The son is shining on
Ziggy Marley has followed in the musical footsteps of his legendary father, and he also has the strongest Jamaican accent Brian Boyd has ever heard
As the eldest son of Bob Marley, it’s perhaps no great surprise that David “Ziggy” Marley has twin devotions to reggae music and the herb. Due to play live twice in Ireland over the space of a few days, at the Sea Sessions Surf Music Festival in Bundoran (June 24th to June 26th) and then at Dublin’s Vicar Street (June 27th) he has a new album, Wild And Free out this month and also a new comic book, Marijuanaman. You’ve two big shows coming up in Ireland – what do you know about our country? All I know is I’ve never been before. I think it’s time to show myself! I do know a bit about your history and the struggle in the past. I have this idea in my head that it’s a very picturesque place.
Is your music strictly reggae?
In a sense, yes. But really it’s a continuous evolution of who I am. From the early bands I was in in Jamaica up to now, performing as a solo artist, I see it as my job to bring the reggae sound to new audiences. And I’m updating the sound as well – I think. Keeping it relevant for today’s audiences. The title track of the new album has a lyric about “hemp fields growing wild and free”, which was used in a campaign for legalising recreational marijuana use. How’s that campaign going?
The campaign has progressed a lot – we’ve taken big steps. It’s now accepted by the medical establishment that cannabis can be used for medical purposes – that is a breakthrough. Cannabis had been criminalised and demonised for too long. What the album is about, or parts of it anyway, is trying to get the truth across about cannabis. There’s more to it than just the smoking you know. What’s the comic book about? Or is that a stupid question?
It came out on April 20th [4/20 – a symbolic date for cannabis users]. It’s about a superhero who comes to Earth. His powers are connected to the plant. It’s a sort of a metaphor in that the message there is to use cannabis wisely and correctly. The idea behind it was to take away
the stigma of the plant. The new album is more roots reggae than anything you’ve done before.
It’s quite political and deals with themes of oppression so I felt the roots reggae style suited. I’ve never made radio-friendly music, to me the most important thing is playing the songs live. I’ve been on the road quite a bit and wanted to be able to do all of these songs live without having to use any technological tricks. I want these songs to resonate with people. You’re based in Florida now. How important does Jamaica and its musical culture remain to you?
I get back as much as I can. Jamaica is a huge part of me. I grew up there, it’s a very big deal for me. The music there informed who I am and what I do today How difficult was it as the son of a legend to try and forge your own musical career? My father’s role and status in the reggae world was never going to have any effect on what I did with my life. I was never naive about how important he was to the reggae world but I knew in the very early days that I had to do this on my own. In a sense, I didn’t really have to try with music – it was just a part of me from the family I grew up in. But you do become your own man over time. I really love what my father did for Jamaica and for reggae. I’ve never, ever tried to distance myself from him.
Sea Sessions is in Bundoran from June 24 to 26, seasessions.com. Ziggy Marley plays Dublin’s Vicar Street on June 27