and was the reggae's world ambassador, nobody was bigger," Pulse Investments chairman Kingsley Cooper tells Billboard. "About 15 years ago, Marlene Brown asked me to preserve some of Peter's belongings; some items had been stolen and there was danger of more disappearing, so the museum idea came from that... but it couldn't have happened without the Peter Tosh Estate." Cooper continued: "Tosh had ten children, so there were many negotiations among family members over time, but we signed an agreement in January 2016 and moved forward from there."
"We will be working with the Jamaican government and marketing through various travel and music channels to make the museum part of the country's tourism destinations. We also want to create partnerships with schools so children can learn that Peter Tosh was a powerful advocate for disadvantaged people everywhere," Niambe McIntosh, Peter's youngest child, tells Billboard. A Boston-based educator, Niambe is now transitioning into a full-time role as the Tosh Estate administrator and global brand ambassador, overseeing numerous endeavors including the structuring of the non-profit Peter Tosh foundation, various merchandise and licensing deals and a forthcoming feature film about her father, produced by Cowboy Films and directed by Kevin Macdonald, director of the 2012 Marley biopic.
"Peter Tosh was the original ambassador for the current legalization movement," says Tosh Estate manager Brian Laturre, also Chief Executive Manager of Peter Tosh 420, a joint (naturally) venture between the Tosh Estate and Steven Trenk, CEO of Lizada Capital established to facilitate the movement of legal cannabis. The Peter Tosh 420 brand will include multiple organically grown marijuana strains, cannabis products and ancillary merchandise.
"We are seeking a foundational line of Jamaica ganja strains because we don't want the Jamaican farmer undermined by the capitalization of a natural, agricultural product but what that will look like from the standpoint of import/export depends on future legislation," Laturre states.