As the police sirens go off in the distance, we’re burning spliffs on a sunny afternoon in Manhattan with reggae artist Julian Marley. The talented offspring of the legendary Bob Marley, Julian’s releasing his third LP, Awake, which shows noticeable growth on every level—songwriting, arranging and production.
The London-born Marley, whose eclecticism leans closer to older brother Ziggy’s reverent roots rock than younger sibling Damian’s rude-boy toasting, got his break in 1996, at the tender age of 21, when his Lion in the Morning hit the streets. That formative debut was bettered by 2003’s belated follow-up, A Time and Place, and has now been bested by 2009’s masterful Awake.
Besides a steady diet of reggae, Marley enjoys listening to classical and even Bulgarian folk music, though his familial connection to reggae and Rastafarian culture generally trumps any of the subsidiary ska, samba or American pop-music elements mixed into his expansive musical template. As Marley himself explains: “It’s the beat … it’s a life force. We love every kind of music because it’s all part of life. The only thing that’s true is sound. Word is whatever color you want to paint it, but music is like a rainbow—its color is universal.”
As expected, the motifs of redemption, social crisis and the sacred herb occur throughout Awake. The uplifting “Harder Days” procures a horn-licked soul groove and goes “heading for deliverance” despite the current economic meltdown. “Boom Draw” (Jamaican slang for taking big hits) compares favorably to his venerated father’s dub-plated “AfricanHerbsman” (with its skankin’, organ-burbled syncopation).
“For me, roots are the main thing, even though we have many influences,” Julian says. Then he adds: “The first instrument I touched was the drums, then piano—but I love guitar, especially when I’m smoking.”
Yet Marley doesn’t rely on marijuana alone for inspiration, since “it comes from everywhere—you could look out the window for inspiration,” he says, smiling. “But herb opens up the senses. Sometimes we go to the countryside to meditate; even if we don’t have any herb, you can still catch a meditation. You don’t need herb to write a song, but it frees the mind. We still have the word of the Almighty. But herb in any form—food, drink, tea, cake—we love herb. In Jamaica, 95 percent of the people smoke herb. You can’t stop that.”
For Marley, these herbal delights are a means of attaining greater spirituality. After all, reggae music and Jamaica’s favorite indigenous crop have both been fundamental to Rasta’s cultural awareness.
“Rasta speaks of judgment and prophesies. Right now, it’s even more related to today,” Marley opines. “People are losing houses, jobs, and are involved with this depression and down vibes. We’re saying, ‘Awaken the mentality so we can live our life with positive vibes. Joy and love are elements that, even with great problems, have power and substance.’ So Awake is right on target.”
source: High Times, http://hightimes.com