Growing up Marley 

Ky-mani Marley plays GLC July 7


Ky-mani Marley, son of a Bob, used to be a jock. He'll be the first to admit it. His music career was basically a fluke. Despite growing up in the shadow of reggae legend, music was often the last thing on his mind.

"I remember when I was younger and I used to take guitar lessons, that was like torture. I hated every moment of that," he says. He'd much rather have been out on the soccer field - a legacy he also inherited from his father.

But then one day, as a teenager, Ky-mani was goofing off around at the house of a DJ friend in Miami, singing a reggae classic for the hell of it. By chance, a former engineer and producer of his father's walked into the house and liked what he heard.

"He said, 'You know, you have a nice tone. You should come by the studio to see what we can do,'" Marley says. "So I started going there on Saturdays."

He wrote two songs: "Unnecessary Badness" and "Dear Dad," and it was from the massive response that followed the latter song that he realized that - like his father, like brothers Julian, Stephen, Damian and Ziggy - he was meant to make music.

"It's been a career, a journey and an adventure all wrapped into one," he says.

Marley has released five albums of hip-hop influenced reggae, with a sixth on the way. He's putting the finishing touches on New Heights, which he calls the "evolution of our evolution - hip-hop meets country meets rock 'n' roll and rooted in the reggae his father helped to popularize.

"When I speak of music I try not to speak of genre because at the end of the day, they're all common denominators as music, right? For me, I just go wherever the spirit take me. For me, it's just music," Marley says.

Born in the small Jamaican town of Falmouth to Bob and Anita Belnavis, he was five years old when his father died. Shortly after, he was sent to Miami to live with his mother's family.  It was a loving and open environment and the family encouraged Marley to express himself creatively. Despite his interest in sports, his mother encouraged him to take those reviled guitar lessons. At the same time, he was coming to terms with the idea of having a deceased father who also happened to have made a profound cultural impact on the Western world. It's a topic he may never tire of discussing.

"I think we're still realizing (what his impacts are)," he says. "I don't think we have all yet realized what he has done because there is still more coming.

"I can see a younger generation - not just my generation or my father's generation, but my children's generation and my children's children's generation - still gravitating to this music as if it's still fresh. You cannot really at this point out say a hard word about his accomplishments because there are things being accomplished right now (through his legacy)."

That legacy carries on through his children, five of whom, including Ky-mani, have full-time careers in music. And he says the rumours are true: the Marley brothers will be releasing an album together at some point in the future.

"This is something that has to happen," Marley says. They have over an album's worth of music already recorded and now it's a matter of revamping some of the material to release it at an appropriate time, when everyone's schedules line up for a family tour.

"It's beautiful," he says about making music with his brothers. "There is no greater joy than that."



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