The Future Is Now
With his latest release, Ziggy Marley is aiming for the future of reggae.
By Samuel J. Fell
After the initial niceties that come with a short phone interview are dispensed with, I congratulate Ziggy Marley on his recent Grammy win. “Thank you,” he says modestly.
I go on to point out it’s his sixth Grammy win, and so his trophy cabinet must be getting quite full. “Yeah, it’s all right, it’s getting there,” he laughs. The gong was for his 2013 live release, Ziggy Marley In Concert, in the Best Reggae Album category, no surprise.
It’s interesting to note that this category was only added to the Grammys in 1985, and so Marley’s famous father never received one. Having said that, Ziggy, Stephen and Damien Marley have all won multiple times, so it’s not like the most famous name in reggae is going underappreciated. At least not by the establishment, as Ziggy is quick to point out.
“Even if we didn’t win a Grammy, we’d still be relevant, you know what I’m sayin’?” he says in his thick, Jamaican accent. “It’s a good thing, but we don’t need a criteria to validate who we are, or our music.”
It’s a truth bomb, and it explodes all over the sequined dresses, the rented tuxedos and the big hats of all who attended the Grammy ceremony itself. The Marley name, and reggae as a genre of music, doesn’t need awards to validate its success and reach. Just look at how the music – which is of course as much about community and culture as it is about how it sounds – has affected people all over the world.
With this in mind, Marley has since switched from the live frame of mind, to the studio frame, a change which has seen him come out with his latest in a long line of albums, Fly Rasta, due for release later this month. “I knew what I wanted this record to be about,” Marley says, the passion evident in his voice, more than aware of what this music, if done properly, means to so many people.
“I wanted it to be futuristic, in terms of where reggae is today. I wanted to push the envelope, be adventurous, push the borders. I want the songs to be full songs… I wanted them to have emotion, to be alive, to live. I wanted these songs to have arcs, arc up, arc down, I wanted them to live, to be a living thing, you know? So I wanted this futuristic thing… this is reggae, but this is the future.”
In order to look into the future however, Marley in this instance went back to the past. In 1979, as an eleven-year-old, Ziggy and a handful of his brothers and sisters formed The Melody Makers, who despite a debut record which was derided as too pop, went on to record and tour until 2002. It’s with fellow-original MM members Cedella and Sharon Marley, along with Erica Newell, that Ziggy reunites on Fly Rasta.
“Yeah, it’s been a while, but it’s nice,” he smiles on this musical reunion, the first time the siblings have recorded together since 1999’s The Spirit Of Music. “They bring a really special sound to the music [here], really cool and it uplifts the songs. It’s been really exciting to have that back.”
The album itself, which is a booming paean to reggae music in general while indeed reaching to the future via the messages contained within, is being released on Tuff Gong Worldwide, the label Bob Marley founded in 1965 in order to “produce, distribute and promote his music free from the constraints of corporate label politics”, something Marley junior is more than willing and able to continue.
“It’s something that feels good, it’s something I want to do anyway,” he says when asked if this ethos is harder to achieve in this day and age. “This is something that… we have to keep it going. It’s real important to keep to these roots.”
Roots, it seems, and obviously so, are incredibly important, not just for Ziggy, but for all the Marley clan making music today. The legacy of their father, the wide-ranging reach of reggae, the impact Tuff Gong has had on people all over the world. It’s not lost on Ziggy, hence his rabid love and need to continue making this music, paying homage to where it’s come from, but at the same time, pushing it further. Reggae music is in good hands, there’s no doubt.
Fly Rasta will be released on April 18 through Tuff Gong Worldwide. Keep an eye out for Ziggy Marley tour dates, later in the year.