Nowadays it seems Bob Marley’s children are everywhere. While Damian and Stephen continue to climb the hip-hop charts (currently, with Nas on this year’s Distant Relatives), it’s eldest brother Ziggy Marley who’s forging a musical path of a different variety. Following on the heels of his Grammy Award-winning solo release, Love Is My Religion, Marley, himself a father of five, decided to try his hand at something different—something for the kids. The result, 2009’s Family Time, is a collaborative effort that finds him sharing the mike with everyone from sister (and former Melody Maker) Cedella to big-name recording artists like Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, and sometime Santa Barbaran Jack Johnson, crafting tunes that are not only family-friendly, but carefully and thoroughly constructed. It’s kids’ music that mom and dad will want to groove to.
As longtime proponent of children’s causes, Marley seems like the ideal crossover ambassador, and his warm smile and strong, uplifting lyrics only help to seal the deal. This Sunday, October 10, Arts & Lectures brings him back to Santa Barbara for two shows—one a daytime, family event at Campbell Hall, the other a nighttime show at the Arlington. I recently spoke with Marley about the album, the concerts, and his recent trip to South Africa.
You’re playing two shows up here. For you, how do they differ? The first show is for the kids, so we do a lot of the stuff off of the [Family Time] album. I like it, though. I’ve been doing them pretty regularly; I did one at the Skirball Center in New York at NYU in the morning. Parents brought their kids, and we had a good time. It’s fun. I do an acoustic set, not the full-band stuff, so it’s a little different that way.
What prompted the decision to do a kids’ album after the success of Love Is My Religion? I’ve been dipping into this kids thing for all of my career, really, from doing stuff with Sesame Street back in the day to doing the theme song for Arthur. … For most of my life, I’ve felt that I’m guided into things that I should do; it just happens in some weird way. That’s what it was with this album. I felt like there was something pushing me to do an album for kids. My daughter was three years old, and I had just had another child, my son—he was six or seven months old—so everything was right there for me to do it; the kids give me good inspiration. The way I rationalize it is that if what I say about my music is true, then I must have a way to speak to children. If I want to make a change in the world, who better to start with than children, you know?
You’ve got five little ones of your own. I’d imagine music plays a pretty big role in the household. [Laughs.] My life is like a musical. We sing a lot of things instead of talking it. [Sings] “It’s dinner tiiiime, it’s dinner tiiiime.” A lot of our conversations are done through melodies, instead of just talking.
I read that you recently played in South Africa during the World Cup. Yeah, we played a couple of shows. Originally, I was trying to see if someone could get me to go there to do a show, so two of my agents were trying to get promoters interested in doing shows there, and I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t easy, but we kind of decided, well, we don’t care, we’re going to go and do a show there anyway; we’re going to do it ourselves and find some people there to help us do it, find a venue, whatever. So we went there and we started planning. … But the whole premise of the trip was to experience Africa in the historic moment that the World Cup was there. I tried to bring my father’s spirit to be a part of it. That’s what the shows were about, really. It was about him being a part of this experience because he—we both, all of us—love football and love Africa. His music played a big part in the struggles in Africa, so I thought I could be his avatar in a way at this great, historic moment in time. We rode Ducati motorcycles, and we filmed it with the guy who did the Ewan McGregor [project] Long Way Down.
Any plans to release it? Yeah, we’ll put it out there, on TV or something. I think it was good that we documented it because it was fun, but it was also something serious that we were doing in terms of also promoting a message of African unity. We thought [the World Cup] was a great time to kind of reinvigorate the idea of African unity, and also a time to find a way to give Africa its next direction, to make another step. We beat apartheid, we beat colonialism, now we need an economic sort of liberation.
Ziggy Marley plays two shows in Santa Barbara on Sunday, October 10. UCSB’s Campbell Hall hosts an acoustic family show at 3 p.m. The Arlington Theatre hosts a full-band set at 7 p.m. For tickets and info for either performance, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.