From its inception in Jamaica and its remarkable rise throughout the world, reggae music has always been a direct, simple music with the ability to cross boundaries. Music from the streets, it is also music with a message. While that message may include poverty, broken hearts and many different shades of struggle, Ziggy Marley, one of reggae’s great ambassadors, sums up the common thread that runs through it all as simply as I would expect: “Love. True love.”
Since his musical beginnings in the Melody Makers in 1979, Ziggy Marley has remained at the forefront of the movement to spread the not only the music but also the message of unity and spiritual enlightenment that his father, the great Bob Marley, brought to the forefront of culture throughout the world. “I think that reggae music is bringing people together, spreading love. That is what the music is known for, togetherness and love, One Love vibe, you know, the peace vibe,” reflects Marley.
Knowing the importance of spreading a message to all people, especially to the most open-minded and curious in our world, children, Marley has worked hard to help those spongy young minds absorb the loving message of reggae music with both a children’s record, 2009’s Family Time, and a recently released book, I Love You Too. “I feel that in order to make a difference in the world, you have to have some way to influence the young minds that are still open, the minds that are like sponges, the minds that have not been closed yet, you know?”
And while it is important to expose children to messages of love and positivity, there are times when adults need to have their minds opened to new ideas and philosophies. With that objective in his heart, in 2011 Marley published Marijuanaman, a comic dedicated to changing the way people view the hemp plant. The book puts hemp in a wholly positive light, disassociating it from the “lazy stoner” label that has stunted much of the positive momentum the plant has gained in the public in recent years. “I just need to speak about it in a very balanced way, not in a silly kind of way of pot-headed and smoke marijuana and smoke weed way. That’s not healthy. It has its use, its place and its time. It’s not for everyone, just like alcohol is not for everyone. We just have to approach it logically and realistic,” says Marley, reflecting on the genesis of Marijuanaman.
It’s an issue that has dogged much of the reggae genre over the years, as many people on the outside view marijuana as the vital component of the music. While it is true that the benefits of smoking the plant are often trumpeted by reggae advocates, Marley works tirelessly with projects like his comic book and his Ziggy Marley Organics food company to bring a wider base of information on the hemp plant to the public.
“It’s not just about marijuana, it’s about the whole plant. Hemp is a big part of it, in terms of the eco-system, the environmental impact we are having on the planet. I think with the plant — all its different uses, its minimal impact on the planet — is beneficial to use. Whether it be for building material, clothing material, biodegradable plastic-like material. It’s another way we’re going to get ourselves away from the oil-based industry that takes a real big toll on the planet, the Earth and the atmosphere. So I think this plant is part of the solution to making a real impact on this planet,” says Marley.
At the end of the day whether it’s communicating with children in an honest, thoughtful way, promoting hemp as a loving solution to problems facing our planet or playing roots reggae music to adoring audiences around the world, everything Ziggy Marley does comes back under the umbrella of “Love.”
Ziggy Marley in Victoria
June 27, Royal Theatre, 8PM