By Claude Mills, Staff Reporter
WHEN DAMIAN 'Junior Gong' Marley, son of the late reggae megastar Bob Marley and former Miss World, Cindy Brakespeare, made his breakthrough debut on Tuff Gong International with his CD 'Mr. Marley' almost five years ago, reggae fans didn't quite know what to make of him.
Here was a true-blue member of the Marley clan who looked like a Marley, moved like a Marley, but sounded like a dancehall deejay.
Damian, unlike his superstar father, opted to express himself in the rhyme-spitting deejay style that is now in vogue. But despite his different way of expression, he is a died-in-the-wool Marley, a trait which shines through in his ability to convey solid, conscious lyrics which speak to the heart of men.
Five years ago, Junior Gong's debut album announced his arrival in the music biz. The album was a charming mish-mash of his father's best known songs such as 'Trouble (So Much Trouble In The World)', as well as new songs composed by Damian and his half-brothers Stephen and Kymani, such as the title track 'Mr. Marley' and the introductory 'Me Name Gong'. In those early beginnings, Junior Gong gave a glimpse of things-to-come, forging a unique style of dancehall and roots rhythms which bridged the gap between his father's time and the present dancehall era.
But it was his sophomore album released in 2001 that gave him the recognition he so richly deserved. The album was a beacon for the disenfranchised and sidelined, and showed his growth in terms of maturity and musical knowledge, and more importantly, clearly demonstrated his open-arm embrace of Rastafarianism, the spiritual umbrella under which his father sheltered.
The album earned him a Grammy nod in the year 2002, beating out a talented field that included reggae stalwarts such as Beres Hammond, Luciano and his older brother, Kymani.
He has come a long way from the unfortunately titled 'My Daddy Was A Bedroom Bully'.
Anyone seeing his performances at 'Hot Shots' or 'East Fest' will agree that his star is sparking a bright contrail as it climbs to the pinnacle in the sky.
One of his best known songs is the hauntingly catchy 'It Was Written' where he lectures on the Rastafari philosophy in passionate writing that will burn forever.