IN HIS FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS:  Ziggy Marley on Bob, Rastafari, and Other Things

background: David Marley, known as Ziggy, was born October 17th, 1968 and was the eldest son of Bob and Rita Marley.  With sisters Sharon and Cedella (named for Bob's mother) and brother Stephen, formed the Melody Makers in 1979.   They had hit singles in Jamaica and released two critically-well received albums that did not sell much.  Their efforts were rewarded in 1988, with the release of the album "conscious Party" produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the seminal band Talking Heads.  It was a hit throughout the world.  With Bob dead since 1981, Ziggy's role as torch-bearer was cemented.  Subsequent Melody Maker albums have carefully built upon the foundation of their father's music, retaining the central messages and creating a personal, more contemporary sound with room for growth, not a stagnant tribute show.  I would expect that their best work lies before them.
The interview excerpted below was conducted in 1989 by David Sheff, when Ziggy was twenty years old, and appeared in the November issue of Interview magazine.
"DS: What was it like?  Was it hard?
ZM: Well, as a kid, it was as life to me.  I didn't even know any different.  I couldn't judge and say wether this is fun or this is hard, you know?  I play and go to school and so forth.  My father wasn't a millionaire, neither my mother, so they still have to work hard to get some money.
DS: Why did your family go to Delaware?
ZM: Work.  They needed some more money to buy themselves more opportunity.
DS: What about the religion in the family?
ZM: When I was a little youth, I was a dreadlocks youth, I used to have locks.  So the religion, as you call it -
DS: What do you call it?
ZM: Way of life.
DS: What's the difference?
ZM: The difference is that religion is something which a guy crop up or make up.  Catholic religion, Baptist religion - we don't want to put ourselves in that sector because it don't do no good.  So we just say our way of life.
DS: So you had to cut your dreadlocks off so you could go to school?
ZM: Yeah.  But during that time we usually attend what you call "binghi" with our father.  Binghi is drumming and praising.  You use drum and you chant and praise the Almighty Father.
     I usually be there as a youth from all night to the morning just   watching and seeing what's going on - plenty of ganja smoking.  But I was just watching.
DS: Did your father talk to you about what it meant?   Did you ask questions?
ZM: No.  I never asked no questions.  I could see for myself as a youth.  My father was the man of the family and I follow the same road, so there was never any need.  But when I get big now, I need to decide.  And I decide that it is Rasta still.  My father set out Rasta, we was Rasta from we were born.  But is the fulfillment of the belief that you have to decide, whether you truly believe you is what you is or whether you believe you're something else.
DS: For someone who doesn't know what Rastafari is, how would you explain it?
ZM: Rastafari means head creator.  To me, to be a Rastaman is to be in search of the highest height.  To be Rasta is like trying hard to be closer to the Father, even while we are here physically.  Rasta is just trying to live a good life and trying to reach a spiritual height through our weariness.
DS: What does ganja have to do with Rasta?
ZM: In Jamaica, we use trees for many things.   This bucket here with the tea, we call that roots.  It is different tree roots, even marijuana, boiled together.  And it become very strong and very good for blood and good to keep us strong.
     The Father put these things on earth for all of us when we're sick physically and for spiritual and mental health.  Herb is for spiritual and mental.
DS: You said that part of the reason they didn't allow Rastafarians in school is because of the tradition of ganja.
ZM: Yeah, because ganja is suppossed to be illegal.   Mind you, most people in Jamaica smoke herb.  Police smoke herb.  I never see it destroy anyone yet, you know.
     That night of binghi when we chant and we sing and we say our prayers, herb is there.  Every man smoke at the chalice, and every man's head is in the same place.  If we was not smoking the chalice to get this one unity with our thoughts and our feeling, then maybe you'd be thinking about your woman and about these children, about getting up to go to work tomorrow.  It gets we together.  It not destroy anybody.
DS: What do the dreadlocks means?
ZM: The dreadlocks, it is a sign of the bond or sign of the promise. The
sign of the vow which you have made. When the Father look on earth and
He sees me with flEr dreadlocks, He knows that, well, Ziggy, you prErdsed
me something special. A promise to seek Him to the fullest, and a promjse
to put all things aside except for Him. Him is first.
DS: Even though you're young, your songs are about things that people take a lifetime to learn - paying attention to your roots and family and history.  Is that something you learned from your father?
ZM: Learned from my father.  My father have a lot to do with me.  My mother also.  The rest is from the Almighty Father.   Nobody teach me to write songs.  I just think it was inspiration from the Father and it run through the blood.  And then, from when I was a kid and going to school, we was very concerned with what happened in the world power.  As youths in high school, we usually argue about the Bible and this and that, the poor and things like that.  So I just feel these things from when I was growing up, just a concern of things.
DS: How do you feel about all the comparisons to your father?
ZM: I see that is like some guys have nothing else to say.  I want to see if the next twenty years they still say the same thing.
DS: Jamaican people seem to talk about your father more than anyone else.  His music is everywhere.  It's as if he's considered a prophet.
ZM: Yeah mon, he's our people's prophet.  A prophet don' t have to say, "Tomorrow at twelve o'clock there's going to be an earthquake."  Our prophets tell you about life.  By example and word.
DS: Do you get involved in politics in Jamaica now?
ZM: Politics is far from me.  Politicians of the whole world is no good.  The truth is this, that whoever in power, poor people suffer, poor people die.
DS: What does it mean in "Redemption Song" when your father sings, "Free yourself from mental slavery"?
ZM: Ahhh.  That is the next thing that we people have to try to do.  But we forget.  In Jamaica, politics is mental slavery, because as soon as the election come, there is war.  That already chain them mentally by saying, Well, soon as election come, you and your brother must fight and kill each other.
     So we have to free ourselves of these things.  Free ourself of the foolish idea that the politician can make it better for us and not we ourselves."

        "For a man like Bob Marley, life and Jah were one and the same.  Marley saw Jah as being the gift of existence; that is, he believed that he, Bob Marley, was in some way eternal, and that he would never be duplicated.  He believed that the singularity of every man and woman is Jah's gift.   What we struggle to make of it is our sole gift to Jah.  He believed the process of that struggle becomes, in time, the truth.
        Historically certain figures sometimes emerge from stagnant, despairing and/or disintegrating cultures to reinterpret old symbols and beliefs and invest them with new meaning.  An individual's decision to play such a role may be purely unconscious, but it can sometimes evolve into an acute awareness that he may indeed have the gift/burden of prophecy.  This realization may be followed by the public declaration on the part of such a person that he is merely an instrument of a new source of knowledge, a new direction and a new order.
        For Jamaicans, and ultimately for much of the Third World, Bob Marley was such a messianic figure.  He maintained that spectral emissaries invaded his sleep to enlist him as a seer.  He was frightened by the responsibility, he said, but he had decided to assume it.  "By and by," he explained, "Jah show every mon him hand, and Jah has shown I mine."
        A man who looked like a skinny lion, moved like a spider and lived like a ghost.  Bob Marley died trying to control the duppies within himself.  This is a disturbing story about the thin ice that is mere information, the terrible onrush of truth and the ebb and flow of magic."
        - from page 28, "Catch A Fire, The Life of Bob Marley", by Timothy White, Henry Holt and Coppany, Inc. 115 West 18th Street, New York, New York 10011, copyright 1983, 1994.

duppy, or duppies: Jamaican folklore term for the spirts of the dead.  From "Catch a Fire" (p. 25): "It is the mission of the Rastaman to drive out such "odious superstition" and replace it with the Revelation of Jah Rastafari, His Imperial Majesty Haille Selassie, and to encourage the smoking of ganja "spliffs" (hand-rolled, cigar-sized joints) and herb-packed "chillums" (water pipes) among the people to "aid dere meditations on de truth," as Marley put it."

binghi, or Nyabinghi: sometimes called "grounation" ceremonies, a means of grounding the faithful in the faith.  These meetings combine prayer, ganja ritual, chanting, drumming and singing, meditation and reasoning among the brethren, traditional interpretation of Nyabinghi is "Death to the black and white downpressors".   Rules and traditions include keeping a ritual fire and reciting Psalms.