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Reggae must respect its roots

TALENT: Ziggy Marley

MANY LEADERS, academics and historians have preached about the importance of knowing ones history. Perhaps one of the most famous quotes came from Jamaican political leader Marcus Garvey, who said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Also believing firmly in this mantra is reggae star Ziggy Marley. The Jamaican singer and musician and eldest son of Bob Marley strongly believes that some of today’s younger reggae musicians are failing to show the necessary respect to the music’s pioneers.

“There’s too much watching other people and not enough respect for the history and the roots of the music,” Marley says of the reggae industry today. “This is a problem in my culture. We don’t pay enough homage to our roots.

“Within the younger generation of artists, some of them want to forget about where the music is coming from and not use the roots as part of what they’re doing. Some of them believe that they are greater than anybody else that has come before them. But I believe you have to humble yourself and bow down to the ones who paved the way for us. That’s the only way we’re gonna move forward.

He adds: “The reggae music that is loved by people around the world, is the music that the legends created. We are only riding their coat tails and we need to remember that. We didn’t create that legendary music; we’re just continuing it.”

The 45-year-old also feels that some of his peers need to look beyond the reggae fraternity and have a greater understanding of the music industry at large.

Having racked up his sixth Grammy Award at this year’s ceremony (he scooped the best reggae award for his album Ziggy Marley In Concert), Marley’s Grammy success has long been a bone of contention for both reggae fans and critics, many of whom feel that he has only received this continued recognition because he is a Marley and because the Grammys has no real understanding of reggae music.


FAMILY TIME: Ziggy with wife Orly and their three children

Does the prestigious awards ceremony and its voters need to do more research to understand the current trends in the genre?

“I think the genre should do a little bit more research about what’s going on in the music industry at large,” Marley retorts. “I don’t think you can blame the Grammys. I think the next generation of reggae musicians have to expand their consciousness and also respect the history of the music.

“Don’t complain, don’t get upset, just make good music. When you make music, don’t think about Grammys. And whether you win or lose a Grammy, keep the focus on making good music. Let’s put the responsibility on ourselves and not blame anyone else.

“It’s not up to Tom, Dick or Harry to put me where I want to be, it’s my responsibility. So I think the next generation has to take responsibility and stop trying to use gossip as a means to get where you want to be. Just work hard!”

Understandably, the True To Myself hitmaker dismisses the critics who feel that his success has come easily because of the legacy of his famous father.

“I don’t even have to answer that thinking because I’ve done the work and my work speaks for itself.”

Breaking into stronger Jamaican twang, he continued: “Just look at my work, look at my music; how much years?

How much years I work and put into this? So just mek the work speak for itself.”


BACK IN THE DAY: Ziggy as a child with his father Bob Marley

Reflecting on his father, who died in 1981, Marley says he’s never felt it necessary to distance himself from his father musically in order to prove he’s an artist in his own right.

“My intention is not to create my own mark, my intention is to be an artist, without even intending to make a mark. Making a mark is something that can happen naturally, but it’s not something that’s in the forefront of my mind.”

Marley says one thing he shares with father is an indifference about his birthday. Recalling that his dad was never big on such celebrations, Marley says that he and his siblings now continue the trend and don’t do anything major to posthumously mark their father’s birthday on February 6.

“We don’t really do anything; not in any great way,” he confirms. “Even when my father was around, birthdays weren’t really a big thing. I remember one time we did a birthday thing for him; just us as kids and mummy. It wasn’t a big thing. So now that he’s not here, it’s the same thing.

“It’s the same with my birthday; it’s not really something I think about.” He laughs: “There are more important things in life than your birthday!”

One thing that is important to Marley right now is his upcoming new album Fly Rasta. The album’s release will be supported by a tour, which will see the singer touch down in the UK for a one-off show at London’s Electric Brixton on April 23.

“I don’t get to come there [to the UK] very often, so I’m really looking forward to hopefully planting a seed there that will allow me to come there more often.”

Another of Marley’s recent ventures is his new children’s book, I Love You. Inspired by his song of the same name on his 2009 children’s album Family Time, the married father-of-six says he is big on love – but not so much on romance.

“Am I a romantic man? No, I’m a love man,” he laughs. “I’m not romantic; I’m not really into all that. But I am love.”
Would his wife agree?

“Yes, she would! I’m not romantic but I am trying!”

Fly Rasta is out on April 14 on Tuff Gong Worldwide/V2 BeNeLux. Ziggy Marley will perform at Electric Brixton, London on April 23.
For more information visit www.electricbrixton.uk.com

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