When your father is – let’s face it – a music icon, it can’t be easy to go out on your own. But for David ‘Ziggy’ Marley, the eldest son of Bob Marley, there was no such pressure. Instead, his musical upbringing liberated him to become an accomplished artist in his own right.
‘It was a growing process,’ explains Ziggy, from his residence in Los Angeles. ‘You start out young, emulating what you see, and then grow up trying to find your own expression. Today, I have my own voice, but it can’t be separated from my father because music is naturally a part of what we [Marleys] do.’
There are inescapable comparisons to his father’s sound, both lyrically and rhythmically. You can hear the sublimity of Bob’s signature vocal tone over the upbeat groove of Ziggy’s recent single, ‘Forward to Love’ – the song itself mirrors his father’s hit, ‘One Love/People Get Ready’.
And like his father, the son digs deep in the song-writing process to find a message he wants to share. ‘I’m not so much into the beats. I’m more into the spiritual side of the music,’ he tells us. You can hear that on his 2012 album, In Concert – a collection of live performances recorded by the artist while on tour in 2012 – which he will bring to the stages of São Paulo this month.
Music undeniably flows through the veins of the Marleys, but would Ziggy encourage any of his six children to continue the legacy? ‘If it’s what they want to do, and it has a purpose, then sure. But it should be about what is true to them,’ he says.
Whether they continue the family trend or not, Ziggy firmly believes that music is crucial to a child’s upbringing, and not just for his own children, having been an official supporter of the Little Kids Rock charity for four years. The organisation restores and revitalises music education in disadvantaged schools, which is work close to his heart. ‘Music is one of the most essential things in life,’ he vouches. ‘It is what teaches us.’
The hard-working singer has now released four solo albums, and won an impressive five Grammy awards; an accolade his father never received during the academy’s pre-reggae category days (though he was honoured with a belated Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001).
But the gilded gramophones and industry acclaim don’t come close to what Ziggy considers his biggest triumph as a musician. ‘It’s the freedom that I’ve gained. Nobody owns me, or my music,’ he says proudly. ‘This is what my father envisioned for himself, and now I am free too. That is my greatest achievement.'