Preview: Ky-Mani Marley
Another of the legend's kids keeps the music moving - but he does it his own way
Posted: February 6, 2013
Ky-Mani Marley, son of the great Bob, makes his Prague debut Feb. 13 at Lucerna Music Bar.
It should come as no surprise that the second-youngest of the reggae icon Bob Marley's 11 children might want to follow in his late father's footsteps. It's a well-known fact that all the Marley kids have worked hard at keeping the spirit alive, whether it be through music, fashion or charity work, yet Ky-Mani is still something of an outsider.
With his long dreadlocks and his dad's face prominently tattooed on his right arm, Marley certainly looks the part, but his image has become more gangsta rapper than reggae singer.
Born in Falmouth, Jamaica, in 1976, the result of an affair his father had with table-tennis champion Anita Belnavis, Marley grew up estranged from his globally renowned family. The boy was deprived of the privileges and riches enjoyed by those children born to his father's wife, Rita, who got used to turning a blind eye to Bob's infidelities. He and his mother relocated to an impoverished, crime-riddled suburb of Miami, Florida, following Bob's death in 1981.
"This is not the life I would have had if he were my dad," Marley bemoaned in his controversial autobiography, Dear Dad, published in 2010. "If it meant I had to sell all the drugs in America, then that's exactly what I was going to do," the synopsis reads. "Family ties are the ties that bind, but when unraveled they can be the threads that nearly hang us to death. In fact, sometimes our most vehement enemies emerge from which we yearn to receive so much love - our families."
When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 8
Where: Lucerna Music Bar
Tickets: 530 Kč
At first, Marley was more interested in sport than music, but, after some toying around with a friend's sound system, he felt the calling. His intentions were immediately spelled out on Like Father Like Son in 1996, an album that featured a number of his father's songs. The following year he hooked up with Pras from The Fugees and enjoyed his first major hit with a stirring rendition of Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue."
Releases such as 2001's Many More Roads, 2007's Radio and 2011's New Heights all reflect Marley's personal struggle. Using reggae as a base, he branches out and shakes things up a bit by injecting other contemporary elements. "Reggae music is the root," he says, "but it has branches of hip-hop, soft rock and hard rock."
Marley says speaking the truth is what matters most. "I was raised in the streets of Miami, so my upbringing was far different to that of my brothers. The things I'm singing about are things they can't sing about, because it wouldn't be true, because they haven't experienced it. At the end of the day, you can't deny me of my truth; that's what it's all about."
Aside from music, Marley has also left an indelible imprint as an actor. In 2002, he landed the role of a hustler alongside Spragga Benz in the semicult film Shottas, and the following year starred in the romantic comedy One Love, directed by Don Letts. Further, the U.S. reality series Living the Life of Marley beamed him into many more homes, but unfortunately the show turned out to be all swagger and no substance.
As for his forthcoming Prague debut, Marley is all primed with a full backing band ready to make some big noise. He's recently created a new label called Konfrontation Muzik and is currently working on a new disc, so you can expect fresh material as well as your favorites and, naturally, some Tuff Gong classics. "The evolution side is where roots reggae meets kind of soft rock meets alternative music," Marley says, "and the revolution side is where dancehall meets hip-hop and that kind of urban swag." It's all in the mix, as they say.
James Scanlon can be reached at