ROOTS ROCK REGGAE: ‘My Father’s Sons’ - The Marley Legacy Rides On
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) at the 49th annual Grammy awards show 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!
Son of Bob Marley, brother of Damian (Junior Gong) Marley and writer and producer on five Grammy winning records, finally stepped out on his own with the release of his debut solo album ‘Mind Control’. The album featured collaborations with Damian, Mos Def and Ben Harper among others and was released via Tuff Gong International; it included the massive single ‘The Traffic Jam’ featuring Damian. If you think you don't know the music of Stephen Marley, you do, you just don't realize it. A member of the celebrated Marley sibling group ‘The Melody Makers’ since the age of seven, the Grammy winning producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has also been the driving creative force behind the music of his brothers. Stephen’s production, performance and writing credits on Damian’s hugely acclaimed ‘Welcome To Jamrock’ album, had earned him two Grammys, giving him a total of five: more than any other Marley family member or Reggae artist in history.
Born in 1972, the second son of Bob Marley, Stephen was dancing and singing onstage during his father and The Wailers’ live shows by the time he was old enough to walk. As a young boy, he stayed at home where he would shadow his father, mimic his speech and quickly fall in love with such future Reggae anthems as ‘Lively Up Yourself’. At seven, he began learning guitar and in 1979, he made his official debut when he, Ziggy, Cedella and Sharon, collectively known as ‘The Melody Makers’, released their first single, ‘Children Playing In The Streets’ followed in 1985 by their debut album, ‘Play The Game Right’. Over the next decade, the group would follow in their father’s footsteps, racking up Grammy awards and bringing conscious songs and one-love rhythms to every corner of the globe.
In addition to recording his debut album, Stephen labored in the studio serving as the secret weapon behind both of Damian's past two Grammy winners as well as behind the Ghetto Youths International and Tuff Gong imprints. In addition to executive producing the lauded, star-studded tribute to his father, ‘Chant Down Babylon’, his production skills can be heard on albums by Buju Banton, brothers Julian and Ziggy, Spearhead, Eve, Erykah Badu, Capleton and Mr. Cheeks. He’s performed as a vocalist, percussionist or guitarist on albums by all the above as well as albums by Eric Clapton and others. He continues to work on new music for all of his brothers. If they felt it important to carry on theirfather’s legacy, it’s not something that Stephen or his brothers think much about anymore. “That work has been done. We are the legacy now”.
Cedella Marley, born in Kingston, Jamaica on August 23, 1967 is the first daughter of Reggae superstar Bob Marley and Rita Marley. Her musical career began when she played in her brothers’ group Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers but now she is the CEO of Tuff Gong International, the record label started by Bob. A wife and mother of three, she’s also a children’s book author with two new books scheduled for release in 2011. Her work includes ‘Boy From Nine Mile’ and ‘Three Little Birds’, a vividly illustrated story based on the timeless song written by her father. In addition to music and children’s literature, Cedella is a clothing designer, harnessing her creative energy into the fashion world. Her brand, Catch A Fire, named after her father’s first album, encompasses a tailored bohemian style with vivid colours and prints.
Cedella Marley Design (CMD) is dedicated to collaborating with brands to create lifestyle items ranging from custom knit and woven wearable pieces to home furnishings and accessories. Through collaboration, CMD has the ability to fuse a unique aesthetic and reach a broad and diverse audience while still maintaining an eclectic boutique vibe. Cedella who, currently lives in Miami, continues to tour with The Melody Makers internationally and perform on numerous TV shows, having also had a very fruitful acting career with films like ‘Third World Cop’ adding to her burgeoning résumé. In February 2011, it was announced that she would design the kit for the Jamaican track and field team at the 2012 Olympics including world champion Usain Bolt, under an arrangement with sports giants, Puma. She described her vision for the outfits as ‘Grace Jones meets my Dad - very musical inspired and a bit retro’.
DAMIAN 'JUNIOR GONG' MARLEY
Damian Marley was just two years old in 1981 when his father, Robert Nesta Marley went on to Zion. How he became known as junior to the tuffest Reggae artist of the time – the genre’s most reputed Ambassador, Soul Rebel, Rastafarian, Jamaican by birth, and Tuff Gong – is surreal. “He was about 11 years old when I became his first manager”, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, an MP in Jamaica and former Specs/Shang manager explained. “As a matter of fact, I managed Damian and his mother Cindy”. According to the music insider turned politician, Damian said 'he wanted to be known as Junior Gong and always knew what he wanted to do’. And with Shabba Ranks, Bounti Killa and Cobra signed to her management team, Damian had plenty of Reggae dons to watch.
The last of the Marley sons seemed the most privileged. Borne to a society ranked by Downtown and Uptown class distinctions, the junior Gong also claimed privilege from a mother who was crowned prettiest in the entire world by an international panel of judges in the 1976 Miss World beauty contest. This Gong was not about to roam the streets of Downtown Kingston though. Uptown was his territory. Through his early years, this Marley son yearned for his own station. His mother, Cindy Breakspeare might have hoped for everything for her first born. Perhaps like other Uptown moms, she might have dreamed of a barrister named Marley. But without dissent, in his teen years, Junior Gong was already mounting a profession with his own sound board and makeshift recording studio... and the rest, as they say, is history!
Don’t let the uncanny resemblance to the legendary Robert Nesta Marley fool you, nor the voice that has been acclaimed for sounding most similar to that of his late father. And, although his unmistakable writing style has Bob’s imprint stamped all over it; on-stage, his movement and presence appears to come straight from the ‘Marley School of Music’; despite all these similarities, this multi talented, highly spirited Ky-Mani, is not your typical Marley. First of all (like Janet Jackson and others), he uses his first name only – ‘Ky-Mani’ – preferring not to make himself known just for the sake of the ‘Marley’ family name. One will, however, observe that he has a tattoo of his old man stamped on his upper arm as a permanent reminder of the father and icon he will never forget.
Ky-Mani Marley is a self-confessed easy-going, simple man. With a soft, soothing voice, his manner is relaxing making one feel as if conversing with an old friend. “I’m not really into the limelight too much. I remain very focused as far as work is concerned but I really enjoy playing football and spending time with my kids”. He was born in Falmouth, a small town just outside of Montego Bay in Jamaica. Whilst growing up, he spent time with Bob & Rita [Marley] and his other siblings which, set the foundation for the close bond that he now shares with his six brothers. In 2000, Ky-Mani re-released his debut album ‘The Journey’ in the States. He had previously released the Reggae-Pop cross over album two years earlier in Jamaica. But with the inclusion of the inspiring hit single ‘Dear Dad’, the album soared up various Reggae charts and was well received from fans of his father’s work. This catapulted the second youngest of Bob’s offspring into the spotlight as the ‘Marley’ that up until now, not many people had really heard about.
It was 1996 when Julian released his first album, ‘Lion In The Morning’ and he has since toured the world, both as a solo performer backed by his Uprising band and as a member of Ghetto Youths International, the young Marley’s conglomerate - his brothers never stray far from his mind. Lightyear Entertainment/Tuff Gong was the forces behind his first album and responsible for the distribution of this venture. Julian, who wrote all of the tracks, moves through different genres of music on the set and each musical flava is distinctively different from the other creating a magical musical melting pot. “We included different styles of music on the album, from Roots Reggae through to Jazz, Folk, Latin and Hip-hop, as sometimes the inspiration hits you like that. When you’re writing songs, you feel different things so we just let the natural vibes flow and it all adds to the creativity”.
Comparing each song to a different day with a different feeling, the song ‘Build Together’ is sent out as a plea for humanity to work together and build together - something that Julian believes to be extremely important for our survival. He consistently proves this point in his relationship with his brothers and their Ghetto Youth label where, over the last few years, they have been responsible for outstanding album releases such as the 1999 platinum seller ‘Bob Marley: Chant Down Babylon’, a combination of popular Hip-hop artists covering Bob Marley’s classics or in Lauryn Hill’s case (thanks to digitally-enhanced modern technology) singing alongside the eminent, prolific musician. His involvement in ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ album and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley’s successful Reggae Grammy award winning set ‘Halfway Tree’ were all production projects that he has added to his resume and has helped him mature as an artist. The high quality production work by the team that includes Julian, Damian, Stephen, Rohan, and Ky-Mani Marley, is evident in all that they do.
Born in the UK, the young Marley listened to a lot of Studio One Reggae whilst growing up such as the Upsetters then moved on to more modern Reggae compositions. England’s Pop music ambassadors such as Sting and The Police, the Rolling Stones and other different musical influences followed closely behind and inspired him as a growing musician and singer. As if that was not enough to keep him occupied, his skills go beyond singing and producing as he also plays keyboards, guitar, drums and bass guitar. A multi talented individual who finds this input a mere extension of his realms of music which he enjoys all aspects of. For him music is life, life is music and both are natural blessings from above. His devotion to a life of music goes above and beyond the average entertainer as his lyrics reflect his dedication to spiritual upliftment and social change.
MORE MARLEYS SOON COME....