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Ziggy Marley, Reggae Artist and Activist: A Conversation About Jamaica, Reggae, and Revolution

July 05, 2001

In "Life and Debt," reggae music provides a powerful backdrop to the story of Jamaica’s struggle against the forces of globalization. One of the most eloquent of those voices is Ziggy Marley’s.

It is an almost poetic irony that the rise of Bob Marley to international stardom in the 1970’s coincided with Jamaica’s battle against the IMF.

Ziggy Marley was taught to play the guitar and drums by his father, Bob Marley, and began playing music with his brother and sisters in his teens. They formed the band the Melody Makers in the early 1980’s.

Since the mid 1980’s Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers have released eight albums and received two Grammy awards for their work. Their brand of reggae reflects the influence of hip-hop and Rhythm and Blues as well as the traditional rhythms of Jamaican reggae and roots music.

Ziggy Marley’s music speaks powerfully to the condition of the poor in his homeland of Jamaica and the around the world, and to their struggle for dignity and self-determination.

In "Free Like We Want 2 B" Marley sings:

“Do we still have to live in poverty? Now they say we’re free to be poor

 But are we free like we want to be?

Black man are we free like we want to be?"

Marley’s music is also deeply spiritual and marked by a sincere optimism at the possibility of social change.

Off stage, Ziggy Marley carries on his family’s tradition of political activism. He and his siblings founded "Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment," or URGE, a nonprofit organization that works to promote welfare and poverty reduction in Jamaica, Haiti, Africa, and among the poor in the US.

Ziggy Marley played recently at the premiere of the movie "Life and Debt" at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York.


  • Ziggy Marley, international reggae artist and activist has released eight albums with the Melody Makers and has received two Grammy awards

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