Julian Marley speaks on Reggae Month and ‘As I Am’
With Reggae Month just concluded, singer Julian Marley says he feels that the time has come for an entire year to be officially declared the International Year of Reggae Music.
“Maybe because I’m not there (in Jamaica), I didn’t feel Reggae Month directly, but we love Reggae Month and all the effort that is put out by various entities to make things happen each year. However, we need to increase awareness,” Julian ‘Juju’ Marley told The Gleaner in a recent interview. “I deal with reggae the whole year. Can you imagine a whole year dedicated to reggae music with live music and festivals every month and lots more reggae music on the airwaves?”
The Grammy Award-nominated artiste, who recently released his first album in over 10 years, drew a comparison between the attitudes towards reggae music and ganja. “It’s just like the herb industry. Look at how Jamaica was at the forefront. But where are we now? It takes a long time for some stubborn people to learn,” he lamented. “We need to enhance our own music, or our own potato, or whatever it is. It is a big mistake to do otherwise,” the son of reggae icon Bob Marley said.
Marley’s fourth studio album, As I Am, which hit stores on January 25, was released jointly by Ghetto Youths International and Zojak Worldwide. Marley, who told The Gleaner that he gets inspiration from family, not surprisingly, teamed up with brothers Stephen and Damian for production credits on As I Am. The 17-track offering boasts a list of all-star musicians and features collaborations with Shaggy, Beenie Man and Spragga Benz.
Album named itself
The young Marley, who is busy on the promotional trail, says he is upbeat about the response to songs such as Hey Jack, Straighter Roads and Chalice Load.
“It is a good feeling to have some new songs for the fans and for the band to play,” he admitted as he explained how the album came to life. “We just started working on some songs, and by the time I looked, we had 18 tracks,” he said.
That was more than enough for an album, and the decision was made to go for it. Since it was really just a collection of songs that were not written around a central theme, there was one particular challenge that they faced. “The songs were not made with an album in mind, and as a result, the title was the hardest part,” he stated. But then, the album sort of named itself.
As I Am enjoyed a No. 1 debut on the iTunes UK and US charts and made its Billboard debut at No. 2 for the week of February 9. Marley, who takes nothing for granted, said that he was “humbled”, but he was quick to tell The Gleaner that winning a Grammy Award is not his ultimate goal.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “We are looking to put out good music, we don’t really meditate on that. We do the things we are supposed to do. We are mature in this thing; awards are nothing to run down. Just put out the music from your heart,” Marley advised.
Dismissing suggestions that he has been absent from the music scene, Marley sought to put things in perspective.
“I and I is a musician from birth. We are art. Even when you don’t see us, we are in the laboratory. I and I is art. When I am not in front of the people singing, I am in my bedroom with my guitar,” which he says is his favourite instrument because “you can play it anywhere”.
His 2009 release, Awake, was nominated for a Grammy, but he lost out to brother Stephen Marley’s Mind Control. However, it picked up Album of the Year at the International Reggae and World Music Awards in New York that same year.
Marley is looking forward to hitting the road soon, especially since 2019 has been set on a positive note and is looking to be a great year. He is scheduled to perform at the 9MileMusic Festival on Saturday, March 9, in Miami and will be joining his brothers Stephen, Damian, Ziggy and Ky-Mani on April 20 at the KayaFest in downtown Miami at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater.
Asked what advice he has for young artistes, he stated: “Sing how you want to sing. Pay respect to the legendary singers of reggae music. You have some artistes in Jamaica who don’t know who is Dennis Brown. The legends showed us where to take the music. Artistes like Peter and Bob, branched out into rock but still kept the basics, the drum and bass. Keep true to the music.”