A Conversation with Ziggy Marley
Mike Ragogna: Ziggy, what does it mean to you to be a Marley?
Ziggy Marley: I kind of don’t think about myself that way. The name is a name. I don’t think about what it is to be a Marley. I’m a human being; I don’t see myself as a Marley, that’s not my identification. I am more than just that. A human being.
MR: Of course, though I imagine it can be personally empowering to be part of as wonderful a dynasty as yours.
ZM: Eh. My dynasty’s more than “Marley,” though. It goes back thousands of years beyond “Marley.” “Marley” is a recent thing.
MR: So let’s talk about your new Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook. It’s a group effort, a family project, right?
ZM: Yeah, my side of the family. It’s me, my wife, our kids, our friends. It’s not the Marley family in terms of my mother and stuff, but it’s my family. Sometimes “family” means more than just your blood relations, family is those who are loved and enjoy each other’s company. It’s bigger than just the blood.
MR: I think what’s great about a Ziggy Marley and Family cookbook is it probably will tempt people who don’t typically make international foods to try out new recipes. What are some highlights of the cookbook that you feel people might most enjoy?
ZM: There are some simple things in there, like the oatmeal that I use for breakfast. There’s something in there for everyone, really. There’s fish, chicken, some vegetarian stuff. It’s a wide palate of what we eat and what we like. We have influences from the Middle East, Africa, Jamaica, America... It’s very international but it still has a real root in Jamaica with the seasonings and flavors that we use. Coconut oil and garlic, it’s very flavorful.
MR: Are there any dishes in the cookbook that you recreated from your childhood?
ZM: There are a few dishes, but they’re kind of updated. The Escovitch fish is something. We used to have fried fish and then we’d use onions and peppers and vinegar to create this sauce that is very spicy and nice. That’s one of them that is from my childhood. A lot of the fish dishes are from my childhood, that’s what we used to eat a lot.
MR: What about when your kids were growing up? Do you present some of those recipes too?
ZM: Yeah. My kids have what they call a “mancake,” which is a pancake but with more beneficial ingredients like flax seed and chia seeds added to it.
MR: A lot of people feel that even though food is being eaten by the body, it’s really being eaten for the soul. Do you feel that it’s a spiritual thing as well?
ZM: Yeah man, it can be, if you’re inclined in that manner. It’s all about your mindset, really. If you’re thinking about it in that way, then it will be that way. When I eat food, flavor’s one thing; the look is one thing; all of the senses. But also the gratification of what the food does for your body and how you feel after you eat it, not just the enjoyment of the taste bud, the deeper meaning of food as something that nourishes our body, as medicine. That is the philosophical meaning of food, more than just, “Hey, this tastes good, yum yum yum.” How do you feel after you eat that food? What is it doing to my body? What is it doing to my blood? That’s how I think when I eat food. If I eat something and I can feel what it’s doing to me, that is a spiritual connection.
MR: Ziggy, how do you feel you’ve evolved spiritually over the years?
ZM: I’ve become more open-minded. I’m more open to other ideas, other cultures, other people. Jamaica is a very closed society with its own cultural identity. Coming out of Jamaica and being able to not judge people, not base upon a stereotype, that’s a good part of my spiritual growth.
MR: And what is your relationship to music these days?
ZM: Sometimes it’s therapy. Sometimes it’s relaxation. Sometimes it’s to get me moving. It’s so many different things, but music is definitely an escape from troubles when I need it. Music can be therapeutic, too. Music and food. There are relations there.
MR: Your latest album, Ziggy Marley, seems to be a kind of musical biography. Was that its intent?
ZM: I never thought of it in that way. The album is called Ziggy Marley, I think it's a very honest expression of who I am and how I feel. It's out now and we're getting ready to go on tour.
MR: Does it feel like a finished work or is it continuing?
ZM: It continues to evolve through the live performances. The recorded album is only good enough to record a moment in time, but when you take it on tour, it kind of lives and evolves and breathes. It's always growing and expressing itself in different ways every night.
MR: There are songs on your album like "Love Is A Rebel" that make me think the album is more about the “human family,” that bigger sense, and the challenges that are facing it.
ZM: Yeah, man. That's a part of it.
MR: Over the years, you’ve recorded many songs across your albums that fans still admire. I imagine you play some of those when you're touring. How do the old and new songs sit next to each other these days?
ZM: They get together very well. Some of the stuff I did earlier still maintain the enjoyment of playing. They still feel very relevant to me, so I like doing them.
MR: And you acknowledge that with projects like the children's albums you’ve recorded, for which you’ve received Grammy awards. So although “dynasty” may not hit the right chord, “family” does seem to play an important role in your life.
ZM: Yeah, it's a big thing of understanding, coexisting. The family structure is about learning to live with each other. If you have a loving family, then that extends out to society, to the neighborhood, to the country, to the world. Everything begins with family. That's what we learned out of our basic foundational principles of life and how to treat other people. That is a very important thing to me.
MR: When you look at the world right now, how do you feel?
ZM: I feel that there are more people that love than hate, there are more people that want peace more than war. I think the majority of the people on planet Earth want love, but the airwaves have been taken up by so much negativity that the voices and the concerns of most of the people have not been heard. We're hearing negativity. I feel like we need to engage the majority of people in lifting up their voices. Most of us want love. Most of us don't want religious wars, racial wars, political wars; we want to love each other. That's how I see the world, from the majority perspective, not from the minority perspective of war and hate and division. Those are the least among us. The most of us want love and peace and that's how I go on.
MR: Ziggy, what advice do you have for new artists?
ZM: The music business has changed, so I would tell them be careful of their expectations. Don't be expecting that glory. Do it for the art and then let the glory come. If you're doing it for the glory and the glory don't come, you'll be very disappointed. Speak for the art first.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne