Ziggy Marley “Heart to Heart” Interview 1988
By M. Peggy Quattro
In the beginning… was Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley and a new music form was brought forth… An international sound destined to educate and liberate the people from thousands of years of mental slavery. There followed a son… David Robert Nesta Marley… Brought forth to carry on the age-old musical crusade… a youth reaching out, touching hearts, of a new courageous and wise generation. “This is a new time and a new system,” declares the younger Marley, “my father was like the Old Testament… I am the New Testament.”
A strong, powerful and confident young man, 19-year-old Ziggy (a name given him by his father at an early age) is also warm, intense and somewhat shy. As good friend Judy Mowatt has said “Ziggy is the complete replica of his father…possessing that command like ‘I am here!’” His quick bright smile and soft, yet earnest eyes, displace any trace of egotism.
It did my heart good to catch up with Ziggy in New York at the conclusion of recording Virgin Records’ Melody Makers debut album.
What follows is an interview and overview:
MPQ: So Ziggy, when and where were you born?
Ziggy: Trenchtown, inna mi yard, 1968, October 17.
MPQ: Are you still single, attached, looking?
Ziggy: No (laughs) mi free still… Me nuh look still, but me all right.
MPQ: You’ve been singing some eight years professionally, how did you begin?
Ziggy: From before that (music) I was into drama. First time I go up on the stage was before me ever think of Melody Makers (a name they took from their father’s first guitar) me and my sister, we sing a song named “Hold Him Joe.” (He sings)”Hold him Joe, hold him Joe, nah let him go. Donkey want water, Hold him Joe, donkey want water, Hold him Joe” (laughs). 1979 now, we always used to bang out on the instruments out there in the yard. We go and sing, don’t even matter what note… We couldn’t sing. I just go and open my mouth and bawl it out.”
Now Ziggy sings, writes, arranges, produces, and plays guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. Their first recording, ”Children Playing in the Streets,” was written by their father and released in Jamaica in 1979.
MPQ: There were some quiet years in your career, years we didn’t hear much from Ziggy Marley, what were you doing?
Ziggy: I was in school (St. George College) studying business, accounting, history, a little religion. You see, I was never in a rush to do anything… Me never really push it. I never really wanted to become any star yuh know.
MPQ: Why did you choose to study at that time, wasn’t your future more or less mapped out for you?
Ziggy: No suh.
MPQ: You didn’t just think you’d be a musician?
Ziggy: No, (laughs) eh-eh, me never think that me would be a musician. When I grow up life was never set out that when we get big we going to do this, it was just normal, like any other youth life, we have to go to school. My parents say go to school ‘cause that was very important to daddy and mommy, for we to get our education. Because my father never had a real opportunity to do that, he always wanted we to get that, true.
MPQ: Have you decided now you are a musician or are you leaving your future open?
Ziggy: (laughs) No, me as a musician.
MPQ: Where did you record your album and with who?
Ziggy: Here in New York. We’ve been here about four months now in Sigma Sound Studio. The band is Dallol, the Ethiopian band, along with Earl “Chinna” Smith and Franklin “Bubbler” Waul from yard (Rolling Stone Keith Richards, a virgin labelmate, also laid down a guitar solo on the upcoming album.)
MPQ: Did you write the songs?
Ziggy: Yeah mon, most of them. Like Steve and me, Sky High and Tyrone Downie, basically our entourage deal with it.
MPQ: Can you tell us a little about the producers, Tina Weymoth and Chris Frantz (of Talking Heads fame) and their approach to Reggae?
Ziggy: Well, they know Reggae music as fans of Reggae music – they don’t really know the music as such. So we want really do our thing so they can learn from it, we share ideas and they learn with us. Very nice people to work with still.
MPQ: The current trend of Dancehall/DJs is very prominent in promotion and recording, do you feel this is a correct reflection of the music and culture your father succeeded in bringing to the world?
Ziggy: Yeah mon, Reggae music. Let me tell you now, we as people segregate people. Them say you are white man, I am a black man. Now it’s the same thing they try to do with Reggae music, they say well that is a DJ that is that, to segregate and make we fight each other. But no, that can’t work because Reggae music is Reggae music… Every bass line, rock your waist to it.
MPQ: As a youth around you continue to record in Dancehall style, how do you see yourself as their peer?
Ziggy: We do Dancehall too, you know. But not on this album (laughs) Steve and me, we always have our Dancehall, seen. This is part of us, too. As the years go by you’ll hear some Dancehall from we still. We put out a music the other day called “Ghetto Youth,” I don’t think much people know it – it’s been out a good while now but on a lower ting. (laughs) It’s a bad DJ style too, you know.
Ziggy: My father and another man, Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, make Reggae music universal from long time… Burning Spear, it’s already universal; ‘cause if it wasn’t, I couldn’t go over to Europe and sing it and people come.
MPQ: But there’s so many more people, especially in this country.
Ziggy: In this country yes, even in this country enough people know about it but don’t listen to it still.
MPQ: Do you see yourself producing in the future?
Ziggy: I see myself giving other youth opportunity to do something, help them musically. There are a lot of youths in Jamaica right now who have potential but don’t get the opportunity, don’t get the chance to put it into action.
MPQ: Do you recognize “destiny” – that is, this is your destiny to pick up where your father, Bob Marley, left off on his earthly musical crusade?
“I believe every man have him purpose. Me never have to be doing this if it wasn’t my purpose to be doing this, if it wasn’t your purpose to be an interviewer you wouldn’t be doing that – that is your purpose. So every man has a purpose.”
Ziggy: (pause) Well, I believe inna destiny; I believe every man have him purpose. Me never have to be doing this if it wasn’t my purpose to be doing this, if it wasn’t your purpose to be an interviewer you wouldn’t be doing that – that is your purpose. So every man has a purpose. You have to make your destiny because if you know your purpose and if you know your talent and you don’t put that talent to use, then that talent is going to be taken away from you and give to somebody else, your talent. Me realize my purpose, so me make my destiny to be what it is – music– that’s my destiny. It is all up to the man.
MPQ: There is some controversy now involving your personal life, how do you deal with this?
Ziggy: In my personal life? That’s not my life.
MPQ: As long as you are a Marley…
Ziggy: No, no, no, no…name don’t make me a part of their thing. I am who I am and I don’t business about any estate or any money argument. Me there for my own purpose, to make my own money, not to live off the money my father left. You think I business about that? No. Me name Marley, but that don’t make me a part of the estate. Me a next man who hold differently. I can’t get mix-up in the mix-up. Me don’t quarrel or fight about money – me there to make my own money.
MPQ: Why is it so many hundreds of thousands, even millions of fans relate so closely to Reggae music? What is it that holds them?
Ziggy: It says something for everyone. It’s nothing big – no big answer. Its message is for all people. There’s no more to it than that. It’s not upon a high plane, it’s a very level thing – on the ground.
MPQ: What would you suggest to encourage American-based record companies etc. to put more time and effort and money into the Reggae market?
“…it’s the people who listen to the music that makes this thing happen. The question is – how to make them listen to it… You need promotion and them thing but when you come down to the nitty-gritty, it’s the people.”
Ziggy: Hear me, from long time we’ve been getting a fight, seen. Big company and big support don’t mean nothing to I because my music, my message, is what does the work. Our aim is not to make it become (exaggerates) a big big thing because in this evil world, if you don’t stay upon a low level, then the higher it goes, the more commercial – the more crooked it gets. You couldn’t ask a corporation and say, this is the reason you should be supporting Reggae – wrong never support right yet. We look for the people support. It’s the people that make this thing happen – not the big studio or the big corporation – it’s the people who listen to the music that makes this thing happen. The question is – how to make them listen to it… You understand? You need promotion and them thing but when you come down to the nitty-gritty, it’s the people. You can just throw a record out there bam…bam…bam and say, ‘See the record there,’ but in America they have Reggae music, but they don’t play it upon the radio because Reggae sound different to what they play on the radio up here. It’s just the people to listen to the music, even if it’s one man or even if it’s 10 million man. If it touch your heart then you will touch next man heart, then the next one will touch the next one heart.
MPQ: What can we expect from Ziggy Marley in the next five years?…the next 20 years?
Ziggy: Five years from now… Me want to make some money and to help out some people. Many time you find man talk about obey God, obey God, ray ray ray… talk ‘bout spiritual needs, but there’s also physical needs which each man need. Our purpose is not just to tell people to obey God but to help a man out in his physical needs – buy him some food and help him – especially the youth here in the ghetto. That’s how I want to see myself in the next five years – next year, next two years, next month – is making some money to help some youth.
MPQ: 20 years?
Ziggy: Africa – But we can’t look so far. Five years is ahead enough.
MPQ: Africa – you mentioned that many times in other interviews, you want to get there to live or set up a base of operation?
Ziggy: Both – operate and live.
MPQ: Any particular country?
Ziggy: South Africa (laughs)… Ethiopia.
Shortly after our heart-to-heart, Ziggy Marley, along with manager Addis and I-dren Sky High, left for Chicago for a brief rehearsal with his band Dallol. The next stop was the NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles on December 13, 1987 for a special performance. After being heralded as a “prophet with a powerful eloquent voice,” his illustrious father was inducted into the NAACP “Hall of Fame.” With a “business as usual attitude,” Ziggy, Stephen, Cedella, and Sharon Marley rub shoulders with popular music superstars. Their performances of “Old Pirates” (as Ziggy refers to it) and “What’s True” off the new Conscious Party LP receive shouts of joy and approval. The latter performance was broadcast January 16, 1988, over national television.
Other recent accomplishments include five Ziggy and the Melody Maker songs to be performed and taped for HBO Reggae Special to air in March 1988.
Look for a tour to follow the new album’s release, four to six weeks in the US and then “on to Europe and the rest of the world.” Though he won’t be going to Africa with the Sunsplash Tour, he definitely states they will go in ‘88.
Displaying his “univer-shality,” the very busy Ziggy did some recording with superstar Sting on a new Sting single recently recorded in New York.
His passions for pastime surround ball – football, basketball, soccer; his dreams for the future include owning his own airline “Marley Airline,” and a big studio “large enough to attract big-name artists from around the world.”
Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers LP discography:
- 1984 Play the Game Right EMI
- 1986 Hey World EMI
- 1988 Conscious Party Virgin
Download digital copy of V6#2 1988 here
Inside: Ziggy Marley Interview, Peter Tosh Interview, Freddie McGregor, Ken Boothe, Alpha Blondy, Marcus Garvey, & more.