Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Ziggy Marley
Ziggy Marley Ziggy Marley

What does it mean to be a member of the Marley family in the 21st Century?

Ziggy Marley should be able to answer this question â as Bobâs eldest son and frontman of the highly successful Melody Makers (alongside Sharon, Cedella & Stephen), a 4 time Grammy winner and gifted musician and producer, Ziggy is perhaps the most well known of all Bobâs prodigious children. Despite currently enduring the rigours of a two-year world tour, Ziggy took the time to talk to Blues & Soul about why love is truly his religion.

Citing his father, Fela Kuti and Miles Davis as his influences, Ziggyâs most recent work is his second solo effort, âLove Is My Religionâ. Written and almost entirely produced by Ziggy, itâs an accomplished album upon which he plays guitar, bass, percussion and piano and, given his label is now family home Tuff Gong, an album on which he had full control. The music is essentially roots reggae inflected with some ska rhythms, with the lyrical focus on themes of friendship, freedom and love, and it is the message in the music that Ziggy is keen to discuss. âReligion has been known to be such a divisive thing,â he begins. âImagine the concept of God or a higher force, if there is so much division within that, how can it serve the people properly? I think that the teachings we have been taught on this journey to God have been wrong. Love should be the teaching of all philosophy of God.â
Despite being a devout Rastafarian, it is clear that Ziggy has no faith in organised religion. âOrganised religion has nothing to do with God, religion is a political tool which uses the concept of God to gain political motives,â Ziggy continues emphatically. âRastafari is not an organised religion, it is a freedom of thinking,â he says in defence of his own beliefs, before concluding: âIt is love that is the only way to fully realise the concept and the philosophy of God. The way to God is love and, until people can grasp that, the world will always be in turmoil.â

That same spirit that incited Bob to write some of his most potent lyrics is perhaps most evident on the track 'Still The Storms', on which Ziggy equates the hurricanes that rage across the American South with the spirits of those who died during the middle passage in the times of slavery. âThese are the spirits of the many, many Africans who were killed during this journey who have not seen justice as yet. And so there is anger within the universe that is causing a lot of negative things to happen,â Ziggy explains. Beyond 'Still The Storms' and the title track, much of the lyrical content on the album is by contrast of a much lighter nature. Opener 'Into The Groove', 'Friend' and 'Black Cat' are all jaunty affairs, blissful reggae rollicks that reflect the kind of sunny, universally appreciated reggae music heard in beach bars from Thailand to Mexico, the kind of music youâd happily let your children listen to. âChildren are whom I make music for,â Ziggy points out. âChildren are the only beings on earth who have an open mind. Theyâve not been corrupted as yet â they are like a new hard drive not been filled yet with information.â

The Melody Makers were almost still children themselves when they first released their debut LP, 'Play The Game Right' on EMI in 1985. Ziggy continued to release his music via major labels up until this album, which he opted to release on family-owned Tuff Gong International. âIt was time for me to own my music,â Ziggy states. âThis was a dream of my father â independent, entrepreneurial thinking. He was a businessman as well as a musician. He was the first one who had a record company in Jamaica, a record store and a recording studio that was artist-owned,â Ziggy continues, also citing the teachings of Marcus Garvey as motivation for his move.

The Marley family remain a tight, cohesive unit, with the majority of releases now coming out on Tuff Gong, most recently Damian and Stephenâs albums. âSolo work is in fact a lesson for me, growing up and leaving the pride, experiencing the jungle and becoming a man on my own,â Ziggy says in reference to leaving the Melody Makers to focus on his own artistry. âAnd it helps me to help my family too. Every now and again, somebody has to leave the pride and see whatâs going on out there and report back,â he laughs.

Despite his solo manoeuvres, Ziggy will remain âalways a Melody Makerâ, and is certainly proud of his younger siblingsâ recent successes. âThat is what we have to give â a message. Something that is more than entertainment, something that can help a person in their day to day living. This is what we do,â he says of the Marleys. âThe good thing about what we call reggae music is that it has a reputation that it brings positive messages, so people can feel uplifted, and that is a good reputation to have,â he muses. Given the legendary status of many of reggaeâs pioneers, it is up to this new generation of young musicians to carry the mantle of their forefathers, in this case forefathers in both the literal and metaphorical sense. âItâs been the hard work of my father, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh⦠it didnât just happen, it was really the sweat and blood of many before me, who made it what it is today,â Ziggy reminisces. âWe are benefiting from their hard work and keeping it going.â

So, what does it mean to be a member of the Marley family in the 21st Century? âI donât know,â Ziggy answers candidly. âI donât look at myself as a Marley, Marley is just a name. Iâm a human being before Iâm a Marley. For me, regardless of the name, love is my philosophy and love is my religion so if you want to put that as what it means to be a Marley, then itâs the love. It means to bring and give people the truth.â And that, one imagines, is what the Marley pride were born to do.

âLove Is My Religionâ is out on June 25 on Tuff Gong/Cookinâ Vinyl

Live Dates:
June 25: Shepherdâs Bush Empire, London
26: Rock City, Nottingham
27: Academy, Bristol
Words Natalie Illumine

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