Krista Henry, Staff Reporter
Left: Jr. Gong - Photo by Nathaniel Stewart Right: Cindy Breakspeare (left) and her son Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley performing at the Fault Line, Jack's Hill, in August. - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
The son of an emperor of music, Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley has built his own dynasty in the entertainment business. With two internationally successful albums to his name and a highly anticipated concert tonight at the Constant Spring Football Field, Junior Gong continues to wow audiences all over the world.
He has an eclectic mix of influences such as his family, Shabba Ranks, Supercat, Tiger, Ninja Man, Third World, Snoop Dogg, Nat King Cole and more, so Junior Gong produces music that has long been hard to classify. "It's dancehall and reggae. I've noticed over the past couple years people trying to separate the two of them. Originally dancehall was a place. Is the same culture. You hardly have any artiste that stay on one riddim . In terms of even that artiste yuh more know for dancehall in general them still have songs on one drop riddims. It's Jamaican culture in general. I don't try to classify or separate," he said.
While he hasn't performed in a zinc fence downtown dancehall setting in a while, Damian maintains that he is a fan of the music. "It's always great to know that yuh have yutes that are doing sumting constructive in terms of music, whether or not yuh agree wid the lyrics or the point of what they're saying. At the same time it's a honest living and it's still one of the only outlets Jamaica really has that is open to anybody, in the sense of no matter where you come from or who you be, if yuh talented you can get a break. In that sense we love to see that door dere," he said.
Meaning of music
For him music is a means of social commentary, as seen in haunting lyrics of For the Babies, among other songs. "We have a message in the music and we hope that people listen, not just to dance but also to think, some kind of improvement can come from dat. Dat would be good." he said.
While not yet working an another album, Marley has extended his musical skill to other avenues, presently producing young Jevaughn, whose single Santa Claus is getting airplay. Although his older brother Stephen Marley is set to release his first solo album next year Jr. Gong claims that nothing is going to change as they try to give each other space to shine.
"He's very important. He's my producer, he's my bigger brother, so that even go beyond business titles. He's my producer, one of the head executives to the label that I'm signed to, he has a heavy hand in everything. Stephen was a part of Melody Makers, so technically this is not his first album. It's his first solo album, nothing new for him or us. My first touring experience was opening for the Melody Makers," he said.
Naysayers claim that Damian has reached so far because of his name, but he says "at the end of the day you not going to listen to rubbish and people buy the album and love it. I don't think Marley is gonna win yuh over in people's CD decks. It might win yuh an interview and a picture here or there, but the response that yuh get when yuh go on-stage and hear cars passing and playing that, Marley doesn't win yuh dat, music wins yuh da. That's the prize more than anything else."