The earth spins at different speeds. And there’s a settled sense that everything that happens in Jamaica happens very slowly.
‘Jamaican time’ is as established and respected as Greenwich Mean Time and it might just clock in even slower than ‘African Time’, which can be a tad sleepy.
Ziggy Marley, however, is a machine of accomplishment. Bob Marley’s oldest son has six children, and as many Grammys, celebrating his work in music, children’s fiction and philanthropy. Being such a ray of positive light, Clash asked Ziggy for the secret to his bounce. In response, he made us a playlist of his favoured morning anthems with which to kick his day into action.
“Everyone’s got to get up in the morning!” Ziggy affirms. “That’s the first thing we have to do, to achieve our goals, so it’s like no matter what is going on, I still have to get up - even if it is the most positive thing I do in the day it’s still something, y’know? Getting up, getting out of bed.”
The evergreen singer then whips us through his selection: “I like James Brown and I like his energy, so that’s a good morning thing to wake up with - that energy. Toots [And The Maytals] is a jolt of reality. Sade is my call to action. Then one song by mother Rita Marley is ‘Thank You Jah’, because each day you need to give thanks. Then we have some Stevie Wonder, Pharrell and Fela Kuti. Oh, and Delroy Wilson’s ‘Try Again’ - “If you don’t succeed try again, try again,”” Ziggy sings.
His last album, ‘Ziggy Marley In Concert’, won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album, and his latest, ‘Fly Rasta’, features U-Roy on vocals, the man credited with inventing toasting, and therefore rap and hip-hop.
He’s also just finished his latest kids book, 'I Love You Too', and has teamed up with a charity to offset the carbon from his global tour to help kids rise from poverty.
Clash pinned the star down to discuss being a better singer, what his old man would think of his tunes, and why he’s freaking out US Customs by hiding seeds in his album sleeves.
You collaborate with a lot of people on ‘Fly Rasta’ - who surprised you the most?
Well, I had a lot of musicians collaborating, but as a vocalist we had U-Roy to assist and other musicians. U-Roy was for me the legend in all music and someone that I look up to. He’s on the title track ‘Fly Rasta’, which he opened up to jam with us. I think he still sounded fresh, it was all fresh. His energy hasn’t died, it’s mad; he just sound the same, he still have a fresh energy.
U-Roy was one of the first toasters wasn’t he?
Yeah, yeah, he was the founder of rap, all that stuff.
What would you say was the most significant thing that you learnt making ‘Fly Rasta’?
I think the thing I’ve learnt from this album is that I’ve learnt to be a better songwriter and be a better musical arranger, because I worked with [producer] Dave Cooley on the record. We had a lot of discussions just about music, and I think I have a more general knowledge of music and I just move my music forward with the knowledge that I’ve gained. Just song writing, arrangement and being with a lot of different musicians kind of just opened my mind, you know?
‘Fly Rasta’ is not just straight-up reggae. You clearly want to make music that pushes the boundaries of reggae, but do you find that a tough task sometimes?
No. Because reggae was influenced by R&B, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and stuff that was happening at that time. So with my reggae I have a lot of different musical influences. My father’s music was pretty revolutionary compared to what else was going on at the time, so we continue that trend; we continue that trend of making music that is revolutionary for its genre. It’s not what you’re going to be hearing within the genre, it is outside of the genre; it remains close to its roots but has its own identity.
What do you think your dad would say about the new album?
Oh, I don’t know. I mean I don’t think about that, so I don’t think that would matter that much to me at this point. I’d much rather make music for myself. If he liked it that’d be good, if he didn’t like it… well, he’d have to just be cool with it because this is my art. My mother likes it though!
You’re making an effort around this album by carbon offsetting your entire global tour, and you’re sending the album out with some wild flower seeds?
Yeah, we have some seeds in there, but for the US market - because of, I guess, the attitude at Customs - it might not get there. But for those that can get this packet of seeds, maybe it’ll get them back in touch with Earth. I feel that’s really an issue: we should be more concerned and pro-active about being in touch with the Earth. We need to have an understanding of our planet and nature. So we want to get people back into nature, back into the dirt, back to where we’re coming from.
ZIGGY’S MORNING PLAYLIST:
Words: Matthew Bennett
Photo Credit: Malia James
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