The Bob Marley documentary Marley premiered at the South by Southwest film festival. Kevin MacDonald’s film traces Marley’s roots in Jamaica, explaining the meaning of Rastafarian dreadlocks and spirituality. It covers his music and behind the scenes business trying to break free from record labels, and also shows the political impact his music had. Marley’s children Karen and Ziggy were in Austin to represent their father and talk about the film, and we got an exclusive interview with them.
Crave Online: You were very young when your father passed away.
Ziggy Marley: I was very young because I’m still young now.
How well did you get to know him while he was still alive?
Ziggy Marley: I think I knew him well and I know him even more now, from the film and from being just a part of him physiologically. I think I know him pretty well.
What was informative about the film?
Karen Marley: What was informative for me was some of the stories behind his songwriting, just the stories of how he came up with the songs, his process. Also his time in Germany, I didn’t know much about that so that was pretty sad but very educational.
Must’ve been harrowing to have a blow by blow account of his last days.
Ziggy Marley: Yeah, very emotional.
What was it like growing up with the music?
Karen Marley: Oh, I was really young so I got to know him after and just got educated about how he touched people, how he reached people, what he wanted his music to do, how far he wanted it to spread. So this one also humanized him a little bit, the documentary, so I got to learn some stuff about him and the essence of him.
Ziggy Marley: Growing up with the music was fun. One of the most important things was actually going to Zimbabwe with him for the independence celebration in 1980 and realizing that even his music had played a part in the liberation of an African nation. Knowing that because those who fought told us that and brought their weapons to show us. As a child, it’s exciting. Even the most recent time was when we were in Ethiopia celebrating the 60th birthday, we were speaking with the prime minister of Ethiopia who told us that when they were fighting against the communist regime that was in Ethiopia, they were in the bushes, it was Bob’s music they were listening to. It’s deep. It’s wonderful and beautiful and revolutionary. It’s cool, it’s really cool.
Have you had to become the spokespeople for Bob Marley as you’ve grown up?
Ziggy Marley: We’re his children, so he’s not here. In terms of the business that is Bob, the assets that Bob has left, his music, his image, we actually become his caretaker in that sense.
Karen Marley: We have to protect him.
What would Bob Marley have thought about Reggae evolving into Reggaeton?
Ziggy Marley: My father loved all different types of music. He wasn’t a snob. He wasn’t a purist. He was an open minded man and most musicians are that way so I think he would love the idea of music becoming a tool to open up to other elements of different people from different places. Just everything getting jumbled up together, mixed up together, do a nice stew. In terms of the evolution, it’s not really an evolution. It’s just a branch because Reggae still exists as Reggae. There’s all these branches from this root that is Reggae so I think he’s cool with that.
You just released an album, Wild and Free, are you writing more music?
Ziggy Marley: Yeah, we’re writing some music now, getting ready to go back on tour, getting ready to release a live album actually later this year sometime and trying to do some other things outside of music too because we find that creativity, I cannot limit my creativity to just music. I want to get into film, I want to get into books. I just did a line of natural food product, some coconut product and some hemp seeds, non GMO. I’m into that whole movement of people in America being aware of what they’re eating. We believe in labeling whether the food has been genetically modified is something that is the right of people to know. If you go to the store and you’re going to buy something and put it in your body, you should know if it’s been modified or not. Right now you don’t know. You don’t know what you’re putting in your body, who touched it or what has been done to it. You know what’s in it but you don’t know what they have done to the ingredients that’s in it. So I’m in that whole movement. Music has been a launching pad for me to express myself in other ways and I’m trying to do that more now.
GMO is interesting because you read a chicken breast is supposed to be 3 oz. but if you weigh one it’s 8. That’s not right, they’re doing something to those chickens.
Ziggy Marley: [Laughs] That’s right. It’s affecting us, it’s affecting our children. It’s affecting education because imagine if kids in school are eating a diet where the nourishment is not a part nature, then it’s affecting our brains. What people don’t understand is that everything is connected. Some people think that if they can make a buck off of this then it won’t affect that but it does. Everything is connected and the food is one of the most important elements of the world, of the people, of life. So I think it’s important but that’s another documentary.
Are you involved in any other political causes?
Ziggy Marley: Not really. We support the people. We support the rights of the people to exercise their right to protest like the whole Occupy movement. I’m into that, I’m into that. I’m working on some music that will hopefully keep that whole idea out there because I know that in the media atmosphere that is America that kids come and go so quickly, fads and trends. I just hope that the idea of the majority of people standing up to something that they believe is wrong is not a fad, is not a trend that lasts six months or 12 months, but is alive, that lasts as long as it is needed. As long as there are those who would do things that benefits the few while it does not benefit the majority of people, I hope the majority of people will have the will and the need to say something about that so we’re working on some stuff with that too.
Karen, what work do you do?
Karen Marley:: I work with the family a lot and my newest venture is opening a store in L.A. downtown.
Ziggy Marley: She’s in fashion.
Karen Marley: It’s clothing, resale and consignment. Also we want to incorporate giving back so buttons and bows, we’ll have a little basket with $5 stuff and we’ll use the proceeds of that to donate it.
Did you ever explore music?
Karen Marley: Dancing, I dance to it. I wouldn’t try to sing. I’ll leave that to him.
Ziggy, how long have your dreads been growing?
Ziggy Marley: ’85 probably. I started just as I was about to graduate high school which was in ’85 so I started about that time.
Was it important to you that more people understand the significance of Rastafarian dreadlocks as it’s explained in the film?
Ziggy Marley: You know, right now it’s become a fashion thing which is cool for that. Yeah, I’m happy people understand it but for me it doesn’t matter if you understand it or not because it’s my private thing. I like to cover my hair if I’m not on stage. I have a private spiritual life that is really between me and what I believe in and I don’t flaunt it. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s not something that I go out and flaunt. It’s very private and between me and the universe. So whether you know or not doesn’t even matter, but it’s good to know.
Is there any new music technology that’s inspiring you?
Ziggy Marley: Well, what we’re finding now is for me, because I’m an independent artist, this is something that Bob wanted and I feel is something that’s a continuation. I learned it from him, wanting to be independent. When I was younger, he and my mother always talked about owning their own music, getting out of the Island Records contract. That’s why he built his own studio. He was one of the first artists to build his own studio, manufacture his own records when it was vinyl. I learned all of these things from him so when I finally found a way to become independent I grabbed it an said yes. It’s much harder but with the internet we’re finding that most of my music sales is direct sales through the internet now. It’s not actual CDs anymore, so we’re excited about that. That gives us a freedom and we can give people music even at a better value because we don’t have to press, we don’t have to do all of these things. We can actually put the music people can afford into this economy. That’s exciting to me.