It’s been over twenty years since the legendary Bob Marley’s eldest son, Ziggy, got together with his brother Stephan and sister’s Sharon and Cedella to form The Melody Makers. But it has been two decades worth of growth and good music worthy the late Marley’s name. Though, to be honest, it took the family a while to garner the respect and acclaim they were born into, three Grammy-winning albums and plenty of critical acclaim later, has Ziggy continuing to spread his musical wings and explore the truth in his own style. In a first step toward establishing Ziggy Marley’s own legacy, the number one son has released his first solo album Dragonfly. The highly anticipated album may, at first, seem like a slight departure from the roots of the Marley camp, but according to Ziggy, the truth is never far from the core.
“Music is about exploration,” states the melody maker in a recent interview. “I’m a musician, so I’m a leader…I must lead the people with the music. I never steer away from the truth, ya know? I’m being true to myself and being me, and the people can tell.”
Among the varied voices that have helped Ziggy craft this compelling record are Flea and John Frusciante, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also, Incubus’ DJ Chris Kilmore, as well as guitarist David Lindley help the man flesh out his musical vision. Ziggy says there was no real strategy used when choosing his collaborators, but rather that “I got together with different musicians, people who wanted to create music. Flea and them were cool, ya know? We just got together and played.”
And the result is an album that, though rooted in the Reggae vibe of Marley’s ancestry, often has rock resonance and pop sheen. This shouldn’t detour his loyal fans, though, and might well garner him new ones. For, as he says, the foundation is still the basis for what he does. “I did this record because I had a need to create, ya know? To keep things new and fresh for me. But, the important part is the message: Truth and love. That will always be a part of it.”
And, drawing from influences as vast as Dennis Brown, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder and others, as well as his father, whose recording sessions an impressionable ten-year old Ziggy got to sit in on, it should come as no surprise that he can flirt outside the genre, while keeping the essence, the music true.
This is seen best on one of his own favorites “True To Myself”, where Marley addresses these concerns head-on. Also, “Get Out”, a funky rock styling that sounds like it could have been written for Lenny Kravitz, where he espouses his distaste for people who would try and keep an individual in a box. “Working on my own gave me a chance to put forth my individuality,” Marley remarks. “It’s just me and what’s going on in my head. This record has strong messages that come directly from being true to myself and what I feel.”
Among these message: his attempt to address the issue of environmentalism, in the title track Dragonfly—where, through the eyes of the insect we see what humans have contributed to, or rather, taken from nature; his spiritual and political views are delved into on the hard-rocking “Shalom Saalam”, which addresses the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, while “In The Name of God”, attempts to put religious fervor and teachings into their proper perspective. Getting personal, “Rainbow” rides a rather smooth, traditional reggae groove that sets the stage for its empowering lyrics, just as the slow methodical rhythm of “Melancholy Mood” is almost hypnotic in its meditative reflection.
Ziggy sights family as very important in everything he does. He promises that this is just a sidebar to continuing projects with his siblings. “We took a break for a little bit, but we’ll always be together.” The love and bond he has shared with his family has been strong one and he says that his father instilled this, he “ is always an inspiration.” This holds true for the music, which he creates not merely because he wants to but because it is a part of him, a part of his being—he’s been doing this since he was 13 years-old, and that has also been what’s kept him vibrant and relevant business that is not known for its longevity.
“[This is] the essence of what we do. Our father worked hard, so it’s not about the money. It has never been about the money. Other artists don’t [necessarily] have that freedom. So that has allowed us to just be about the music. To just create what is true to us, without worrying about anything else. It’s the heritage and integrity, ya know?”
This Kingston native has kept the vibe alive for two decades and continued to carry his father’s torch. Now he is lighting his own, and I believe his father would be proud. Ziggy Marley spreads his wings this Thursday, August 7 at 32 Bleu in Colorado Springs.