Meet the Marleys

Ziggy and Stephen Perform on Their Father’s Hallowed

By Matt Kettmann

Photo---Marley---chair.jpgOn Friday, August 11, the Roots, Rock,
Reggae tour brings Ziggy and Stephen Marley, as well as Bunny
Wailer and Ozomatli, to the Santa Barbara Bowl for a night to
celebrate the musical legacy of Bob Marley. (Incidentally,
another Marley man named Damian comes to the Bowl next Tuesday and
Wednesday, August 15 and 16, as the opener for Ben Harper.)
anticipation, both Ziggy and Stephen spent some phone time with The
Indy. What follows is a short piece on Ziggy and a Q&A with

Ziggy’s Evolution

Though born David Nesta Marley, the world knows him simply as
Ziggy, the nickname he was reportedly given by his legendary father
Bob as a nod to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, a peace-and-love
rockstar who comes to Earth and gets ripped apart by his fans. The
firstborn of Marley’s children, Ziggy, 37, began playing music with
his father when he was 10 years old. In 1979, he joined brother
Stephen and sisters Cedella and Sharon as background singers for
the Marley song “Children Playing in the Streets.” The siblings
became known as the Melody Makers, played at their father’s funeral
in 1981, and then cut albums that eventually won them Grammys due
to such hits as “Tomorrow People” and “One Bright Day.” A few years
ago, Ziggy went solo and dropped an album with RCA. But after that,
“we parted ways and I didn’t even think about looking for another
record deal.” He was disillusioned with the big companies,
explaining, “It’s not about art anymore, it’s business … a lot of
artists are being stifled by the record companies who put them on
the shelf and that’s it.”

Instead, he wanted to be independent. “I wanted to own my own
masters,” said Ziggy. “That was the dream of my father and it has
come to be my dream also … I want to be as free as I can get with
my music.” So he made his latest album Love Is My
Religion — producing, playing most of the instruments, writing and
singing it all — and took the road rarely traveled: He signed a
deal with Target — “yeah, ‘Tarjay,’ ” Ziggy joked — that made the
budget mega-retailer the sole seller of Love Is My Religion
(other than the Internet, of course).

WK13000-R1-005-1.jpgWhy? Target gave Ziggy the “most freedom
and most rights.” Plus with CDs fetching $15 and up these days,
Ziggy explained, “I’m happy that Target could sell the CD at an
affordable price (of about $10). They have a good business
ethic.” Though proud to see his father’s legacy cross the world,
Ziggy — who has worked with the United Nations and helped found the
Ghetto Youths Crew label for young musicians — doesn’t necessarily
see reggae as inherently revolutionary. He explained, “I just make
music because my inspiration is to make music. I’m not thinking
about politics and the state of reggae and my responsibility in
reggae.” Yet at the same time, Ziggy knows the force that music
has, especially for the oppressed, whom he supports with
humanitarian causes in Jamaica, Ethiopia, and other downtrodden
countries. “Music is something that uplifts the spirit,” he said.
“Even the slaves used to sing, even during the worst of times.
Music has always been that type of instrument that uplifts us out
of physical oppression.” But he also knows that music is about
having fun too. When asked if he was excited for his show at the
Bowl on Friday, Ziggy replied, “Ya mon, it be the summer of love

Stephen Marley, in Conversation

Stephen Marley was born on April 20, 1972. He began playing
music with his father when he was 6 years old, which may explain
why his voice is a dead ringer for Bob’s. Since then, he’s lived
the life of a Melody Maker, enjoyed increasing success as a
producer (namely on the hip-hop meets Bob Marley album Chant Down
Babylon and last year’s Welcome to Jamrock, by brother Damian), and
gone solo, with an album called Mind Control due out soon. He
offered some thoughts from his recording studio in Miami.

Do you see reggae music as having a mission to be political and
revolutionary? I guess life itself has many pieces and reggae music
depicts life as a whole. And within that, there are political
aspects, and spiritual aspects, and social aspects. It’s not binded
by one particular thing. It’s just political music? No.

Some of the albums you’ve produced have an urban edge. Is reggae
going in that direction? Not necessarily do I see it going in
there. The youths of today who are influenced by hip-hop, back in
the old days it would have been Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. I
see the influences of today in reggae, but I wouldn’t necessarily
say it’s heading in that direction. … I like that music also. Being
around music all my life, I wasn’t subjected to one type of music.
It was a variety of music, so, ya know, that’s the influence of our

So has reggae broken into the urban American scene? Yes, very
much so. It was not easy, but it’s consistently good music coming
from Jamaica, and it just break through and people like it.

You sound so much like your father. Do you feel him speaking
through you at all? Yes man, definitely. Let me put it to you this
way: I have my children and I see me speaking through them. I don’t
say [do it] this way or that way. It’s what’s in the blood. It’s
not a conscious thing that I could say. There’s some spirit

What can we expect at the Bowl? On this tour, well, this is
Roots Rock Reggae tour; to me, it’s a celebration of my father and
the music, you know what I mean? So you’re get a lot of Bob and
some of me.

How’s it playing with Bunny, one of your dad’s original band
mates? It’s great. It’s the essence of those days. You get the
essence of the 1970s and that time, that time comes back again.

How does it feel to have your dad being embraced by people all
over the world? I have a lot of pride and gratitude and
gratefulness to be able to be mentioned with such a man.

Will you and your siblings leave as great a legacy? That is the
beauty of this family: We understand that together was can conquer,
but if we divide, then you’re just gonna get pieces.

4•1•1 The Roots, Rock, Reggae tour comes to the
Bowl on Friday, August 11. And next Tuesday and Wednesday, Damian
Marley comes to the Bowl as an opener for Ben Harper. Visit


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