Ziggy Marley Expands Definition of Reggae on New Album

For Ziggy Marley, it would seem like there would be a simple path to take in the genre pioneered by your legendary father.

Crank out a new album every other year, accumulate the riches, play gigs across the planet for your adoring fan base.

And yet, with each new studio release, the oldest son of the legendary Bob Marley has continued to raise the bar by expanding the bandwidth of reggae. His tireless approach has garnered him six Grammys for his pop-reggae music, and may garner him another soon.

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With the April release of his fifth and latest full-length solo studio release, Fly Rasta, on Tuff Gong Worldwide, his own label, he has not only expanded his unique reggae sound, but made it versatile.

Fly Rasta follow his 2013 Grammy winner Ziggy Marley Live in Concert, and it is his love letter to planet earth and its inhabitants. It is an ambitious piece of work that Marley has sown together, combining his pop-reggae interpretation with funk, psychedelia, rock, and soul.

Besides enlisting the back-up singing talents of sisters Cedella and Sharon Marley, and former Melody Makers bandmates, Marley has gathered on Fly Rasta a virtual who's who of side musicians that is nothing short of amazing:

Drummers Stephen Ferrone (Tom Petty), Brian MacLeod (Sheryl Crow), Rock Deadrick (Ben Harper) and Motown's legendary James Gadson; guitarists Lyle Workman (Sara Bareilles), Takeshi Akimoto (Taj Mahal) and Ian "Beezy" Coleman (Burning Spear); bassists Dave Wilder (Norah Jones), Guy Erez (Karmina), Abraham Laboriel (Paul Simon) and Pablo Stennett (Willie Nelson); and keyboardists Zac Rae (Lana Del Ray), David Palmer (Goo Goo Dolls), George Hughes (Sarah Vaughan), Mike Hyde (Burning Spear) and Brian LeBarton (Beck).

It is the showcasing of this new release that Marley and his 10-piece touring band of 10-plus years will bring to Chandler at the Wild Horse Pass Ovations Showroom on Friday, October 31. The local tour stop is a part of a very extensive 78-gig tour that has taken him across the US from coast to coast, into Canada and even as far away as Singapore.

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With Fly Rasta, Marley, who just turned 46, is not so much political as he is a promoter of the "one love" theme his father also espoused. But there is more.

"I seriously wanted to push the boundaries, and my own boundaries of music outside of expectations and outside of boxes, and that is my drive," says Marley, who doesn't like to be labeled just a reggae artist.

The opening song, "I Don't Want to Live on Mars," speaks to the need to protect the earth and has a serious message, but with a carefree and infectious pop beat. The title track "Fly Rasta" shows Marley coming back more to his true reggae roots than other recent studio efforts, and yet it is a song that Marley had written nearly 20 years before, and one in which he uses the backup vocals of legendary artist U-Roy, known to Melody Maker fans.

"'Fly Rasta' is about what started me being who I am, what started me being a musician -- growing up Rasta. Rasta is my foundation," he says.

Always a long-time fan of Beatle John Lennon, Marley pays homage to his wife Orly Agai in "You're My Yoko Ono."

"It goes back to the love you find in a partner," Marley says. "My wife is from a different culture than I am. It can change the way you think about love. You know, preachers preach about love, but we are actually doing the loving and loving each other, while they are preaching about it."

Although Bob Marley died when Ziggy was only a child, he feels his father's aura about him, and while he expands his interpretative version of his family's music, Bob's influence is as strong as ever.

"The connection with my father is a spiritual connection. I envision it a s a connection of communication. I envision it is about what we are supposed to do, it is supportive, it is love, it is a vision of what we are suppose to do, it is support, it is love, it is encouragement and it is appreciation."

It is that same support and encouragement Ziggy has passed on to eldest of six offspring, son Daniel "Bambaata" Marley, Marley says. Bam is a reggae artist in his own right, and one who is expanding the reaches of reggae in hip-hop and funk music.

Besides trying to promote the many uses of hemp, Marley, who, like his father, has a love for soccer and running, also follows a diet of natural foods. Ziggy's own line of organic foods draws out this point. Besides coconut oil-based products, Marley's line includes hemp seed with no THC and Kosher-quality.

And if his musical and culinary efforts do not take enough of his time, Marley has been selfless in funding and supporting many humanitarian causes. From Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), which works to help children (especially in Jamaica and Ethiopia) to Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and free lessons to children in public schools throughout the United States, Marley is spreading some good.

Despite all of his accolades, humanitarian efforts and musical accomplishments, Marley says that he has not fully accomplished what he is here to do.

"All we know about music is at this point in time, and I am trying to find out what is next by learning, by meditating, by reading by understanding music, not just using it and playing it. There is more about music that I still have to learn, and I want to implement that into what I do."

I am still researching what I know about music. I like the science of music and I am still learning about it. There is something out there so mystical and spiritual about music. It can change the world."

Ziggy Marley is doing his part.

Ziggy Marley is scheduled to perform at the Ovations Live! Showroom on Friday, October 31.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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