Tag Archives: REGGAE

Interview: Ziggy Marley

ziggy marley

HE’S perhaps most well-known as the son of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, but seven-time Grammy Award-winner Ziggy Marley is a major musical force in his own right, as well as being one of the nicest guys in the business.

Marley has just released his sixth solo studio album, Ziggy Marley, and explains how the record is not only the latest chapter in his career, but continues to carry the message of positivity fans of his father’s music will recognise.

Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel having just released it?

I feel good. I feel like it’s the record I wanted to release with the words I wanted to say. I think it shows some progress, you know? It shows what I’ve learnt through my whole musical journey. I like it.

Many of the themes are of togetherness and unity. What influences your writing in this way?

It’s because that’s the solution, you know? Why do we never put the solution into what we do? We don’t just want to talk about problems, we want to talk about solutions: love, unity and peace. That’s the only way the world is going to survive. Even though we talk about other things on the record, we always come back to solutions.

Is writing like this a reaction to the many divisive people on the world stage right now, or would you write like that anyway?

It’s a reaction to my reality, which is this world. It’s what I see and what I feel around me. This world is small now; everything that happens affects me. Whether it be something in Syria or in my back yard, I’m affected by these things. I’m inspired to speak and say what I feel about these things. I say what I’m inspired to say and that’s just how it is.

Is it difficult to be consistently positive?

It used to be difficult sometimes. But for this record, I am sure of love being the winner. I am sure of it, I am positive of it. If the guys who want to fight wars and divide people can succeed in their dreams, why can’t we who want peace and love succeed in our dreams? So their actions really show that our actions can succeed. If they can make wars and division happen, we can make peace and love happen. Of course we can make it happen. I know that.

Is there any extra pressure with this album, given your last won a Grammy?

No, I don’t think about the Grammy. Sometimes a critic might say something that shows they understand what I’m trying to say, and then I might think about it [laughs].

How important is it for you to release the record on your own label?

The way the industry is now, it’s the only way I can do it, because the Internet and streaming means I am not selling CDs; most people stream their music now. So I don’t need a big record company to do that for me. I’m satisfied with where I am, and I know what my place is and what I have to say. The freedom to be able to say it is very important, and I’m very happy that we’re independent.

Is there any significance in releasing a self-titled album at this point in your career?

I don’t know the reason. Things happen for a reason and sometimes you don’t know why. Eventually you’ll find out, and I’m still waiting to find out why it’s called Ziggy Marley. We tried everything else and that’s what came up. Who know why that happened? Usually we give it a title from the album; my last album was called Fly Rasta because we had a song called ‘Fly Rasta’. Love is My Religion and Wild and Free [were the same]. Normally I feel those songs fit and I feel good, but for this record, for some reason, none of the names gave the feeling that they fit, you know? So we just went with Ziggy Marley.

Being the son of the most well-known and loved reggae artist of all time: what are the pros and cons?

People love my father and they love me, but I think they also love me because of who I am too and what I’m doing. I hope I’m adding to the philosophy, idea and legacy. We get a lot of love. And the cons? It doesn’t even matter to me. What it is, it is, I get through life and don’t study that. I just deal in love; that’s all I’ve got [laughs].

When can we expect to see you in Australia?

Right now, I’m starting a U.S. and South American tour, but next year we would like to come down to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I’m looking forward to coming down and playing some music for the Australian people.

Would you prefer a festival or your own shows?

I would prefer a festival because you can get to more people. I would prefer to play to more people as that’s how I can get the message across. But we can do it any size, big or small.

Byron Bay Bluesfest could be pretty perfect for you.

Yeah, that’s always nice.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’m touring, I’m putting out a cookbook soon, I did some acting on an American TV series called Hawaii 5-0; I might do that again, I don’t know. But mostly touring.

What is the cookbook you’re doing?

It’s a cookbook done by me and my wife and some friends of ours. We’re putting together a cookbook with some Caribbean-infused recipes, you know? It’s organic cooking.

What’s your specialty?

It’s oatmeal, man [laughs]. But I mix up a lot of stuff in there, it’s not just oatmeal.

Ziggy Marley by Ziggy Marley is out now.

For The AU Review

Ofa Fanaika of Chocolate Strings: “We’re kind of superstars in our own little way”

chocolate strings

BRISBANE funk/reggae/soul collective Chocolate Strings have just released a new single, and it’s a smooth and delicious taste of things to come, says singer-guitarist Ofa Fanaika.

“’Playing Pretend’ is a double A-side single with another track called ‘Polyamory’,” she says. “It’ll be part of an album that we’re looking to release in September or later in the year. We’ve recorded maybe eight tracks at this point, and we’re just working out what sort of journey we want to take our listeners on and what best represents where we’re at now. We’re going to try to capture that on the album.”

The song features the band’s trademark collision of genres and a soulful vocal by Nia Falekakala.

“It started with a guitar riff I’d been mucking around with, and the vocalist on that particular track wrote the lyrics for it,” Fanaika says. “The essence of the song is about being genuine and upfront, and saving yourself the drama of wishing you had done something right at the beginning, hence the name ‘Playing Pretend’. We were recording a bunch of tracks and it just seemed like the one that stuck out the most, and after other people had heard it, it ended up being a favourite.”

The band has eight members pitching in ideas, so when asked if everyone agrees on everything, Fanaika laughs.

“No comment! No, we’ve been doing this for a pretty long time and we’re pretty upfront with stuff. We don’t like to beat around the bush when it comes to things that are best for the songs, so we don’t actually have a lot of fights. A lot of the time we’re playing songs live before we’ve recorded them, so we can run through the process that way, and decide if it’s something we can put down.”

Firm roots in Brisbane’s creative community has helped the band develop and grow.

“I’m pretty proud to be a West End citizen,” Fanaika says. “It’s a lot different to most other suburbs in Brisbane. It’s a particularly creative community and inclusive of artists, and a real imaginarium of people that are thinking about expression. We can bounce ideas off other people who are doing a similar thing in whatever creative thing they’re promoting, and a lot of concepts cross over; the artistic, music and community worlds. In West End, our networks are shared amongst other like-minded people, so for every person who likes Chocolate Strings, they tell ten other people. In this neighbourhood, we’re kind of superstars in our own little way, and that’s kind of a nice thing.”

CHOCOLATE STRINGS PLAY THE MOTOR ROOM MAY 30. ‘PLAYING PRETEND’ IS OUT NOW.

Michael Franti: “It’s about tenacity, courage and creating harmony in your life”

michael franti

MUSICIAN, poet, humanitarian, Bono fan; these are just some of the strings to Michael Franti’s bow.

The multi-talented Californian and his band will make a return to Bluesfest next month, as well as playing a sideshow at The Tivoli. “It’s our first time to Australia in three years, and we’re super excited to come back,” he says. “This is actually our twentieth year playing music together; we started in ’94. It kind of crept up on us; one day around Christmas I was sitting around with Carl [Young, bass] and I said ‘Carl, when did we start?’ We realised it was August ’94. We feel more excited about playing music than we ever have, and it’s just really great to be in a band with these guys. We never decide what we’re going to play until about 15 minutes before we go on-stage; we always mix it up every night. There are some songs people want to hear, so we try to play those, and we’ll go through the catalogue and revisit songs we haven’t played in a while. Sometimes we’ll play cover songs and sometimes loud party music that will get people up and jumping around at a festival. We love the festival setting and we’re looking forward to coming back.”

The upcoming gigs will give Australian fans the first chance to hear songs from Spearhead’s 2013 album All People live, as well as getting an advance on tunes that will appear on the as yet untitled follow-up.

“The songs were all written while we were touring and we’ve tried them out in front of audiences, so they’ve all be road-tested, so to speak,” Franti says. “It’s great when you can write a song in the morning, play it to fans in the afternoon and get their response to it. This record is a mix of acoustic music, political songs, roots and maybe more love songs than I’ve ever put on a record. We always have new songs ready for a record, and as soon as I finish writing them I like to play them; so there are a few new songs we might pull out. It’ll probably be another year before we release another record, but we’ve already been in the studio writing this stuff. The last two records had about a two year gap in between, but I don’t think it will be that long this time.”

Known for his political and humanitarian stances, Franti has changed his approach somewhat in recent times.

“My original band put out our first record in 1987,” he says. “I think a lot of us who have been involved in doing political work and political song-writing for a long time don’t know if any of the songs we ever wrote really made a difference to the world, and it’s easy to get frustrated. Right now I’m working on a documentary film about people I’ve met who have really inspired me and made me see the world and the work I do in a different way. Instead of trying to put out the whole world that’s on fire with this little water pistol that I have, I’ve learned how to use the water pistol to sprinkle the flowers in my own back yard and have a bigger impact. Lately, I’ve been writing about that more than specific political things; it’s about tenacity, courage and creating harmony in your life.”

Franti got his first major break when a certain rock quartet with a similar approach to political and social issues took his band on tour in 1992.

“It was really amazing,” he says. “We had a minor hit at the time and U2 saw the video for it, and they invited us to come out on the road. We went from being a little band playing in punk rock and hip-hop clubs and driving around in a tiny white van, to playing Yankee Stadium and all these massive venues. I was a fan of U2’s music at the time but I wasn’t that familiar with the guys in the band, and I remember the first week Bono came up to me and says [adopts Irish accent] ‘can I have a quiet word wit’ ya? There’s this one thing I need to talk to ya about’. I was worried and thought we were getting kicked off the tour, but he said ‘you know my guitar player? His name is The Edge, not Ed’. I had been saying things like ‘yo Ed, nice guitar solo! Yo Ed, nice hat! Yo Ed, you coming to the party later?’ I guess The Edge had gone to Bono and asked him to have a word. We’ve toured with tons of bands, and they’re right up there among our top experiences in terms of being treated well by the headliner. They always made sure we had enough time and space to set up our gear and sound check, and they always hung out with us. Whether we wanted to talk about music, religion or business things, Bono was always really amenable to having a conversation about anything; it was a really good experience for us.”

MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD PLAY BYRON BAY BLUESFEST APRIL 21 AND THE TIVOLI APRIL 23.