Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Roadkill

By Raoul Hernandez

SEPTEMBER 22, 1997: 

Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers
La Zona Rosa
Thursday, September 25


The mantle of responsibility is a heavy one, especially when you carry the burden alone. David "Ziggy" Marley, 28, oldest son of perhaps the only musician to have been a truly international icon, politically, spiritually -- voice of the downtrodden -- carries it with ease. He has done so since he was 9, over some nine albums, and today, he is probably the only contemporary reggae artist breathing life into a genre plagued by oldie acts selling snake oil live and on CD. The question is obvious. Is reggae dead, Prince Marley?

"Reggae music, right now is a music that I think is not something that can ever die," says Marley is his thick, disarming Jamaican patois. "In terms of the music industry and airplay that the stations give it, they make it seem as if nothing is happening. With the people, that's where the key lies -- with the people. So when we travel throughout the United States and we see the people, we know the people love the music. So we don't watch what the radio is playing or what the media is saying."

Right. The media is, after all, the voice of the oppressor, the propaganda arm of the Babylon system -- a system that Marley, like his father, fights to undermine through reggae music. Fallen Is Babylon, the new album from Ziggy & the Melody Makers (brother Stephen and sisters Cedella and Sharon), while not Marley's strongest musical effort is perhaps his most politically motivated.

"The Babylon system is the system that fights against creation, fights against nature," explains Marley. "It fights against love. All the negative things that happen on earth, is because of the system man has set up, which is what we call a Babylon system -- a system that builds nuclear bombs, a system that will have surplus food and either throw it away to make the price rise or manipulate it while there's children starving and suffering. This is a system that exists for centuries -- from the Romans to the originals Babylonians. This is the Babylon system, the system that oppresses other people."

Traveling the world, not calling any place home, Marley and his fellow heirs spread their message through mesmerizing live shows where the groove is one, but the songs stand-out. Songs, brethren, songs. Groove is not enough.

"Right! The message. That's the message. Songwriting. It's true what you said that a lot of people are putting emphasis more on the riddem than the lyrics. Songwriting, for me, it's easy, because Jah make it easy. It's not me who do it, ya know? It's inspiration from the Most High. So, 'im help me write songs for people....

"When we play, I see the people needing more than what they been getting. That's what I feel, from the people. Like what they're seeing is something they haven't seen for a long time, which is real music -- and it having a spiritual feel, it touching them on the inside. It's not just an extravaganza circus, explosions, dances, and a lot of showmanship. They want something more real, now. With meaning. Yeah."

-- Raoul Hernandez


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