The Good Son
Reggae sensation Ziggy Marley is back in town for a concert this week, still holding true to his beliefs and the lessons his famous father taught years ago
Ask Jamaican musician David Nesta Marley to identify the motivating force behind all that he does and you get the feeling his response would be no different than if his daddy were alive and answering the question himself.
Beyond the music that millions adore and all the accolades he’s received as a result, the man affectionately nicknamed “Ziggy,” or “small joint” by his father – famed reggae musician and cultural icon Bob Marley – says he is driven by a passion for people. It’s the reason the solo artist and leader of the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers continues to rally for the cause of humanity and loudly proclaim to all those who will listen, “Love is my religion.”
For Marley, the idea of affecting people on “a human to human level” is, much like his dangling dreadlocks, so tightly wrapped around his head that he quickly dispels the notion that his philanthropic and activist efforts are anything less than genuine concern for others.
“This is not my work; this is my life,” he says, referring in part to Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), a nonprofit organization he helped found with his siblings and which assists children, particularly from Jamaica and Ethiopia. “This is something that my brothers and sisters have been doing many, many years ago, before there was even an idea of an organization. This is how our parents, our family was brought up. Even the little that my parents had would still be used to help someone if they needed help.
“So this is not about the organization or the bureaucracy of charity,” adds Marley, who earlier this year contributed the cover version of Blowin’ in the Wind on the Bob Dylan tribute album, Chimes of Freedom, as part of an Amnesty International benefit. “This is about a life of respect and love for other human beings. This is who I am as a person.”
Reggae music lovers get to see and hear the five-time Grammy Award-winner in person Saturday evening when he and special guest Inner Circle descend on Aloha Stadium as part of Marley’s “Wild and Free” tour. And true to form, Marley absolutely loves that a portion of the concert’s ticket sales will go to Aloha United Way to help raise awareness about the homeless issue in Hawaii.
“We love to support any charities, especially if they’re local,” he tells me, “and we urge people to always help those people who are around you. We don’t want people to give us anything. But if you help the people who you see, you’re helping us.”
Musical Notes tracked down the Jamaican-born artist noted for such hits as Tomorrow People and True To Myself, and got him to elucidate about his visit to Hawaii and new gig in life, as well as reflect on his father’s last words to him.
MN: Are you excited about this week’s concert at Aloha Stadium? How about visiting with old friends like Jack Johnson and Paula Fuga, who you’ve performed with previously?
ZM: Oh yeah, mon! I haven’t been to Hawaii in a few years and I miss the people and vibe, so I’m looking forward to it. And seeing (Jack and Paula) would be nice. But also the ocean and the beach and trees and the air – all of those are my old friends. Being around nature is my type of environment, you know?
MN: You launched a show on SiriusXM satellite radio’s the Joint last month called Ziggy Marley’s Legends of Reggae. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff was your first guest; drumming sensation Carlton “Santa” Davis, your second. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re just talking to family members when conducting these interviews?
ZM: In a way, yeah. We’re very comfortable talking to each other because, you know, they’ve known me since I was a little boy. And I’m very much enjoying it. I’m learning as I am and hoping that what is being said on the show is passing on some history to listeners.
MN: You don’t consider yourself a political musician anymore, but rather a spiritual musician. Now that you’ve found your purpose of being, do you believe you’re in a good place?
ZM: I’d say that I’m continually learning and trying to be a better human being, a better spiritual being. A good place is a good place, you know what I mean? But there’s no time for complacency – there’s no time to be proud of where I am. Humility is a part of that continual journey toward the betterment of mankind. We’re all right, but we know there’s still a long ways to go.
MN: It’s been more than three decades since your father’s passing. Do you still remember the lessons he imparted?
ZM: Sure. One was just to be careful of who you have around you. My father had a lot of people around him and not everybody was there for good reasons. That’s a good lesson for me. I don’t surround myself with just people; I don’t have an entourage. But if you do come around me, or if you’re in my home or where I am, you have to be there with sincerity.
MN: Your father’s last words to you were, “On your way up, please take me up; on your way down, don’t let me down.” What did those words mean to you back then and what significance do they have now?
ZM: They didn’t mean much to me when I first heard them. But now I think I realize it meant that whatever I do is a part of his legacy. And whatever I do, how I carry myself in this world, should be done in a way that makes him proud. I am a reflection of him. If I go around doing bad things in this world, it reflects badly on my father.
MN: Do you think your father would be proud of the man you are today?
ZM: Sure. I’m living up to my own beliefs, I’m strong in my convictions and I’m true to myself. That is what everyone should be.
THE ZIGGY EXPERIENCE
What: Ziggy Marley’s “Wild and Free” World Tour + Inner Circle
Where: Aloha Stadium Lower Halawa Lot
When: Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: General Admission $45-$65, VIP $85. Tickets available online at Ticketmaster.com and at all outlets, including all area Wal-Mart stores, Aloha Stadium, Blaisdell Box Office or Sports Gear at Windward Mall.