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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Ziggy Marley, a scion of reggae giant Bob Marley, is a man on a mission. The extended Marley clan has gained a reputation for preserving the musical flame of its late patriarch, and the family's eldest son aims to take things to a higher level with the recently released Love is My Religion. Not necessarily higher in terms of the album's sales or popularity, he says, but in the ideas and faith it expresses.
"Life, it is confusion," he explains in his deep Jamaican patois from Munich, a stop on his recently concluded European tour. "We have confused the message of God. We are trying to get the message back on track and get to the point, instead of [moving through] red tape and jumping through rings."
Marley will perform in Ra'anana tomorrow night before heading on to more shows in North and South America. "Everything is wonderful, positive," he says of his concerts so far. "This is the first time I am introducing [the new album] to the people. They are happy and like it."
Although he'll leave Israel immediately after his Ra'anana show to perform in the US, it's easy to believe Marley when he says he'll be back for another visit soon - his wife, Orly, is Israeli. "She was in the music industry and we met at a concert one day . . .we have a spiritual connection," he says.
He sounds unfazed by the recent violence between Israel and Lebanon, though concert organizers did cancel a show originally scheduled for Achziv Beach near Israel's northern border.
"For me to come now with this message . . . we need a healing time," he says. "At this point I am determined to go wherever I can and to tell the people the truth. I am not fearful at all."
Marley speaks animatedly throughout the brief interview about his commitment to Rastafari, the belief system commonly known as Rastafarianism. The Ethiopia-oriented, Bible-based religion is associated with Jamaica and reggae music, but it's in fact a multi-faceted faith that incorporates elements of Judaism, Christianity and indigenous African religions as well. Besides Rastafarians' well-known Afrocentrism, dreadlocks and ritual use of cannabis, adherents also follow a diet based on the laws of the Old Testament and strive to live a natural life far away from the influences of "Babylon," their term for Europe and the industrialized world.
"You know, we are reading the Tanach and the Bible," Marley says, comparing Rastafari and Judaism. "King Solomon and all those great people are a part of our culture. But now is a time where I have evolved my philosophy, as far as it pertains to God and religion. I have reached the point of the highest philosophy . . . love is my religion. This is the ultimate knowledge of God."
"We tell the people that Jehovah, God, is the personification of love for one another. If we love one another then we become the true children of God. This is what we are trying to accomplish . . . we have to love even our enemies. We are bringing the light, to shine light in darkness."
True to its name, Love is My Religion is filled with emotional reflections on love, friendship and the nature of society. The music is based on the groovy roots reggae that Marley's father pioneered, but it incorporates African, hip-hop and soul influences as well. A three-time Grammy winner, the younger Marley, whose birth name is David, not only wrote the songs and produced the recording, but played most of the instruments as well.
"Music is much more about feelings than even the sound," he says. "I had a feeling that I wanted to express, and it's hard to tell people to play [exactly that way.]
"The album is reggae, but we are always moving forward - it is another evolution. I think we need more adventure and spirituality in the music. The music my father [and other artists] did, it was spiritual music . . . I can speak to people, touch their souls, speak to the inside of a human being."
Of his relationship with his famous father, he says, "You know, we communicate through dreams. Recently I dreamed [that] he likes the work that we are doing right now and he supports my mission, the message of love."
Outside his music, Marley is deeply concerned with the welfare of children, and in 1999 formed a charity called URGE. "We are funding villages in Jamaica, education, simple things. It's a small thing and I don't have many resources, but charity begins at home," he says.
"We have to teach the children, they need the positive message," he continues, bringing up a point he'll refer to several times in the interview. "It is the children who will change the earth. Many of us are too old, our minds are set. You have to get your message to open-minded people, and children have the most open minds. You have to teach them to love . . . all the children of every religion and region, Palestinians, everyone."