Our Cultural Heritage is G MaG's topical theme for this year, following on from the last journal where we'd dedicated that entire edition to the African Continent and embraced the Caribbean Culture that plays such a significant part of our integrated European lifestyle. And, what with 2007 being celebrated as the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade, we've taken the opportunity to expressively document our musical and cultural heritage from our own perspective. For this very reason, during 2007 and beyond, G MaG will endeavour to bring you the true roots and groundage of our natural source of entertainment, lifestyle and livity - an amiable educational journey which, I'm sure, will be of interest to the youths as well as people from different walks of life.
Of major importance, the Marley train rolled into town again and, as to be expected, it wasn’t carrying any prisoners nor did it tarry to pick up any passengers, it just simply steamrolled its way into music land and we couldn’t help but take note. This time around, the driver was Ziggy who, didn't stop at all and certainly didn't hitch when it came to picking up his Reggae Grammy award for 2007, his fourth. You dun know Bob would’ve been proud! Whilst others had to move out of the way, the only other driver on the King's highway was younger brother Stephen who, boasts a record of five Reggae Grammys and is set to add to that tally when his new set starts to sting. And, as Marley Mania is currently everywhere, we had no choice but to have Ziggy front this edition and yes, Stephen will be driving right behind hijacking our next issue!
So, can we match up the artists with Ziggy Marley's grace of the cover? Sure nuff! His Pop's favourite singer was none other than Dennis Emmanuel Brown and we have here a long overdue special tribute to the 'Crown Prince of Reggae'. And talking of legends, we also pay homage to the late 'Godfather of Soul', James Brown and Jazz maestro, Gil Scott-Heron. Elsewhere, the neon light shines brightly on Neo Soul princess Stacie Orrico, Gospel starlet Sharon St. Louis; Roots vertigo Colin Levy and Europe's newest Reggae advocate Ziggi. There are also Social Commentary pieces, our Lifestyle segments and the regular review columns that you guys needs to check out - it’s enough to have you hooked for more than a day!
Aside from all that though, da big, bad G MaG is now profiling visibly on your TV screens as we’ve hooked up with 'Lifestyle On BEN' to crane the mag all up in your spot! Yow, you positively gots to get you some... yuh dun know!
ROOTS ROCK REGGAE: ‘My Father’s Son’
Photography by Jonathan Nunn
Achieving success as an artist in any field, at the best of times, can be quite daunting and often only realistic for the elite few. The situation is somewhat amplified, to say the least, when the bench mark is already set by your personal mentor and role model who, is also
your father and the world’s very own iconic figurehead [Robert Nesta Marley]. And, when you throw into the mix five other brothers [Stephen, Damian, Ky-Mani, Julian and Rohan] who are equally capable of emulating their father’s unsullied stature then you’re sure to find yourself in an overt and exceptionally competitive musical arena. On the other hand, the said situation undoubtedly provides a fruitful breeding ground for a naturally vibrant and free-spirited expression of self that knows no boundaries. For Ziggy though, music is a pleasant way of life. The only life he has ever known, inherited from musical parents [mother Rita is also a renowned singer in her own right] who had conquered the world with their songs long before he was conceived. Reggae music is the ‘Jones in his Bones’, the ‘Ying of his Yang’ that allows him to create rhythms and melodies that the rest of the world have come to fully appreciate. And, that appreciation was culminated (yet again) this February at the 49th annual Grammy awards show held at Los Angeles’ Staples Centre when Ziggy collected his fourth Reggae gong for his sophomore set, ‘
Love Is My Religion’.
“My music is created to minister to people’s mind, heart and soul. There is never a time when I didn’t feel like doing this and I feel blessed to be doing it. We don’t do this in order to win a Grammy but, I appreciate the award because it will help to promote the message. It’s not about Ziggy, it’s about the music. I’m just fulfilling my duties of spreading a message of love given to me by The Almighty which is to shine a light into the darkness. My purpose is not to be a star but about providing a service so I have longevity in the music business for the right reasons. ‘Love Is My Religion’ is saying that the truth is love and if everyone accepted the truth then they would accept love. I’m passing on a consciousness that I’ve been privileged to see tried and tested and it’s all good – the Philosophy of The Almighty. Love covers everything”.
Hailing from the most famous and productive family in Reggae music history, Ziggy was only ten years old when he first sat in on his father’s recording sessions and, it’s safe to say, he has learnt a thing or two from his dad! Aside from his brothers, his sisters [Sharon and Cedella] also sing and they joined him and Stephen to form The Melody Makers. Ziggy had crafted his own soulful sound blending Reggae with R&B and Hip-hop and, after two decades as the driving creative force behind the group, they’ve now won three Grammy awards - Fallen Is Babylon (1997), One Bright Day (1989) and Conscious Party (1988). Not surprisingly, nearly all the Marley children have won multiple Grammys or have at least one to their credit as a result of working as a unified outfit under the Ghetto Youths International and Tuff Gong record label umbrellas. I guess the accolades more than make up for their Pop’s empty cabinet albeit, the category of ‘Best Reggae Album’ was only introduced into the Grammy ceremony in
1985 - four years after he’d gone to Zion. One can only imagine how many gongs the ‘Tuff Gong’ would’ve claimed had Reggae been inducted earlier or he had lived on!
‘Love Is My Religion’ develops the personal, social and political themes that Ziggy had experimented with on his debut album, ‘Dragonfly’, spicing up his Reggae with African percussion and other flavours. His vast knowledge and skill affords him to take credit for most things on the set including songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Never to be out-dated is the old adage – ‘love conquers all’. So, basically, Ziggy is merely prolonging his father’s legacy in encouraging the expression of love in the messages of his songs. “Positive messages are not readily reconciled. The truth was never popular or accepted. We all have egos but this is a mission and a reality; we can grow as people and have the right mentally but, somehow, we’ll never be as popular as others. I’m not a judge and so I guess the negativity in the other stuff [different music] is fine for entertainment. It’s not the artists’ fault, the whole system pushes negativity. If people are constantly hearing the same songs, bombarded with certain singers then the listener will heed.
People don’t have no control over what’s on the airwaves and the TV and can get soaked into that. If we tried an experiment and bombarded people with love and peace songs then we’d see a different reaction to society as it is now. Every generation has a part to play and The Father will make a way for positivity. People can say much in the media but when someone says ‘love is my religion’, the more they say it with their mouths, the more they will believe it and feel it reverberating in their soul. Other people will eventually believe it also and react to the concept. At the star-studded Grammys, it was really good to have some wholesome Roots music to balance things out a little. This helps to educate people that this is not the world that The Father originally created. Bob sings ‘…. total destruction is the only solution….’ and on my new album, I raise the same social issues in ‘a conversation with the people’”.
Written ‘from every corner of the globe’ with some songs penned during his youth, the ‘Love Is My Religion’ album embraces both the spiritual and emotional side of life. On its twelve tracks, Ziggy showcases his tightly rolled talents as a songwriter (penning all songs), musician (stumming most of the instruments) and producer (mastering all tracks with three co-produced by Grammy winner Ross Hogarth). Ziggy has definitively come into his own as an extemely gifted artist. Opening with the uptempo track ‘Into The Groove,’ he delves into an upbeat meditation of finding one’s self. On the title track, his message is one that ‘people need to hear’, a unifying devotion to love that ‘needs to be preached in the churches, mosques and synagogues’. The need to overcome stereotypes and superstition is the anecdote of the subtle ‘Black Cat’ whilst the romantic ‘Make Some Music’ finds a partner in the mid-tempo ‘A Lifetime’.
Friendship is one of the albums recurring themes whether as the core of romantic love or the connective tissue of global brotherhood. ‘Friend’ and ‘On The Beach In Hawaii’ each offer an
ode to love. In ‘Keep On Dreamin’, Ziggy extends the idea into the spiritual world, reconnecting with his father through dreams. The album’s most political song, ‘Be Free’, implores the listener to reject the manipulating power of fear. Slavery and its continuing effects are explored on ‘Still The Storms’ which, laments the crises in nations like Sudan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone by analogizing the path of hurricanes with the path of slave ships. The album closes with the simple and the complex: an acoustic guitar version of the title track and a bass-heavy, funky mix of ‘Be Free’.
In addition to his unconstrained skills as a singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy is an ardent community activist and has founded URGE (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits a wide range of charitable children’s causes in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing countries. A percentage of all sales goes to these charities and not just a one-off cash injection. On a personal note, Ziggy is a proud family man whose wife had recently given birth to a healthy baby boy, Gideon, his second son. Daniel is his first son and his three daughters are Justice, Zumi and Judah. He obviously plans to transfer the ‘one love’ concept to another generation just like his father had passed it on to him and his siblings. “We have come a long way but, we still have a long way to go. People’s minds needs to be opened to receive the truth. Unconditional love, ultimate love is the key. The Father has opened up doors; it is just a matter for us to enter them”.