The Meaning of Bob Marley’s “Kaya”

As the title track for the Bob Marley & The Wailers 1978 album of the same name, “Kaya” is a lesser-known gem in the vast catalogue of excellent Bob Marley songs. With a rolling organ to create the melody, Bob sings about the rain falling outside, and the need for “Kaya” in his life.

In Jamaica, the word “kaya” is a slang term for marijuana, made even more popular by Bob Marley’s use of it (both the word and the drug). This means that when Bob sings how he’s “got to have kaya, for the rain is falling,” he’s essentially saying that he uses marijuana to cope with the hard times, or the rain that he sees out his window in the morning:

Wake up and turn I loose
Wake up and turn I loose
Wake up and turn I loose
For the rain is falling

Got to have kaya now
Got to have kaya now
Got to have kaya now
For the rain is falling

Intro and chorus to Bob Marley’s “Kaya”

Here, Bob says that he decides to cut loose first thing in the morning, because he woke up and saw the rain. The rain can be metaphorical for the problems in life, which at this point in his life, there were many.

Kaya was the first album released since the melanoma diagnosis that ultimately took Bob Marley’s life just a few years later, in 1981. It followed him taking some time off the road, even canceling the last few shows on his Exodus tour in the summer of 1977. The diagnosis came about after he injured his foot in a soccer match and it never quite healed, prompting him to go see a doctor about it, though the cancer had already been lurking for quite some time.

Marijuana is a well-known treatment to ease the pain of cancer patients, and it’s well-known that Bob Marley used the plant regularly, being a Rastafarian and all. It’s possible that he was indirectly referencing the cancer in this song, when he sings of the rain.

In the verse, we catch Bob after he has already enjoyed his “Kaya,” and he’s feeling good:

I feel so high, I even touch the sky
Above the falling rain
I feel so good in my neighbourhood, so
Here I come again

Verse to Bob Marley’s “Kaya”.

The entire Kaya album shares a lighthearted mood, with mellow songs that don’t touch upon nearly as many political or incendiary topics as some of his other albums. Containing hits like “Easy Skanking” (which is also about weed) and the superhit “Is This Love”, Kaya is simply a fun, laid-back reggae album that is just begging to be played on a sunny beach somewhere, with a spliff in one hand and an ice cold brewski in the other.

Also, if the lyrics don’t give it away, please note the giant pot plant featured on the back cover of the Kaya vinyl pressing.

Kaya (1978) back cover.

Listen to “Kaya” by Bob Marley below.

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