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(photo credit: Courtesy)
The capacity crowd roared with approval as reggae musician Ziggy Marley and his ten-piece band took the stage at the Amphi-Park in Ra'anana Thursday night. Beginning their set precisely as advertised, at 9:30 p.m., Marley and his band appeared after opening sets by several local reggae groups, who, along with the multiple vendors selling Rasta-inspired clothes and bric-abrac, gave the warm evening a welcome festival vibe.
The crowd included a generous cross-section of Israeli reggae lovers: parents with little babies, Russian speakers, Ethiopians of all ages, young adults of every shade sporting dreadlocks, and even a few grandparents. Reggae is popular among the religious community (especially the newly observant), but because the show took place during The Nine Days - the mourning period between the first of the month of Av and Tisha B'Av, when listing to music is forbidden by Jewish law - there were nearly no kippot to be seen.
Peppering his set with copious "todahs" and "mah nishmas," Marley gave the appreciative audience exactly what it wanted: good-vibrations reggae music with a positive message. As the eldest son of late reggae legend Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley literally grew up on stage, and this experience showed in his set, a tight presentation of songs from his new album, Love is my Religion, interspersed with older favorites and a few of his father's lesser-known songs. With his large ensemble (including two percussionists and two backup singers), the band had a fuller, more African sound than many reggae groups, and this was used to good effect in the arrangements.
Highlights of the show included the upbeat ska number "Black Cat," "Keep on Dreaming," a roots-reggae song dedicated to his father, "Salaam/Shalom," a piece about the Israeli-Arab conflict, and a crowdpleasing cover of "Forever Loving Jah," a classic spiritual anthem by Bob Marley. Closing the set with his personal anthem, "Love is My Religion," Ziggy Marley and his band quickly returned for a four-song encore which included "Africa Unite," his fathers' plea for African unity from the 1970s.
Even this wasn't enough for the enthusiastic concert-goers, and they were treated to a surprise second encore: a rendition of "No Woman No Cry," one of the elder Marley's best known songs, which was dedicated to "the suffering women of Israel and Lebanon."
The younger Marley deserves credit for performing in Israel during this troubled time, having moved but not cancelled a show previously scheduled to take place on a beach near Israel's northern border. Whether music can truly change the world is open to debate, but for one evening, at least, it was easy to feel that it indeed can, if only by bringing positive vibrations to where they are needed.
The audience responded, treating the packed concert as a welldeserved vacation. But only a temporary one: one 20-year-old reveler, after expressing his amazement at the concert and his annoyance that alcohol wasn't available inside the Amphi-Park, said that he had to report back to his army unit at 6 a.m. the following day. "But every little thing will be all right," he stated with a smile, quoting a line from Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds." Hopefully he's right.