For nearly every family in the world, life in 2020 has been a major adjustment.
It's no different for eight-time Grammy-winning pop reggae artist Ziggy Marley, his wife, Orly, and their four children — this is their reality, too.
So, what does the eldest son of legendary reggae singer Bob Marley do to keep the fires of unity burning bright in such dark times? He records an album with his family and a little help from his musical friends.
Marley's eighth solo effort, More Family Time, released last month, is a byproduct of hanging out at home with his kids.
“We kind of adapted our lifestyle; we started doing things as a family we wouldn’t normally have done if the kids were in school," he explains. "We made up our own camp games, and did stuff outside, and everything we did at that time, outside of making that album, was part of the creative process.”
More Family Time is Marley’s second children’s album; his first, 2009's Family Time, won a Grammy for Best Music for Children.
Marley says starting a new album during a pandemic was a spontaneous decision.
"But that's the way inspiration kind of works with me," he says. "It’s that internal intuition that makes me do what I’m supposed to do. And sometimes the reason isn’t evident until after the fact.”
What was evident to Marley was not just the pandemic, but the civil unrest that was inflaming the country this summer.
“So, let’s say God wanted me to make an album to give to children at this time in particular because of what we are going through in the world with the pandemic, and then with America with social unrest," Marley says.
“Children are affected more than we can even understand now. And that’s why I say the higher forces wanted me to make a record geared toward children and family, because they need something specific in this time that will help to alleviate the anxiety and the negativity that is happening in the world today.”
His kids jumped in to help make the album.
“They’ve always been around me making music,” Marley says proudly. “They know every now and then, I call upon them to be a part of what I’m doing. In this particular circumstance they were very enthusiastic to be a part of anything because they weren’t going to school."
Along with his willing brood, Marley turned to his Rolodex of musical brethren to enrich the final eight-song album. He harnessed a versatile and loyal group, including Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Lisa Loeb, Tom Morello, Busta Rhymes, Angelique Kidjo, Alanis Morrissette, and his brother Stephen Marley.
For the catchy, danceable "Jamba," Marley sings with Kidjo in Swahili.
Harper and Marley share the mic on the ska-tinged "Play the Sky.” “Everywhere You Go” is an earthy, soulful number about loyalty that Marley sings with Crow. Marley’s other three children perform on “Wonderful People.” In the syncopated "Garden Song of Miracles" Ziggy and Stephen Marley pay homage to the wonder of nature’s growth. Marley gets help from Morrissette on the jingle-jangle guitar rocker "Please Excuse Me Thank You.” For the catchy, danceable "Jamba," Marley sings with Kidjo in Swahili, a first for him. Marley, Morello, and Rhymes join in a group chant, prefaced by a spirited MC intro by Isaiah Marley, on “Move Your Body. Marley’s other three children close out the album with “Wonderful People.”
Of course, children making music with their father is something that Marley is quite familiar with. During the late 1970s, Ziggy and Stephen appeared on stage with Bob Marley, performing at events such as the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston and Reggae Sunsplash II in Montego Bay.
Marley is also carrying on his father's legacy of charitable works. Proceeds from More Family Time will be going to URGE (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a fund that supports the education, social development, and overall well-being of the Chepstow Primary School and the One Love Youth Camp, both in Jamaica. Stateside, Marley is also an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, and HOLA (Hearts of Los Angeles), both assisting under-served youth through the arts.
Giving back is important to Marley.
If "my father, myself, my child grows up to be a good human being, a human being who cares and gives back, who carries on a legacy of love and unity, and is not being a bigot or a racist or a hateful person, that is where everything starts from.
“The music is only a product of [who's] making it," he continues. "So, the human being that’s making the music has to be a good human being to make music to affect other people in a positive way. It starts with humanity.”
Marley, who lives in Los Angeles with his family, also feels that humanity is important when it comes to the upcoming U.S. presidential election — as is unity.
“You need leadership that unites people,” he says with conviction. “I don’t care what political party you are; if you can’t unite a nation or a people, then you are not doing your job. It's not about Democrat or Republican. It’s about an individual human being who has an ability, or who lacks the ability, to bring the people they lead together."
And despite the eradication of live performances for most of the year, Marley is still trying to bring people together through music.
“We just have to adapt to whatever situation we are in, and try to do things differently, but still get across the message and the music and the community," he says.