Julian Marley’s first trip to India saw him bring some ‘fyah’ to the stage as he played to a packed venue in Goa Every once in a while, a musician will come along and change the face of the music he chooses to play. For reggae music, that man was Bob Marley. More than 30 years after his death, his music still lives on. One of the reasons for this, however, is the fact that some of his sons — most notably Ziggy, Stephen, Julian and Damian Marley — continue to be established musicians, and are keeping the Marley legacy alive by performing their father’s songs.
Last weekend, Goa saw a performance by a Marley for the first time. Julian, one of the younger sons of the reggae legend, and his band, The Uprising Band, headlined the maiden two-day “Live from the Console” festival on Cavelossim beach in South Goa. The band played to a venue packed to capacity, drawing the largest crowd of any act at the festival.
But unlike a number of his other siblings, the 37-year-old Julian was born in England to a Bajan mother and lived there until he was 17. “It was a very normal upbringing — I took the bus to school and cycled around like any other child,” he says. This, he adds, is something he appreciates a great deal, because being the son of a famous musician, it could have gone any other way. Until he finally moved to Jamaica in 1993, his relationship with the country and his family there consisted primarily of yearly visits during the summer. But music — and specifically reggae — was always a part of his life. This despite the fact that the music he was exposed to and able to play in London was very restricted. “My mother had and still has a collection of vinyl reggae records that I listened to while growing up,” he recalls. “There was live reggae music happening in London at the time, but because I was very young then. I used to sit in my room with my guitar and whatever knowledge I had,” he says. He eventually learnt how to play the drums and then the guitar.
After moving to Jamaica, he began making music with his brothers and some of his father’s musicians, an experience, he believes, taught him a great deal. While there’s no denying the similarities in the music the family makes, there is also something distinctly different about Julian’s music that sets it apart from that of his brothers’. Yet he continues to play Bob Marley’s music, something they consider very important. “It’s important to continue to play my father’s music as it’s a part of us, it made us who we are as musicians, and also because the message in the music is necessary,” he explains.
Julian adds that there is no message in music these days. “It’s just that tomorrow might be doomsday so let’s get drunk. There’s no one asking what we are doing that’s positive — we’re still enslaved in our minds,” he says.
While some of the interest surrounding his gig in Goa may have stemmed from his family name, there wasn’t a doubt, after it was over, that Julian is a great musician in his own right.