Rollin' With The Marleys
and I woke up and went outside
and um, just I saw this
dragon y, and I started to
admire it, ya know? I noticed
that it was looking back at
me, cuz it was hoverin? and
it was looking back and
it didn?t move, and that?s
where it started from.?
? Ziggy Marley
The summer of 2002 changed my life. My dream of voyaging to Jamaica to pay my respects to Bob Marley?s resting place became a reality, but not in any way I could have predicted. Jamaica was a dream more vivid than color can describe, and it fl owed like a river through time. My reality became a spiritual paradigm shift, guided by the Island?s ganja, and I experienced myself in a way that has not since been duplicated.
My flight from the US carried me to Montego Bay, and from there I taxied to the seaside village of Negril. My comrade and travel companion Peter and I watched the landscape change from the taxi?s portal window, and it became arrestingly clear that the ?real? Jamaica was not the same island promoted to tourists in the brochures. Decaying roads led us through the narrative of poverty engraved by history, and was a foreshadowing of the story behind the resorts.
Our taxi driver scored us a nice sized sack of Jamaican herb that produced a really happy, productive high to elevate us through the next ten days. It was that Jamaican ganja which proved to be a holy gateway through our adventure, opening our minds and hearts to Jah Spirit and the natural flow of the Island.
?Well, right now we see ourselves,
ya know, the music growing bigger
and bigger, and expanding more.
No boundaries. And you know our
music is freedom music, so we seeing
ourselves freeing the people
more and more every day. Yeah,
nothing else ....?
From the moment of our arrival we were warned ? primarily by Jamaicans ? that we should not venture too far from our resort. It was too dangerous out there in the jungles of the mountains, they said.
However, after one day at the cliff-side resort we rented a jeep, which we named ?Ting? and headed along the Northern coast to Discovery Bay, then South into the mountains of St. Ann?s where Bob Marley?s physical remains rest. The air was so clean, and the rolling emerald hills framed by jungle smelled like green ganja. My high was golden. I felt the spirit of Jamaica seep into in my heart as soon as I entered those mountains.
Dreadlocked and barefoot children played Jamaican football next to grazing cows in a land that remained unchanged from the time that Bob Marley grew up here. I felt life becoming clear, like someone opened a door and let in the breeze.
Nine Mile is the city where Bob was born and spent his beginning years on this Earth. The home where he lived is now a memorial, where tourists are escorted through the shortened version of Bob?s life. A mausoleum with stained glass windows is shaded by a sycamore tree, and inside is a marble casket big enough for three. Within lie the remains of Bob Marley and his younger brother Anthony Booker. I was excited to be there, and to pay my respects to the man and the prophet who has so greatly impacted the world and my life. I thought that this moment was the climax of my trip, but I had no idea of the breadth and depth of the spirit of Jamaica.
We journeyed west to Port Antonio and then south along the coast of Portland Parish, a part of Jamaica that was once a sophisticated Hollywood tourist spot for people such as Errol Flynn. Today it hosts empty exotic hotels with moss-coated swimming pools; it is a side of the Island now rarely visited by travelers. At Golden Grove we headed inland, navigating our way through washed-out paths and flooddamaged villages into the mountains of St. Thomas.
Along the way we passed a man with one leg and no shoe, walking up the mountain with some old crutches. His wife was about ten feet ahead, carrying a basket on her head of what appeared to be laundry. They were smiling ? at what, I did not know.
As our faithful jeep struggled up the narrow roads, we passed a beautiful Rasta couple that called out to us: ?Hey mon! Give us a lift!? Rasta Patrick and Barbara climbed into the back of Ting and we carried them to the city of Bath. I listened to their conversation in patois like a song, and although I understood very little of what they said, I knew that it was good.
Bath is a holy city where a river runs beneath towering bamboo that stretches itself hundreds of feet into the sky, canopying like a chapel ceiling. Sulfur-rich water, known for its spiritual and physical healing influence, boils and steams its way out of the side of the mountain.
I went in the river, floated on my back, and let tiny drops fall from the bamboo and splash on my body. The men called out ?Jah! Rastafari!? while they danced under a makeshift shower of split bamboo that allowed the sulfur water to rain down on their heads. I can?t recall ever feeling more full of love, and the love filled me and flowed out of me like the river. When the late afternoon sun began to deepen the shadows, we gave our love to Rasta Patrick and Barbara, and left them with their family in Bath.
Back on the road, I was most high. We passed the shoeless one-legged man and his wife again, and they grinned and waved at us. In an unexpected moment, I realized that I had found the spirit of Bob Marley, and I grinned back.
The rest of my trip carried Jah spirit, from Bath to Kingston and up through Mavis Bank into Bito. We smoked all the way up the winding mountain road, through a river that was rumored to be one of the places that Bob washed his dreads, until we were greeted as guests at an all-ages school. Peter taught geography and swung the kids around while they marveled at his piercing: ?His tongue is bored!? (Bored as in pierced ? Ed.)
As wondrously high and awed as we were by the beauty and glory of Jamaica?s school children, we became equally somber while driving through Spanish Town. Once the capital of Jamaica, the city now sits in absolute poverty ? a shantytown made of scrap tin, squatting under the backdrop of abandoned Spanish architecture. We drove through in silence.
Ting survived a flat tire in a rainstorm during the night (demonstrating Jah humor in a town called Royal Flat) but finally ended its journey with us in Savanna-La-Mar. I experienced at that moment what my sister calls ?Flow?: understanding that in the bigger picture, everything falls into place for a reason.
A family selling bags of limes for five cents US a bag stood on the road where Ting collapsed, and so I gave the mama the last $1000 Jay ($20 US) in my back pocket. Passer-bys would see two strangers, a white woman and a black woman, in full embrace beside a broken jeep.
HEART OF A LION
?The main thing basically is to try to change the life of people. I meet
a lot of people on the road, and they come to me, (and say), if it wasn?t
for my dad they?d probably been dead ... probably committed suicide. Ya know,
I have grown men that break down cryin, ya know, literally crying and huggin
me and letting me know that it?s my dad that saved their life, even though
they never met my dad. So that is very inspiring to know that is done strictly
? Ky-Mani Marley
?I really love that song (Justice). The whole tune, what the whole tune
is sayin, really, is about the situation in terms of marijuana in Jamaica,
how ... um ... ya know, it?s illegal and a lot of people are locked up for
it but at the same time it?s really a lot of people?s way of living, ya know
what I mean? So that is what our ght is, for the justice of that.?
? Damian ?Jr. Gong? Marley
GETTING JAH MESSAGE
Coming home from Jamaica my acquaintances commented on how I lacked a tan. I tired of explaining that my time in Jamaica was spent mostly in the mountains; I was inspired by something that would not rest. The spirit and message of One Love became a tangible, living force of which I began to see evidence of everywhere, but mostly through the music of the Marley family.
In the two years that followed, I was compelled to interview the sons of Bob Marley and share the message through written word. I first interviewed Ziggy, Bob?s oldest son, in February of 2004. In the following months I interviewed Julian, Damian, Ky-Mani and Stephen Marley.
Interviewing Stephen Marley has been no easy task, but all things occur in their own time. In June of 2005, I finally spoke with Stephen Marley about the release of his premier solo album, the sacrament of herb, and spreading the message of the Almighty.
Born on 4/20/72, Stephen is the second son of Bob Marley. Although he?s made music with his family since birth and has been writing, producing and collaborating with various respected artists, Stephen has now stepped forward with both the release of his first solo CD, Got Music, and this exclusive interview for the people.
Jeniffer Zimmerman: You?ve taken the supporting role in the production of your brothers? and sisters? musical career until this release. Why have you waited so long to record Got Music?
Stephen Marley: I didn?t wait, really, ya know what I mean. The time is now. I wasn?t waiting. That was just my role ... it?s just being a brother. In other words, I don?t think that we think of it as that puttogether, like there?s a story behind it. We?re just being us. You know what I mean?
JZ: I?ve been listening to it and I love it. The song My Way is so different because it?s so blues-based, but the message is still very reggae. What was the inspiration behind that song?
SM: The music, first of all. I always listen to a lot of blues and jazz, ya know ? that type of spirit music, which becomes spiritual. People who play music from them heart and soul, and you can feel that. I always loved that kind of music that you can feel through the guitar and the saxophone and vocals ... Ella Fitzgerald or Ray Charles or what have you. So I?m a fan of blues and that type of music. The lyrics are just what I see happenin, ya know.
JZ: I also love the song Fed Up. It?s an intimate song that lets listeners see you more on a personal level as a man in a relationship with a woman.
SM: It is a feeling, an experience and how I relate it through music, and it came out in a song, ya know.
JZ: My favorite song on the CD is Someone To Love. Do you have a favorite song from the CD?
SM: No. Sometimes I love that one. Sometimes I love My Way. Sometimes I love Fed Up; it depends.
JZ: You know that the nature of our magazine is one that advocates for the legalization of cannabis, and our readers are particularly interested in your relationship with ganja.
SM: My relationship with ganja? Well, ganja is the healing of the nations. Herb is the healing of the nations. Ganja is a name that was given to it, but it?s herb. You understand? Herb is the healing of the nations and many people use it in many different ways and find many different healings for many different ailments, so yeah. It?s the healing of the nations.
JZ: What is the Rasta relationship with herb?
SM: Rasta relationship with life! Rastafari is a way of life! You know what I mean? It?s just beginning from that. Every element of life is for man?s purpose. Herb is a sacrament, and that is the use that we find with it. It puts us in that state of meditation, that state of oneness with the Earth and one another. It comes through [herb] naturally. Like I said, Rastafari is a way of life, and in this way of life, every element of life is for the purpose of man, and herb is one of them.
JZ: In the culture that I live in, we pass the joint to each other, but when I smoked with you on the bus a couple of weeks ago, everyone smoked their own. Was that a cultural thing or a personal thing?
SM: It?s both. It?s cultural for a reason but it?s personal also, because that is your meditation. You know what I mean? Hopefully that person next to you has the same meditation that gives you that harmony. But for me to pass that joint, that is your meditation, [so] it?s not just easy to give it to the next person that you don?t even know. Sometimes we pass the joint, when we?re reasoning and everyone is in sync. Than ya take two draws from it and pass it; but like I said, it?s personal also.
JZ: Do you grow your own?
JZ: Do you have a favorite kind?
SM: Yah, it?s called Goat Shit Weed.
JZ: Have you ever tried Marley?s Collie?
SM: All collie is Marley?s Collie! But no, I?ve never tried that kind from Amsterdam. Sometimes in California you find some good, natural herb, and all of that, [but in] Jamaica it?s all natural, that potency is real, that high is real! [laughter]
JZ: I wish I could have been at the celebration for your father?s birthday in Ethiopia!
SM: True! True! Nice!
JZ: How was that experience for you?
SM: Yah, mon. That was a landmark experience. That was ... very spiritual, ya know what I mean? It was like a purging, a baptism, but you?re not baptized by water, you?re baptized by the air and the people. You?re baptized by infancy. So far, man, that was ... wow ... Ethiopia ya know? Africa is the motherland, and Ethiopia is where the palace is. The people of Ethiopia were our special guests, and we were just lucky enough to be there.
JZ: There was some controversy around that time about the possibility of moving your father?s remains to Ethiopia.
SM: There is nothing to discuss, really. We will be creating a discussion. That is personal. That is not even public. It is what it is; there is no story behind that.
JZ: Ok, respect. In all of the Marley interviews I?ve been lucky enough to conduct, I always ask: What is your overall mission on the bigger picture? So I?m going to ask you that question as well.
SM: My overall mission, on the bigger picture, is to spread the message of the Almighty.
JZ: Through music?
SM: You might see it through the way I walk. I don?t know how you?re going to see it. You might just see it through this interview. This is literature.
JZ: When I was driving home from San Diego after our photo shoot, I was smoking some weed and listening to your father?s music on the stereo, and reflecting on how your father has left you a legacy of biblical proportions. What has that been like for you?
SM: True. True. What has it been like? Privileged. I don?t know any other way, and I have nothing to compare it to, but I know that God blessed us and we came through a line, so we are privileged and that is how we look at it. The Almighty is the key, and our father is one that understands. Him live that, and when you find the Almighty everything aligns, everything goes according to plan. That is what he taught us and that is what he left with us. It is a privilege ... having an affect on people?s lives; it is a privilege to be in that position.
JZ: It has been a privilege for me, because my life hasn?t been the same since I?ve been introduced to your father?s music. Your music and the music of your family continue to inspire me. So thank you.
SM: Yah mon.
JZ: Anything else you want to share with the people?
SM: Yah, keep comin?. We love all fans and we are always cooking up something for the people. There is no other reason why we do this, we love music and we love the people. That is really why we do this thing, and knowing that we are spreading the word of the Almighty to the people, to the children and the mothers and the fathers and the princes and the princesses.