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O. C. LIVE | POP MUSIC

Marleys Learned Their Reggae From the Rasta

November 14, 1996|BUDDY SEIGAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Reggae monarch Bob Marley left more than a legacy of great music. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, also left a brood of offspring, many born to different mothers. And most of this pack o' Marleys, it seems, have followed Dad's footsteps into the world of reggae music.

The two latest sons-o'-Bob to surface are 21-year-old Julian Marley and 18-year-old Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, both of whom recently released debut albums on Ghetto Youth International and who perform tonight at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana as part of the Marley Magic Tour with Yvad and Rita Marley (who is Bob's ex-wife but neither child's mother).

Dad's spirit is very much in evidence in the music of both Julian and Damian--Julian's melodic approach is a direct link to the roots reggae of the '70s, and while Damian performs in the more modern dance-hall style, his voice is eerily reminiscent of the patriarch's.

During a recent phone interview, Julian spoke about his music and his father's influence. "I give thanks [to be Bob Marley's son]," he said in nearly impenetrable Jamaican patois. "Jah choose it to be so, you know?

"I remember him faintly. I remember a concert in 1980 at Crystal Park in London. But my father and I, we are like the same. Through the music, we really look to him as a father, not just as messenger, you understand. He can teach everybody, yeah, mon. Really and truly, his music inspires us; his music is reality; his music is like prophecy, you know what I mean? Yeah, mon."

Julian was born and raised in London but during school breaks would travel to Jamaica to spend time with his siblings--Damian as well as Ziggy, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon, who make up the popular reggae group Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.

In 1992, Julian moved to Kingston to be with his extended family and to continue the development of his skills as a singer, composer and guitarist. Unlike many kids his age who identified with the more urban dance-hall and ragamuffin reggae styles, Julian was more fond of the roots reggae pioneered by his father.

"Damian style more DJ style; my style more singing," he said. "Growing up, that was the type of music I was listening to at the time--all reggae artists like Burning Spear, Upsetters, lots of Dennis Brown, lots of music from them times. Now we listen to dance hall, but I grew up under roots."

His "Lion in the Morning" album is a strong debut. While his simple lyrics have a way to go before they approach the poetic grace of the old man's, Julian shows a keen instinct for song structure, hooks and melody that does recall his father's work with the Wailers. And, to his great benefit, he has many of the Wailers backing him on the album, including bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, keyboardist Tyrone Downie and guitarist Earl "China" Smith.

"Yeah, mon, we look at those musicians as more than musicians," Julian said. "Is a good experience playing behind these great musicians. Is all about the band, when you have piano player and drum behind you. A machine can't change like that."

On this, his maiden tour, he said he has been picking up "lots of good vibrations" from stateside reggae fans and is looking forward to spreading the joy of his own music and of the Bob Marley legend.

"It's not about famous; it's about liberty, pure liberty," he said. "I and I is Rasta. Our father built his foundation, which is our foundation now."

* What: The Marley Magic Tour featuring Rita Marley, Damian Marley, Julian Marley and Yvad.

* When: Tonight at 8.

* Where: Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 South Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Harbor Boulevard; go north and take the third right, Lake Center Drive. The theater will be on the left.

* Wherewithal: $19.50-$21.50.

* Where to call: (714) 957-0600.

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