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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ziggy Marley to bring a taste of reggae to the Calvin Theatre this Wednesday

(Bruce Tuten/Flickr)
(Bruce Tuten/Flickr)

Seven-time Grammy award winner, philanthropist and author Ziggy Marley will perform Wednesday night at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton.

Marley will be joined by Naia Kete and SayReal, a reggae-rock quartet noted for their intimate, tight performances.

David Nesta Marley was born in 1968 and anointed “Ziggy” by his father, Bob Marley, a pioneer of reggae music. Bob Marley was among the first artists, and is certainly the most recognizable, to follow the stream of jazz-influenced calypso music into what is known today as reggae.

From the fast-tempo-upbeat ska to the slow-rolling romance of rocksteady, Jamaican music finally reached its apex as a hybrid of these two genres. Bob Marley’s fusion of these two rhythms, with his own touch of offbeat “double skank” guitar strokes and Rastafari lyrics, helped birth the reggae genre.

Ziggy is the third of Bob Marley’s 11 children, and the first bud to sprout on the historic musical lineage of the Marley family. Ziggy grew up during the height of the elder Marley’s success, watching his father develop and tour with a variety of stars from the time such as Peter Tosh, Sly and the Family Stone and Toots and the Maytals.

This exposure, from such a young age, had a profound impact on Ziggy’s musical foundation and opened many doors for his musical career.

Marley performed in a few musical groups in his early years, but found his stride when he and his siblings Sharon, Cedella and Stephen formed The Melody Makers at the age of just 11. They made their debut in 1979, performing with their father at the Roots Rock Reggae festival in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. This was the first and only time that the band would perform on the same stage as their father due to his untimely death just two years later.

Despite his age, Marley was a leader, and soon established himself as the figurehead of the group, renaming it Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. The band recorded nine studio albums between the years 1979 and 1999 under the family label Tuff Gong, winning a total of three Grammys during that time.

The group was noted for its charitable ventures, with many of their proceeds going towards helping the children of Jamaica, especially in Kingston, a mission that Ziggy and his siblings have pursued to this day.

Upon the band’s disbandment in 1999, many of the Marleys began their own solo careers, most notably Ziggy, Stephen and Damian Marley. Ziggy released “Dragonfly,” his first solo album, in 2003. With it, he kept his roots in reggae, but with features from John Frusciante and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the album had a slight tinge of rock.

“Dragonfly” was released the same year that Ziggy’s brothers, Damian and Stephen, released their collaboration, “Educated Fools.” Released under the name Marley Boyz, the album could be categorized as reggae-rap with a touch of electronic sounds. Damian and Stephen have continued to follow this more progressive path while Ziggy has remained rooted in more traditional reggae.

“Dragonfly” picked up recognition within the reggae community, however it was not until his 2006 Grammy-winning album “Love Is My Religion” that Marley truly considered himself a solo success.

In recent years, Marley has begun to focus primarily on giving back to children. In 2009, he released “Family Time,” an album that won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children. Marley subsequently authored his first children’s book and, in another creative sidestep, a series of graphic novels featuring a character known as “Marijuana Man.”

In addition to his art, he has founded U.R.G.E., which works to help children in impoverished cities in Jamaica and Ethiopia, and supports Little Kids Rock, an organization dedicated to providing free instruments and lessons to children in public schools.

The seeds planted by Bob Marley have continued to develop as time has passed, sprouting new strains in the evolving garden of music. Ziggy Marley is possibly the most similar to his father’s reggae sound, while Damian and Stephen Marley have cross-pollinated with electronic and rap, creating an entirely new genre of their own.

It is not certain where this evolution will go, but Ziggy has remained the linchpin of traditional reggae music in the modern day.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30.50 and are available at

Will Sennott can be reached at [email protected].

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