A report by Stephanie Lyew for Jamaica’s Gleaner.
Even within the confines of self-quarantine, Julian Marley has not stopped performing. Over on social media, the son of the legendary reggae icon Bob is lighting a fire with live campfire sessions – intimate and organic – where he shares some of his music and does a few covers, supported by the sounds of nyabinghi.
“As soon as the clock strikes for curfew, we kick off the live by the fireside at home. Some days are planned and other times it happens at the spur of the moment, even in the middle of the night,” Julian told The Gleaner.
The sessions are hardly the classic setting of a camp with large groups seated around the fire, but Julian dedicates the time to reviving grassroots tradition as a way to reconnect with nature and, through social media, with the people.
“The fire signifies the time we living in, a time of purging when the world hot, people brain hot … but after the fire, there is coolness at the end,” he said.
Despite strong international recognition and appeal, Julian shared, everything worked out for him to be in Jamaica, for he is comfortable in the land of his roots. He was supposed to be in Japan in March then several shows in the following months in California, standing in front of fans singing along to his music with lighters in the air. These have been replaced not only by the musician’s personal fireside sessions but other online events, including the Telethon Jamaica: ‘Together We Stand’ and The World’s Largest 420 Cannabis Sesh, hosted by US rapper Too Short.
He told The Gleaner: “Everything happened at the same time and not knowing how fast things would be locking down, I said let me stay here where I can do more and be constructive with music.”
CONTRIBUTES TO OUR PURIFICATION
“Plus, here [Jamaica] has a bit more space, more breeze and sun, the saltwater which all contributes to our purification,” he expressed.
On the topic of constructing music, Julian said he has become adventurous. “Working with about three different producers on juggling riddims, writing songs and getting new ideas together. I am doing the things I usually do, but stepping out of the box.”
“It feels easier with the music that is already made; I am used to building the song in full, starting with a written song then going into a jam session. We not doing that as much now but there is a time and place for everything, and this is the time and this is the place,” he continued.
The reggae musician, whose sound is described as raw, edgy, hard-core roots, says he is going through a diverse playlist of genres.
Growing up in London, he said, had an undisguised influence on his musical style, so listening to a wide range of artistes and musicians is not unfamiliar ground for Julian.
“England is multicultural, you can hear Indian to Brazilian; there you have a variety of sounds, even the original Afrobeat of the late ‘70s and ‘80s which was more instrument driven, and I guess propelled by topics for social awareness and justice. Mommy used to listen to Lady Makeba. I was drawn to that because of lyrical content,” he said. “That beat, that passion, that fire in the soul is in reggae, it’s one music, and I love all music … the message is what is important. I have not directly experimented with Afrobeats in the past but I have stepped into that ground, recent productions I have to come contains elements of it.”
Julian has also released a new single titled Fly, which in a way, he shared, is a tribute to his daughter who passed last year in June.
“Every song is inspired by her, comes from her heart as it comes from mine – she remains a big inspiration in all my music. It’s my soulful connection to her,” he said.
As the healing of the world continues, Julian says he is doing the same through music and lighting a fire when he can.
“I am overwhelmed, the music is going to be fire … as my style remains soulful with fire. Healing is a part of every day, of life and in this time, the earth is healing. We just have to keep the faith and stay safe. Give thanks and praise,” he ended.