When Ziggy Marley, son of reggae music’s brightest star, Bob Marley, performs onstage and writes songs that contain meaning and messages, he’s following family tradition.
“Most of my family is musicians,” the Kingston, Jamaica, native said last week from his second home, California.
“Going back to my grandmother and my grandfather, on both sides of my parents, the whole lineage that I’m from is music and spirit, too. Spiritual teachers, priests and pastors. It’s the blood in us, what we’re made of.”
During their childhood, Marley and his siblings staged plays and concerts for their grandparents and great-aunts.
“So it’s very natural,” he said last week, ahead of his Tuesday show at the House of Blues in New Orleans and his sold-out Wednesday performance at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge.
Marley, 46, was 10 when he and his siblings first visited one of their father’s recording sessions. They would also run onto stages where the elder Marley was performing and sing and dance to the reggae music.
Ziggy formed the Melody Makers with his brother, Stephen, and sisters, Sharon and Cedella, in 1979. They performed together for more than two decades, winning three Grammy Awards before Ziggy went solo in 2002. His Grammy total increased last year when his “Ziggy Marley in Concert” album earned his sixth gramophone-shaped trophy.
Awards matter to Marley, but not for the obvious reasons.
“It has meaning because it gives more visibility to the work, to the message,” he said. “For me, personally, as a human being, as a man, not so important. I’m not egotistical.”
Marley’s 2014 album, “Fly Rasta,” opens with a message song. In “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars,” he pledges his love to his queen, mother Earth.
“Don’t want to escape to the moon,” he sings. “Even if the world went boom. I just want to be with you. And do the right things to you.”
Marley thinks globally about the environment.
“I’m thinking about all the planet, not a particular place,” he said. “I’m thinking of the suffering of the people on the planet. The lack of urgency that we see is concerning.
“Ebola is in the news. ISIS is in the news. Yes, these are issues, but what about the climate? You don’t see a lot about that at all. It’s like an underground movement, which it shouldn’t be. It should be something that everyone is concerned about.”
Musically, as Marley has done throughout his career, he blends many music styles with his reggae roots in “Fly Rasta.”
“That is who I am,” he said. “I am an adventurer. I try to do different things all the time. Some are really weird and never make it to the record. When we’re making the music, I consider that not everyone is as open-minded as I may be or someone else may be. We have to keep the connection with the people strong.”
Finding a balance between his artistic ambition and what everyday listeners will accept isn’t so difficult, Marley said.
“You put yourself out of it and think of other people. Not being a slave to what people want, but understanding them, and giving and taking.”
As for his own musical tastes, Marley enjoys all music.
“I listen to everything, but I’m selective, because I like music that has meaning,” he said. “There are some songs that maybe the beat or the groove grabs me. But more important is what you’re saying in the music.”