Last Thursday, in my home town of Kona, this writer had the joy of chatting with Ky-Mani Marley, son of Bob Marley. Ky-Mani truly embodies Bob’s essence, legacy and vibe. Later, when he played four of his father’s songs, he literally channeled the Rasta bliss and ecstasy his father began way back in 1969. If you watch the videos and close your eyes, you can almost hear Bob Marley singing through him. You can also tell Ky-Mani feels blessed and proud to continue carrying the ‘Rasta One Love’ mantle.
One of Bob Marley’s nine biological children from seven different mothers, he grew up in Jamaica until he was nine, when his mother moved him to Miami. His first love was sports, then as a teenager, he began playing piano, guitar and trumpet. Next he began rapping and deejaying, with a freshman single – “Unnecessary Badness.” After being asked to sing a song hook, his musical inspiration began and soon he experimented with laying tracks with his brothers, Stephen, Julian and Damian. To date, he’s released seven CD’s and one single since 1996.
Imagine getting to speak with the biological offspring of some of your favorite music; his dad invented reggae and wrote songs I began playing on ukulele nine years ago! Man, was I nervous! That’s probably why when I thought I turned on my video camera, I turned it off instead. It was super heartbreaking, as Ky-Mani Marley was personable and engaging in person. I felt a bit flabbergasted, as I had been informed the interview probably would not happen. Then at the last minute, right after the afternoon sound check, it did!
The day prior, I had asked my middle school students what they’d like me to ask him; their response included my first question. When asked if he played Fortnite, Ky-Mani responded, “I try but I’m not very good. I let the kids enjoy that.” That seemed to break the ice quickly as Ky-Mani laughed and seemed to open up.
What influences you the most in your music?
Things that happen in my life usually. I care about the kids in Jamaica where I have a youth program. The message of One Heart, One Love is in my music; we’re all in it together.
Is there any other career you’d enjoy besides music?
When you’re not making music, what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
The youth program in Jamaica keeps me busy. We help kids learn to use computers and give them ways to stay out of trouble.
How do you pick artists to collaborate with?
It happens naturally. I don’t go out and look for it.
Honestly, are you happy?
Yes, I would say I’m a simple man so that’s not hard. I am happy.
Wow! Thank you so much for your time. It was so nice to meet and chat with you.
You’re so welcome. It was nice to meet you too…
Later that night, I enjoyed his concert which opened with Inna Vision, a Maui-based reggae rap band. Inna Vision certainly met their own goal of “motivating and elevating consciousness by spreading Aloha and positivity to the masses.” I personally hadn’t seen them before, yet the crowd had. The opener played mostly their own songs, which got the crowd going; then covered the Damian Marley tune, Road to Zion. Having also enjoyed that band on the Big Island years past, I knew the Kona crowd would sing along and love it! They closed their set with the piano player singing ‘What you won’t do for Love,’ with a reggae, rap vibe.
Ky-Mani Marley came out to a packed crowd. The sea of cameras and video phones throughout, showed the Jah love on Big Island. Ky-Mani got the crowd going by saying, “How ya feelin’?” Deafening cheers were the response. The audience went wild for “One Time” and everyone sang along to “Love Overall.” On “Iron Lion,” the crowd sang over the performer! His “Rastaman” and “Is This Love” were enlivening and exciting to everyone present. Next Ky-Mani told the crowd that he can do other music; then he played a Ska tune – “You Ain’t preachin” which got the energy going even higher with a fast beat. He danced wildly on that one, while engaging he crowd with smiles and crooning. His two lovely back-up singers were spot on with lovely, rich harmonies. The band, which he brought with him from Miami, included two keyboard players, bass, drums and electric guitar.
The Hana Hou occurred about 10 minutes after the first set, perhaps to give him time to rest or recharge backstage. “Armed and Dangerous,” “Party’s On,” the extended version including audience participation of ‘Three Little Birds’ got the ladies singing, and “One Love” closed out the night.
Photographer, Gerald Besson, caught many excellent shots throughout the evening, including the video of “Three Little Birds”. What a blessing to spend time with a truly genuine, kind human with such talent. Next time he comes through, make sure to catch his concert. It’s definitely worth your time. Even though they end late for most Kona residents, I did see many older folks sporting their Reggae t-shirts and some dreadlocks!
New Heights | Hustler | March |One Time |Warriors |Fancy things | Love Overall | Iron Lion |Is This Love| Rastaman Vibration | Could you Be Loved
Love Guru Umais a Big Island musician, teacher, and author ofLove is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating Happy Ever After. She leads: Aloha Kula island tours, children in creating peace plays, and couples in making juicy love connections. Hear her music at store.cdbaby.com/cd/uma4 or on iTunes, where you can also purchase the Love is Crazy eBook.Find out about her & the upcoming Kula Peace Collective at www.umaojeda.weebly.com
Photos: Gerald Besson