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Ziggy Marley: Music with a message

More than 30 years after he sat in on his first recording session with Bob Marley and the Wailers, Ziggy Marley hasn’t lost his drive to succeed.
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"Music is a very influential tool," Ziggy Marley says.

More than 30 years after he sat in on his first recording session with Bob Marley and the Wailers, Ziggy Marley hasn’t lost his drive to succeed.

The eldest son of reggae icon Bob Marley continues to forge ahead, touring and recording in hopes that his music will inspire audiences. “I let it unfold naturally,” Marley, 44, said over the phone this week during a tour stop in Calgary. “But part of me wishes I could find a place, a true place, in the world where the influence of it is seen in a practical way. We sing about peace, and I wish I could sing peace and love and there would be peace and love in this world. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Though he spends his off-hours at home in Los Angeles, Marley is committed to the road. By his own admission, that is where he does his best work. Reggae music is in a difficult place at the moment, in terms of its mainstream appeal, Marley said. Playing concerts is his way of circumventing that roadblock.

“Music is a very influential tool, but because of how the industry [works] — radio and all the other media — it is not always easy to get across the music that we do, our ideas, our messages, to the popular media. That’s why we’re touring. Touring and being on stage is a real way to get our message across.”

Marley is not currently touring with the Melody Makers, the Marley family band he fronted for more than 20 years. After its formation in 1979, the group went on to great success in the reggae world, netting three Grammy Awards, before Marley went solo in 2003.

He won Grammy awards of his own with 2006’s Love is My Religion and 2009’s Family Time. Ironically, the latter album — a children’s recording featuring his mother, Rita, sister Cedella, and daughter Judah — came exactly 30 years after his father produced a similar project of his own.

Children Playing in the Streets, which featured four of Bob Marley’s children — Ziggy, Stephen, Cedella and Sharon — marked the debut of the Melody Makers, who would play at several key gigs right out of the gate. Sadly, one of those was the funeral for the Marley family patriarch, who died of cancer in 1981 when Ziggy was just 13.

Following the death of his father, Marley became something of a mentor to his younger siblings. “It was in a very natural way,” Ziggy said, his manner of speaking uncannily similar to that of his father. “I think it goes beyond [me] being a father figure and me as a human being who acts a certain way. Maybe there are things or traits that my own family see as a good trait, an example by action, an example by how you live. I don’t have a big, convoluted idea of being a father figure, but I am who I am and my personality was influenced by my father and my mother, and they see how I live my life. If that influences them in a positive way, that’s good.”

Marley is currently travelling across Canada in a tour bus with three of his six children on board. Thus far in his career, Canadian concerts by Marley have been rare. He performed shows in Vancouver in 2011 and 2006, but has never performed in Victoria. He will rectify that with a concert tonight at the Royal Theatre. (Marley was booked at the Royal Theatre in 1990 but the date was cancelled).

By exposing his children to different corners and cultures of the world, Marley is hoping to instill in them the same sense of wonder he had as a child.

“Family is the beginning of society, know what I mean? Have a good family structure, ideas and philosophies within the kids, everything starts from that. I want them to have a good education, good morals, good manners and good discipline about how to treat people.”

Marley will head into the studio shortly after his tour wraps in early July. Until then, his top priority is spreading a message of peace.

He chooses to do that through song. While his father dealt with world struggles in a more direct way, touching upon the universality of a cause, Marley writes in a more conversational tone. If his songs appeal to listeners, or move them, Marley feels as if he has succeeded.

“You have a couple different styles of writing,” Marley explained. “There’s one that is commenting on a situation in the world, and there is one that comes from experiences and thoughts. I am coming from what I have experienced myself in life — things I think about, and less a commentary point of view. … It’s about overcoming adversity, problems we face in life. That’s what it’s really about.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

What: Ziggy Marley with Carmanah

When: Thursday, 8 p.m. (doors at 7)

Where: Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.

Tickets: $29.50-$52.50 (plus service charges) at the McPherson box office, 250-386-6121 or rmts.bc.ca

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