Ziggy Marley has been in the game a long time. As a kid he sang on his dad’s records and formed Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers with his siblings, regularly releasing albums from the late 70’s to the end of the 90’s. Now deep into his solo career, he knows exactly where he wants to take his music, and the genre Bob pioneered. Before writing his latest album Fly Rasta, Ziggy wrote down some aims on a little piece of paper: push the boundaries of reggae, and propel it into the future.
With a 35 year career in his rear window, four studio solo records in his back pocket and a number of Grammy’s to go with them, Ziggy – or David as his dad called him – is as authoritative as anyone in aiming to push reggae into the future. His desire to stretch himself as well as his art form into new musical territories is immediately clear from the opening track. I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars has powerful, rocking, funked-out guitars commanding the song. His roots aren’t too far off though, with the title track following, packing classic reggae off-beat guitars, glaring horns and steel drum-like rhythms. Diversity is re-established on slower, folky track Lighthouse, led by a piano with soulful lead and backup singing – provided once more by his siblings.
The piano transitions smoothly into the intro of the following track, before it bursts into an upbeat jam with reggae guitars and jungle synth, as happy and shiny as any song about Sunshine. The intentions of the album are typified on Moving Forward, which combines rock ‘n’ roll guitars and percussion with classic twangy reggae sensibilities, with Ziggy metaphorically singing of moving his life and genre forward. You brings a funky, soulful, Stevie Wonder-esque bass line, with a rousing organ-led chorus contrasting the darker tone of the verses. So Many Rising is a more stripped back tune with bongos and acoustic guitar, whilst I Get Up brings back the archetypal reggae guitars, keys and horns. The lyrics of You’re My Yoko are ambiguous, perhaps intentionally, as to whether or not his muse is his love or Mother Earth. Final track Give It Away is another fusion with poppier sentiments and instruments, whilst staying true to the Marley legacy, pointing out that love can only be love “if we give it away”.
Ziggy can look at his little piece of paper and consider Fly Rasta a success. By incorporating elements of rock, funk, soul and pop, he has pushed the boundaries of reggae and given it a path for the future. The musical expansion is not for his own gain though, having noted that as his father and his peers so strongly represented; music has a much deeper purpose than one’s own selfish gain. Fly Rasta is a joyous celebration of life, calling upon the people to come together and respect each other, and care for Mother Earth. Nothing but peace and love.