The multiple Grammy winner talks about his latest CD, “Fly Rasta,” and his debut children’s book.
Musician Ziggy Marley
Tavis: Six-time Grammy winner, Ziggy Marley, brings a complicated legacy to his music. There is the reggae sounds which dominated his childhood.
Of course, his father Bob Marley’s iconic presence, his mother’s continuing commitment to political change and his own immersion into the Rastafarian culture while Ziggy has forged his own path.
All of this comes into play in his latest CD. It’s called “Fly Rasta.” Let’s take a look at a clip from the CD, “Don’t Wanna Live on Mars,” a love song in fact to planet earth.
Tavis: I mean, you’re always saying something with your music. But on this CD, you are really saying something.
Ziggy Marley: [Laugh] Yeah. I mean, that song, “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars,” is kind of environmental, a message of love to the planet earth, you know. I think it’s important that, with global warming that’s going on, we need to like take a more urgent stance on the environment and make it be a priority.
Tavis: Yeah. What’s made it such a priority for you? Again, you always have something to say in your music. But my sense is, as I listen to this project, that you’re becoming ever more conscious about the world.
Marley: Yeah. I mean, it’s just good because I do a lot with the earth. I grow food; I’m a farmer, so I grow my own food. So I’m in touch with the planet. I’m in touch with the earth in that way. I just feel like we’re not taking it serious enough.
Like the world is not focused enough on this issue which will be pretty detrimental and is becoming more detrimental as time goes on and we’re not in it, you know. So that’s what that’s about.
Tavis: Yeah. I opened up this CD – I’ll put this book down. I’ll come back to your book in a second. I opened up this CD and this little thing kind of fell out. I don’t know, Jonathan. Jonathan, can you get – there you go. Dave, love a good camera guy. So this little cutout of the world sort of fell out of the CD, but what is this actually?
Marley: It’s a world full of seeds that you can plant.
Tavis: So you could actually plant this?
Marley: Yeah. The instructions are in the CD that tells you how to plant it, you know.
Tavis: You really are trying to save the world [laughs]. I mean, I’ve opened up CDs and had a lot of things fall out, but never wildflower seeds.
Marley: Yeah. I mean, that way, kind of get people – I mean, get them back having a relationship with the earth, with the dirt, with the planting that will hopefully make them be more aware of it, you know.
Tavis: How do you – I’ve asked this question before of other artists, but not of you, I don’t think. But it seems appropriate to ask, given what this project is all about.
How do you talk about these kinds of serious issues, global warming, climate change, even the issue of love? I mean, artists always talk about love, but you talk about love of planet. How do you talk about these issues and make it sexy, give it a beat?
I’ve heard of comedians, a friend of mine in particular, who tells a joke that you can sing anything to reggae. It don’t really matter what you’re saying ’cause the beat and the groove is gonna get you moving anyway [laugh].
How do you take a song lyrically that’s saying something and not make me sound like you’re preaching to me?
Marley: Yeah, you have to be creative with it. And it’s like that was one of the things I thought about when I was writing that song in particular. In general, the whole album, you have to be creative. You have to think outside of the box and you have to just use your imagination, metaphors and things like that.
It’s imagination, really, and I still have that kind of fascination with everything around me. I’m like a child, you know. My imagination is still strong, so I’m able to create words and songs based upon, you know, that and using that as a foundation.
Tavis: Is that innovative, creative imagination, insightful imagination that you have, is that a gift? Is that something your mom and dad just gave to you, bequeathed to you that you have nothing to do with? Or is it something you have nurtured and fostered? Or both?
Marley: No, I think I was born that way. You know, when I was growing up, I used to spend a lot of time in the woods and the oceans just by myself. So I think, I don’t know, I think I’m just born with that kind of imagination, that kind of fascination with nature and things and thinking about how things work.
I’m very inquisitive. My mind is like I want to know how things work. As a child, my grandfather would give me a guitar. He would give me his old guitar that was like special to him. I would take it apart and he would be mad [laugh]. Why? I just wanted to see how it works [laughs].
Tavis: But could you put it back together, though?
Marley: No [laughs].
Tavis: Well, I see why he got mad at you.
Marley: Yes, exactly.
Tavis: Taking it apart isn’t the problem, but can you put it back together [laugh]?
Marley: That was why he was angry with me.
Tavis: Yeah, I see why, Ziggy, I see why. Speaking of your grandfather and your father, this lineage you have, I read an interesting quote from you not too long ago. And I never really thought of it in this way, but leave it to you to always make me think and see things a little differently, which I appreciate.
You said in certain parts, including the U.S., for example, your father is regarded as an artist, an artistic genius, to be sure, but an artist. There are other parts of the world where he’s seen as a liberator, as a freedom fighter, as…
Tavis: What makes that difference? What’s that distinction about?
Marley: I think it’s the different experiences of people in different parts of the world and what they went through.
Obviously, my father’s music, for some it’s entertainment. But for people, especially in Africa, who went through certain struggles and used the music not as an entertainment thing, but as a thing to overcome all these terrible obstacles, whether it apartheid, Colonialism, they see Bob in a whole different light, you know.
So I think it’s the experiences of different people that give them a different point of view on him and his music.
Tavis: As you get older, does the way you see your father, the prism through which you look at your father, does it change? Has it changed as you’ve aged?
Marley: Yeah. I mean, not just the age, but as I grow as a person and as my consciousness grows. I see no more of we’re a brotherhood. I see him as we’re in the same kind of gang and we have to see him boss. We’re under the same management, working in the same company, you know.
And we’re under the same management which is something spiritual, you know. So, yeah, I think of him as a brother now. I see him more as a brother. Still my father, but it’s a brotherhood, you know.
Tavis: I take that. The subject of love, I think, for any artist, any gifted writer like yourself, the subject matter is in and of itself inexhaustible. You can always write about love.
But, again, as I listen to your stuff over the years and listen to what you’re writing and the stuff you’re putting out, I’m hearing more and more of this notion of love in a variety of platforms, love for planet, love for your wife, love for your kids, love for humankind, brotherhood.
Tell me why this theme of love is, to my mind, to my ear at least, appearing more and more and more in your work.
Marley: It’s true. I mean, when I look back on some of my earlier works, I had noticed that I was doing it. I noticed back in the day, I kept writing songs about love. Love is only allowed to be, and if there’s no love in your heart, there’s no hope for you.
I’m kind of realizing my own self, now understand myself, no reason why am I doing this. Why is this such a big part of my songwriting and my consciousness? I mean, it’s something spiritual and there’s something inside of me. There’s love inside of me. There’s a lot of love inside of me and this is the real love.
I think I’m influenced by the teaching of Yeshua, Christ. I’m influenced by Buddha and all of these philosophies and it comes back around to love for me. I don’t know. Love is just something that is – I have this love, you know.
Tavis: Do you think that music – we were talking earlier about the impact that your father’s music had and still has on people who were fighting for liberation, fighting for freedom around the globe.
Do you think that music, yours or anybody else’s, in this contemporary moment is still pregnant with the kind of power to change the world?
Marley: Well, it is. I mean, it is and we have experienced it in different cultures. As American pop culture, it was the old hip-hop changes. You know, people start dressing – so it definitely has the ability to cause change. But it depends on what the message is. It can be bad too.
I mean, it can be a change of materialism and sex and money and goal and all of that, or it can be a change of love for one another, consciousness. What the issue is, is that what is permanent in the popular culture today, what the message is in the music.
It still has the ability, but what is being promoted more than the next thing. If artists had sung a song about peace and love and unity, will that get as much air play as if it’s about my girl and my thing? So that is where the issue lies.
The pull of music still exists. The issue lies in if the artist is able to sing something with meaning, will it get the same treatment as something that is just for entertainment value?
Tavis: Well, we won’t talk about that [laughs]. What we will talk about, though, since I law saw you, since you were last in this chair, you cranked another book out. This one’s called – speaking of love – “I Love You Too.” I love this. You’re on this book-writing thing, man. Tell me about his one.
Marley: “I Love You Too” is a book for, you know, it’s family. It’s for kids. It’s based upon a song that I had on a kid’s record, family time. The song and the words were written during a exchange with me and my daughter.
She was in the kitchen one day. She was doing some coloring and I went in there and she just looked up at me out of the blue and said, “I love you.” I was like, “Hey, I love you too.” And so we created these words and the song and now it’s a book for kids and family.
Tavis: Ziggy’s a busy man [laugh], not resting on his legacy or his laurels. His latest CD is called “Fly Rasta” with some good stuff on it. And you want to get your little seeds. Be careful now when you open it up and the seeds fall out ’cause you want to plant that and help save the planet.
Thank you for that, Ziggy. And his latest children’s book is called “I Love You Too” written with his daughter as inspiration. Ziggy, I love you, man. Always glad to have you on this program. Thanks for coming by to see us.
Marley: Respect, man.
Tavis: Respect to you, my friend. That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.
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