‘Stony Hill Fall Tour 2017’ at the MACC . . .Damien ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley
“Mankind still a fight and squabble/ iPod, King James Bible/ Slingshot onto long cal. rifle/ Tower of Babel, Tower of Eiffel/ Twelve month a year, but thirteen disciple/ Saddam, Bin Laden, Gaddafi, Idi Amin/ Call of duty, drone bombin’/ Stealth bomber, more famine/ Biometrics, eye scannin’ “
Eleven years after his crowning achievement with the Grammy-winning “Welcome to Jamrock,” Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley is back with more fierce polemics on the modern world on his new album “Stony Hill.” In the “Time Travel” track quoted above, Marley lists a litany of woes — some of the scourges of our time.
“ID thief an’ credit card scammin’/ Social network, bloggin’ an spammin’/ . . . More problem, more panic/ Suddenly now, more planet.”
“I use music as a means of communicating about what my thoughts and ideas are about the issues that face my generation today,” Marley explains. “It’s communication to learn from each other and uplift life globally. Music can transcend a lot of barriers. Ultimately people have to make the change, but music helps to influence people.”
One of the greatest contemporary reggae artists of our time, Marley’s powerful album solidifies his position as a vital heir to his iconic father’s legacy.
” ‘Stony Hill’ not only marks the work of an artist that has, almost inconceivably, maintained the ‘Jamrock’ momentum from a dozen years ago, but has reloaded with jet fuel along the way,” raved a Reggaeville review.
From the stirring dance hall of “Time Travel,” delivered in full Jamaican patois, Marley ranges wide to roots with “Slave Mill,” exuberant reggae/pop with the catchy “Living It Up,” and even serenading Nat King Cole-style with the orchestrated, romantic ballad “Autumn Leaves.”
Closing the album with the beautiful prayer “Speak Life,” Marley offers guidance for weathering this time.
“Don’t concentrate to what’s bogus/ . . . Rise up to the challenge you’re faced with/ . . . Keep your head up and stay up/ . . . Live a humble and meek life/ . . . Life is sacred.”
Only two years old when his father died, Marley was raised by his mother, Cindy Breakspeare, who won the Miss World crown for Jamaica. It was natural that he would follow in the footsteps of his father and siblings.
“Growing up when your father’s a musician and your brothers are musicians, it definitely helps,” he says. “When I was a little kid my mother took me to concerts to see dance hall performers like Shabba Ranks, Tiger and Supercat. A lot of my influence comes from that dancehall era.”
At the age of 13, he formed his first band, the Shepherds, which also included the son of Third World’s Cat Coore and the daughter of Freddie McGregor. The teen group opened up the 1992 Reggae Sunsplash festival. By 1994, he was working on his own solo project, and with the help of his father’s label, Tuff Gong, he recorded “Mr. Marley.” Assisted by brother Stephen, he next recorded “Halfway Tree,” which won a reggae Grammy in 2001.
Then came the double-Grammy-winning hit album, “Welcome to Jamrock,” in 2015. Guests on the album included Bounty Killer, Eek-A-Mouse, Bobby Brown and “The King of New York” — hip hop star Nas, who rapped on the track “Road to Zion.”
The accolades poured in for “Welcome to Jamrock,” with both Rolling Stone and Spin magazines including it in their annual lists of top recordings. The New York Times hailed the title track as, “a contender for Reggae Song of the Decade,” and New York Magazine named it the Best Single of 2005.
The recording won Marley a Grammy for Best Reggae Album and another for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. He was especially pleased to win a non-reggae award.
“It felt great making steps in the direction I want to be stepping toward, speaking about reggae winning Grammies outside of just the reggae category,” he says.
Even though it took over a decade for Marley to follow up “Welcome to Jamrock,” he kept up a steady pace of guest appearances on albums by people like Gwen Stefani, Bruno Mars, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg and Joss Stone, and he recorded a single with Skrillex
In 2011, he was part of the supergroup project SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart and Indian Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman, which saw the Rolling Stone’s singer actually rap on tracks like “Energy.”
“I was just copying Damian,” Jagger told The Hollywood Reporter.
A year earlier, Marley made an album with Nas, “Distant Relatives,” which celebrated the correlations between reggae and hip-hop, and traced the music’s common African roots.
“If you look at the history of hip-hop and reggae music, you can see that they’re both very much intertwined,” he explains. “A lot of ’80s hip-hop was influenced by Jamaican culture. They have very similar beginnings.”
Recently appearing in a video shot in Jamaica for the song “Bam,” from Jay-Z’s latest album, “4:44,” the video features both artists working in the studio as well as walking in island neighborhoods.
“Our whole genre is birthed out of traditions of reggae,” Jay-Z reports. “This is the music I listened to my whole life. Bob (Marley) was a major boss in our house.”
As one of Bob’s sons Damien says, “as the youngest I have a lot of support and experience to draw from. I’m always free with my music. I say whatever I want to say at a given time. Over the years sometimes those things cause repercussions but they don’t stop me. When I’m making music I don’t get too conscious about images and what people think.”
So what’s the greatest blessing being a son of such a legendary artist?
“The biggest blessing is the family, the whole legacy and heritage,” he says. “We have one of the greatest examples to follow. My father laid a foundation, an infrastructure that we could plug our thing into. Having so many brothers and sisters that love and support you is a blessing.”
Returning to Maui as part of the “Stony Hill Fall Tour 2017,” Marley performs on a bill with J Boog, who fuses reggae with R&B, hip- hop and rock.
Of Samoan ancestry — his father was a tribal chief — Boog was first influenced by his sister, who sang and played piano. After she brought home a Bob Marley song book, he began singing along and his music career began evolving.
Raised on an eclectic musical diet of classic reggae, West Coast hip-hop, vintage R&B and a dash of hard rock, Boog’s latest album “Wash House Ting,” was released last fall. Guests on the album include Chaka Demus, Buju Banton and Fiji.
“Split between political activism and love ballads, ‘Wash House Ting’ is all about promoting love and positivity,” noted Top Shelf Reggae.
Also on Saturday night, Zeptember VIII, at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea, will celebrate the British rock gods, Led Zeppelin, as performed by many of Maui’s finest. The show takes inspiration for Zeppelin’s five night residency in 1975 at London’s old Earls Court Arena. The set list included “Rock and Roll,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Kashmir,” “No Quarter,” “Going California,” “Gallows Pole,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
“Rehearsals are sounding crazy thanks to incredible efforts and talents of all the musicians,” says Nils Rosenblad. “I’m stoked to be part of keeping the Hammer of the Gods’ music alive and well on Maui.”
Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door and are available at 808 on Main in Wailuku; 808 Deli in Kihei; Las Pinatas in Kahului; Alice in Hulaland in Paia; Mulligans and online at www.eventbrite.com.
Beginning on Wednesday, The Shops at Wailea will debut a new “Jazz at The Shops” musical series, with free outdoor performances featuring jazz musicians. To kick off the first event, saxophonist Rock Hendricks and guitarist Benny Uyetake will perform.
Best known for his sax work with Paul Hardcastle, Hendricks has performed with many leading musicians including Michael Jackson, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Walter Becker and Don Fagan, and Michael Buble. He was also a featured player on the Na Hokuhanohano-nominated album “The Reflections Project — Maui Jazz 2015.”
A versatile guitarist, Uyetake was a featured performer at the annual Maui Jazz & Blues Festival, playing alongside many jazz greats, and he is often featured at Hawaiian slack key guitar and ukulele festivals.
Jazz at The Shops will take place the first Wednesday of every month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the upper level. Special event validated parking is available for $5.