Ziggy Marley talks about reggae music, studio life, family life and how he views religion
When Caribbean Heritage Magazine (CHM) approached me to do an interview with Ziggy Marley, I was thrilled at the opportunity. My relationship with reggae music began while living in Jamaica in the 1970s. Growing up around the music industry with my Aunt, legendary Jamaican producer Sonia Pottinger, I had the unique opportunity to interact with many artists of that time. Very few of them were as important to me as Ziggy Marley and family.
My first time seeing Ziggy’s father, Bob Marley, perform was at a 1976 Caribbean festival in my hometown of Kingston, Jamaica. Bob had released his eighth album, “Rastaman Vibrations.” He captivated the audience with his songs, but a young David “Nesta” Marley stole the show. Ziggy, as he was nicknamed by his father, moved around the stage like a seasoned veteran. He swayed back and forth to the pulsating drum beats and, like his father, made the audience come alive with his soulful energy. Bob, noticing our reaction, allowed Ziggy to sing a few verses. This was the first time I would hear Ziggy, but it would be far from the last time.
“Well, to me, it is the message in the music that people reflect on. It is the most important thing. Reggae music is a music that brings consciousness and awareness to all people,”-Ziggy Marley
Ziggy Marley, born in Trenchtown, Jamaica, is an 8-time Grammy winner. He views his reggae music as a conduit between the spiritual and physical worlds. Much like his father, the legendary Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley did, Marley wants to bring consciousness and awareness through his music.
If anyone can make a change through song, it’s Ziggy. For as much as he upholds his father’s traditions and values, he has displayed determination to blaze a trail of his own. In 1979, Ziggy formed the group Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, along with his siblings Sharon, Cedella and Stephen. After eight albums with The Melody Makers, Ziggy launched his solo career in 2003 with his debut album, Dragonfly.
Going solo has enabled Ziggy to branch out with his creativity and spread his message about reggae music. Ziggy was not surprised by the recent addition of reggae music to UNESCO’s list of cultural institutions worthy of protection and preservation.
“Well, to me, it is the message in the music that people reflect on. It is the most important thing. Reggae music is a music that brings consciousness and awareness to all people,” Ziggy said.
When asked how he would compare contemporary reggae music to the current dancehall style music, Ziggy laughed and states there is no comparison between the two.
“To me it seems all related. It is a different vibration. I think both styles carry a different spirit. The two styles are separate, but together in a way. You know what I mean? Not much music out there that can really give a message right now. Even though they are separate they are still connected in a way.”
In 2017 The Caribbean Heritage Organization created the Robert Nesta Marley Humanitarian Award in honor in honor of Bob’s spirit of giving and serving the less fortunate. Ziggy’s children, Judah, Gideon and Abraham have been presenters of this annual award. Ziggy is proud that his children are recognizing the actions of their grandparent and wants the focal point to continue to be on that aspect of the Marley name.
“Yeah, mon, the children see things, but we are raising them not to put so much emphasis on your name. It should be more of what your actions are. It is all about leading by example in things. They know the words of the songs and understand the message in the music. That is what is important to us.
Ziggy and I shared our experiences of studio life in Jamaica. He confessed for him current studio life is very lonely, he misses the family like atmosphere. Back in the days there was always a lot of people hanging around. Artist would form little mini jam sessions. “Back in the day we had a whole heap of people and ting and ting. Life was good.” said Ziggy. He continues, “Music is a lot different than when I was growing up. Back then, it was real and it meant something. Today music is great for entertainment but lacking soul.”
When asked who are some of the most important people in his life? Ziggy is not hesitant to say his wife, Orly Agai, along, with his four children: Judah Victoria-13, Gideon Robert Nesta-11, Abraham Selassie Robert Nesta-7, and Isaiah Sion Robert Nesta-2.
In 2004, with Ziggy’s family expanding they moved from their tiny West Hollywood home to their current home in Beverly Hills. This is where Ziggy spends his moments relaxing, recording tracks in his spacious studio, playing soccer, hiking, jogging, and his favorite thing to do, cooking.
His culinary skills and that of his sister, Karen Marley, have led to the success of his cookbook, Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook. The cookbook pays homemage to his Jamaican roots. Contributions for the book were also made from his wife and children. The cookbook has such delicious dishes as: Vegetarian Hash, dumplings, Jerk Chicken, Tofu in Coconut Curry, Fish Soup. I asked Ziggy with all these delicious recipes in his book, what he would consider his favorite Jamaican dish.
“Bwoy, I would have to say ackee an’ saltfish, mon. I actually had some this morning with some green plantain.” he said through laughter.
The singer believes that sharing food is a wonderful way to bring the family together. He is proud to say that all his children are involved in cooking, even young Abraham has gotten in the habit of cooking eggs in the morning.
Ziggy holds that living in a multi-cultural and inter-faith family is no challenge for the Marley family. He shared that while on tour in Tel Aviv last year, the family celebrated daughter Judah’s bat mitzvah. When asked about Judah’s reaction to being in the ceremony as well as growing up in an interfaith household, Marley, who is Rastafarian and his wife, Jewish, says, “My life, how I live, can’t be defined. I don’t want to be defined by what people’s idea of what things are supposed to be. Yes, I am Rasta, but I define myself. When she sees my life, she doesn’t see a Rastafarian, or a Jewish life or whatever stereotypical thing that means. We don’t connect to people’s ideas of what things are supposed to be. We just live how we live. We live with love and this is what she sees.”
Ziggy shared that he has many upcoming projects in the works: another book, and a possible collaboration with recording artist Citizencope.
I look forward to seeing him on one of his upcoming tours and to once again feel like a teen girl in Kingston captivated by the music.
Tour dates can be viewed at http://ziggymarley.com/upcoming-shows