NPR's Jason Beaubien just returned from Sierra Leone, which along with Guinea and Liberia is suffering from the worst ever Ebola outbreak.
Ziggy Marley has been making music for decades, ever since he first recorded with his father, the legendary reggae musician Bob Marley in 1979. He’s won four Grammys and an Emmy for his music.
He’s now released a children’s book based on his Emmy-winning song “I Love You Too.”
“To speak to children is even more important than speaking to adults, than making music for the general public,” Ziggy Marley told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
On the impact of his father’s legacy
“It’s been good, mon, positive. I mean, my father is loved all over the world because of, you know, his music and his personality, and it has been something positive for us. We continue to help him as he helps us. We help him too, it is a mutual benefit … By what we’re doing, we’re still uplifting his legacy, we’re still making sure that, you know, his music carries on. You know the tree by the fruits. We are the fruits of that tree, and if the fruits are not good, then the tree might get a bad point of view. So in that way, we keep talking about him, loving him, we sing, so his music is alive within us too.”
On why he wrote a children’s book and recorded a children’s album
“This song is from my children’s album, and the book is based on those words, those lyrics. For me, if I’m serious about, ‘Hey, I’m Ziggy Marley and I want to make a difference in the world, and I’m trying to inspire people with true words and music,’ then to speak to children is even more important than speaking to adults, than making music for the general public. Because children — you know, adults, we kind of already have a set mind. Most of us, we’re kind of already set in our ways and have have an outlook on how things are and how things should be, while children are open-minded, children are sponges. They’re willing to hear something and see something and accept it without any stereotypical point of view. So we try to get to them from an early age to instill ideas and philosophies, and love is one of the biggest things we can instill in them.”
On what inspires him
“I’m 45 in age, but I’m still learning, I’m still open. My humility makes me just always wanting new ideas and learning. I’m nowhere near where my potential should be, so I’m still active learning. And I’m still fascinated by a tree, by looking at a tree and saying, ‘Wow, look at that, how old is that tree? How long has it been there? It’s a living creature.’ I’m fascinated by things still. I’m fascinated by nature and the things around me, so I have that, I think, it’s a childlike fascination with things that keep me wanting to learn.”
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
This is HERE AND NOW. And it's been a busy year for Grammy-winning reggae artist Ziggy Marley, the son of the late reggae icon Bob Marley. Ziggy Marley has just published a children's book called "I Love You Too." He has just released a new album called "Fly Rasta," and he had to go to NPR West in Culver City, California, so he could talk to us. Ziggy Marley, welcome to HERE AND NOW.
ZIGGY MARLEY: Yeah. Good to be with you.
HOBSON: Well, let's take a listen here to the title track from "Fly Rasta."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FLY RASTA")
HOBSON: How is this different from the reggae of 30 years ago, would you say? Are you trying to take it to a new level?
MARLEY: Yeah. I mean, I just objective. We would direct this by just being kind of free-spirited, not being obligated to any type of rules or regulations according to what anyone might think reggae is supposed to be.
So I think it's just mind-set, really, that makes it different. It's that we're not - we're not thinking about it in a regimented way. So we're free to, you know, incorporate different instruments, different instrumentation, different styles different sounds.
HOBSON: Is the mindset the same that it was in reggae's early days?
MARLEY: No. I think reggae in the early days was reggae. And what is reggae is supposed to be this, you know. But no my mind-set is, is what is reggae? Well, as an artist I'm free to take some liberty to with it while still keeping the roots with it. But not trying to repeat what has been done in the past.
HOBSON: And one of the things that you have said is that you're less interested these days in a political message in your music than you are in an emotional message - a connection with people.
MARLEY: Yeah. I think the political thing has been played out a lot not only in reggae, but in music in general. And I think in this time and age the message has to be one of - one that we can relate to on a human-like, personal, spiritual level more than a social, political level. We still need that social-political movement, but I think we need more than ever now what is happening inside of us more than what is happening outside of us.
HOBSON: Who are you singing to in these songs?
MARLEY: I sing to everyone. Everyone being and sometimes I think I'm sing to the trees and to the birds and every living thing that is on the earth.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIVE IT AWAY")
HOBSON: You know, a lot of people hearing you speak now and hearing you sing, are thinking to themselves how much you remind them of your father Bob Marley. What about that legacy? How has that been for you?
MARLEY: It's been good, man, positive. I mean, my father is loved all over the world because of, you know, his music and his personality. And that's been something positive for us. We continue to help him as he helps us. We help them too, you know. We have a mutual benefit.
HOBSON: What do you mean you help him?
MARLEY: Well, by what we do - and we're still uplifting his legacy. We're still making sure that, you know, his music carries on. And, you know, the tree by the fruits - we are the fruits of that tree. And if the fruits are not good, then tree will not get a bad point of view. So we keep talking about him. You know, we loving him, we sing, you know, so his music is alive within us, too.
HOBSON: Are you trying to be like him?
MARLEY: I am like him. I don't have to even try. It's just natural - DNA, science.
HOBSON: Well, and one of the things that you and your father both agree on is marijuana legalization. You've gotten out there in front on this issue and you're saying that it should be legal in California. What do you make of the debate over it in this country with has gotten pretty heated?
MARLEY: I think it's hypocritical. I think alcohol and tobacco - and there's so much destructive thing that is totally OK for people to get their hands on, including weapons of mass destruction, if you want to call it that - guns and all that. There's so much thing that people have a right to have here. And if you can't have a right to what nature has created - naturally - then something is wrong with that, you know?
HOBSON: I just want to bring you back to 2006 because this is where I discovered you when I was in Hawaii for a vacation. And I was listening to the radio, and this song was playing over and over and over again on the radio. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEACH IN HAWAII")
HOBSON: Now, I'm imagining that that song - just because of how catchy it was - turned into a much bigger hit than many of your other songs have. What was that - describe that experience with "Beach In Hawaii?
MARLEY: "Beach In Hawaii" - it's funny. People keep asking me to sing. It's not in my normal repertoire. I don't really do it that much.
But people keep asking me - that song that I never thought would resonate that much, but it does resonate with people. And I have to put it in my set list now because people keep asking me to sing that song, you know?
HOBSON: Why do they like it so much do you think?
MARLEY: I don't know. I really don't know to tell you the truth. I have no idea why. But I'll give them what they want, you know?
HOBSON: Well, I want to ask you about one more thing and that is your book. Some people may be surprised, but you have a children's book out right now it's called "I Love You Too." And you've got a song called "I Love You Too," which we've got right here.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE YOU TOO")
HOBSON: What were you trying to do with this children's book Ziggy Marley?
MARLEY: You know, this song is from a children's album and the book is based on those words, those lyrics. For me, if I'm serious about, hey, I'm Ziggy Marley, and I want to make a difference in the world. And I'm trying to inspire people through words and music - then to speak to children is even more important than speaking to adults than making music for the general public.
HOBSON: Why is that?
MARLEY: Because children - you know, adults we kind of already have a set mind, most of us. We kind of are already are set in our ways and have a outlook on what things are and how things should be while children are open-minded. Children are sponges. They're willing to hear something or see something and accept it without any stereotypical point of view. And so we're trying to get to them from an early age to institute ideas and philosophies, and love is one of the biggest things we can instill in them.
HOBSON: Well, you're 45 now. Are you still a sponge for information?
MARLEY: Yeah. I'm 45 in age, but I'm still learning, I'm still open. I have - my humility makes me just always open to new ideas and learning. I'm not - I'm nowhere near where my potential should be. So I'm still active learning and I'm still fascinated by a tree.
By looking at a tree and saying, wow look at that. How old is that tree? How long has it been there? It's a living creature. I'm fascinated by things still. I'm fascinated by nature and the things around me so I have that - I think it's a child-like fascination with things that keep me wanting to learn, you know.
HOBSON: Ziggy Marley's new children's book is called "I Love You Too." His CD is called "Fly Rasta." Ziggy Marley, a great pleasure to have you on. Thanks so much.
MARLEY: Thanks for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE YOU TOO")
HOBSON: You can always go back and listen to anything you hear on HERE AND NOW at our website hereandnow.org and leave a comment if you'd like. HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Jeremy Hobson.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. This is HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE YOU TOO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.