For Ziggy Marley, his latest vehicle of expression the album Fly Rasta, represented a galactic sonic journey.
The trip began in early 2013 with a handwritten note by the six-time Grammy Award winner (with his most recent being the 2014 Best Reggae Album Grammy for Ziggy Marley In Concert). He sat in his home recording studio, took out a scrap of paper, and began to think about what would become his fifth solo studio album.
The concept was simple: make a record that was true to himself, and expanded the territories of the traditional reggae sound by exploring new musical spaces. He had brought strands of other genres into his previous albums, but now he was looking further into the musical universe, like the deep-space eye of the Hubble telescope.
Ziggy began work in Spring 2013 and enlisted producer Dave Cooley to join him on the adventure. Recording began shortly thereafter with the help of friends old and new, including The Melody Makers (sisters Cedella Marley and Sharon Marley, and singer Rica Newell); drummers Stephen Ferrone (Tom Petty), Brian MacLeod (Sheryl Crow), Rock Deadrick (Ben Harper) and Motown’s legendary James Gadson; guitarists Lyle Workman (Sara Bareilles), Takeshi Akimoto (Taj Mahal) and Ian “Beezy” Coleman (Burning Spear); bassists Dave Wilder (Norah Jones), Guy Erez (Karmina), Abraham Laboriel (Paul Simon) and Pablo Stennett (Willie Nelson); and keyboardists Zac Rae (Lana Del Ray), David Palmer (Goo Goo Dolls), George Hughes (Sarah Vaughan), Mike Hyde (Burning Spear) and Brian LeBarton (Beck).
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Fly Rasta, scheduled for release April 14, fulfills Ziggy’s mission by marrying his own distinctive reggae sound with elements of psychedelica, rock, funk, soul and pop, exploring further musical zones with the addition of sitar, tabla and taiko drums. “I’m looking to push the envelope, to challenge myself,” Ziggy explains. “ I have always wanted to travel far beyond the realms of expectations.”
Equally ambitious in its lyrical themes taken from Ziggy’s own life experiences and emotions Fly Rasta is a call to empowerment, enlightenment, freedom and, as with many of Ziggy’s songs, the higher power of love. It’s also a call to action for the planet Earth. A packet of wildflowers is included in every CD, encouraging fans to connect with nature and grow something beautiful. Ziggy is also partnering with several environmental organizations, including COTAP (Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty), which will assist in offsetting the “carbon footprint” of his upcoming world tour.
The album opens with “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars,” which sets the tone both musically and thematically as a love song to his “woman” Earth. From its Mission Control countdown it breaks into an infectious reggae beat amped up by power chords, immediately distinguishing the album as a fresh musical amalgam.
The album’s title track “Fly Rasta” offers an uplifting reggae anthem featuring reggae innovator and legend U-Roy, the strong backing vocals of The Melody Makers and an infectious horn section. A celebration of Rastafarian culture and a tribute to reggae’s musical roots, “this is a song I’ve been holding on to for nearly 20 years,” says Ziggy.
In the emotional ballad “Lighthouse,” Ziggy offers strength as a beacon to loved ones. The tone brightens on the sitar-laced “Sunshine,” a reminder of hope even in adversity “Moving Forward” weaves a similar message of conquering pain and hurt, yet in a progressive rock-flavored vehicle propelled by Takeshi Akimoto and Ian” Beezy “Coleman’s angular guitar work.
While the introspective “You” utilizes the second-person to convey what is a song about finding your true self, “So Many Rising” speaks of common causes, stripping it down to acoustic guitar and hand drum in a reproach of greed, corruption, climate change and eroding freedoms. The mid-tempo “I Get Up,” a call for feeling good and perseverance, finds Ziggy singing with his sister Cedella, who arranged background vocals on the entire album.
With a rock cadence, a nod to John Lennon and a slide-guitar break worthy of George Harrison, “You’re My Yoko” is the album’s direct praise for Ziggy’s wife Orly Marley (“oh your sweet inspiration”). The theme of love culminates Fly Rasta in “Give It Away,” echoing the legacy of Ziggy’s previous love songs, including “Forward to Love” and “Love Is My Religion” with the words “ Only if we give it away can love be love .“
Beyond the recording studio and live stage, Ziggy Marley remains a vibrant, multimedia force. On radio he continues to host a monthly “Legends of Reggae” program on SiriusXM’s The Joint (Channel 42), featuring some of the best reggae tracks from the last five decades. Following his comic book project Marijuanaman, he published a children’s book, I Love You Too, and narrated an interactive app, based on the song from his album Family Time. He also continues to expand his new venture, Ziggy Marley Organics, a line of organic, non-GMO products, from Coconut Oil to Roasted Hemp Seeds, currently available in over 1,000 stores nationwide.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Ziggy Marley and his siblings first sat in on recording sessions with his father’s band, the legendary Bob Marley and the Wailers, when he was ten years old. Later, Ziggy joined with brother Stephen and sisters Sharon and Cedella to become The Melody Makers, allowing him to craft his own soulful sound which blends blues, R&B, hip-hop and roots reggae. The Melody Makers earned their first Grammy (Best Reggae Recording) for Conscious Party (1988), their third album, produced by Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, which included the hit songs “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”
Their subsequent albums include the Grammy-winning One Bright Day (1989), Jamekya (1991), Joy and Blues (1993), Free Like We Want 2 B (1995), Grammy winner Fallen is Babylon (1997), Spirit of Music (1999) and Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1 (2000), featuring some of their biggest hits, as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” While selling millions of records and selling out numerous concerts, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers never lost sight of their foundations in faith, fellowship and family.
After two decades as the driving creative force behind The Melody Makers, Ziggy’s first solo tour came in Summer 2002, on the 23-city Jeep World Outside Festival, joining such artists as Sheryl Crow, Train and O.A.R. The following year saw the release of his debut solo album, Dragonfly, followed by 2006’s Love Is My Religion, a Grammy winner that further explored personal, social and political themes amid a fragrant mix of roots reggae, traditional rock, African percussion and other varied musical elements. He won his fifth Grammy Award, this one for Best Musical Album for Children, for Family Time, a 2009 collection of reggae-inflected, family-oriented songs. His last studio album, Wild and Free, with it’s pro Hemp and Marijuana title track soared to the top of the Billboard Album Chart in 2011 to become one of the year’s #1-ranked reggae albums. Ziggy recently added an Emmy Award to his mantle for the 2013 children’s song “I Love You Too,” heard in the Disney Channel series “3rd & Bird!” along with his sixth Grammy, in 2014, for Ziggy Marley In Concert.
Involved with a breadth of charities, Ziggy leads his own, U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits efforts in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. The charity’s missions range from building new schools to operating health clinics to supporting charities like Mary’s Child, a center for abused and neglected girls.