Interview: Ziggy Marley Talks Marley Africa Road Trip

The Musician and Son of Bob Marley Discusses Filming the Documentary
by Karen Benardello

Ziggy generously took the time recently to talk about filming 'Marley Africa Road Trip,' which he also produced. Among other things, the musician discussed how understanding the obstacles that Africa faces, and bringing his father's spirit to the people there to help them overcome their struggles, motivated him and his brothers to make the documentary; how the movie has been receiving positive feedback from fans, which is prompting his desire to shoot a similar film in another African country; and how he hopes audiences will see that Africa is an area of great wealth, not only materially, but also spiritually, through the documentary.

Question (Q): 'Marley Africa Road Trip' chronicles your journey to South Africa with your brothers, Rohan and Robbie, to continue your father's celebration of the freedom of Zimbabwe. Why did you decide to chronicle your trip for a documentary?​​​

Ziggy Marley (ZM): Well, I think the main reason was to go watch some soccer during the World Cup in South Africa (in 2010). It was the first time the World Cup was being held in South Africa, and I really wanted to go. I had never been to a World Cup before, and the significance of it being held in South Africa for the first time was something that drove me to really want to go.

We thought it would be a good idea to document it while riding motorbikes. We met with David Alexanian. We talked about riding some bikes through South Africa during the World Cup and watching some games and interacting with some people. We talked about bringing the Marley spirit to that great event that was happening there.

Q: Speaking of David, he directed and served as the cinematographer on 'Marley Africa Road Trip.' What was the experience of working with him like on the film?

ZM: Well, I first heard about David after watching (the 2007 documentary) 'Long Way Down' (which he directed, produced and wrote) with Ewan McGregor. That documentary features their adventure traveling through South Africa on motorcycles, and I like adventure. David's one of us-he rides bikes, and he's an adventurer, like I am. It's all about friendship and brotherhood.

Q: What was the process of traveling with your brothers and chronicling your trip with them through Africa like?

ZM: It was kind of low-key and easy-going. It wasn't a big production, and we just brought some camera friends with us. It was fun, and it was like a family. It wasn't a scripted thing, so everything you see is real life. We tried to put on a concert to reach the people. Before we went to South Africa, we tried to get some people to promote the concert. But because of the World Cup, everyone was busy. So we decided to do it on our own. That was a big part of the documentary, to get this concert done in South Africa.

Q: Speaking of the concert, the documentary showcases you putting together and performing your father's music with African musicians in Soweto. What was the process of planning and performing your first tribute concert to your father in a short period of time?

ZM: Well, I'm a musician, firstly. Playing in Africa is a big deal for us, because the message of African unity was one that my father sang about, and is one that I still believe in. Music is the way we carry that message to the people.

We didn't have a band, as it was just me and my brothers and the crew. So I had to find a band in South Africa. Then we found one called Tidal Waves, and we talked to them about playing in the concert in Soweto. It turned out to be a good experience, meeting new musicians and rehearsing in South Africa with South African musicians.

Q: Did you work with David at all to choose which clips from your trip you were going to include in the film?

ZG: No, I didn't want to get all that involved. David's a director and film guy, and I'm a music guy. I let the film guy do what a film guy does, and I did what a music guy does. I don't want that amount of control. (laughs) I let David do his job.

Q: What kinds of reactions have you received to the film by your father's fans?

ZM: Everyone's been giving positive reactions to it, so I think I want to do it again, somewhere else in Africa. I really enjoyed I and learned a lot from it. I'd love to explore other countries in Africa, with the idea of learning about it, and spreading the message about Africa and unity through the trips that we take. Doing this on motorbikes was an open way to experience a country and its people. During the trip, while we were riding, we made impromptu stops. We saw things that we were interested in, and things that you were only able to access with two wheels. Being on two wheels is a great way to explore a place, and I'd like to do it again.

Q: You were with your father as he performed at the Independence Concert in Zimbabwe in 1980, and you have said it's something that you reflect on regularly. Why was the concert so influential on your life?

ZM: Well, when I went to Zimbabwe with my father, it was my first time in Africa. So it was a big deal for me. It was there that I saw the power of music and people to overcome obstacles. At that time in Zimbabwe, before the independence, it was apartheid. When I went there with my father, I saw the liberation movement being influenced by the music.

That really impacted me for the rest of my life, in understanding the obstacles that Africa faces, and how the people there overcome their obstacles. That was the catalyst for my African education, and everything that I do musically and when I talk about Africa.

Q: What do you hope fans of your father's music and your music, and audiences overall, will take away from the film?

ZM: Well, the experience of Africa, and showing that Africa is an area of great wealth, not only materially, but also spiritually. Before we went to South Africa, there was so much hype about being careful about the violence. But I want people to see that South Africa's a place they can go without fear. There are places in Africa that are beautiful and wonderful to visit and enjoy. The people of Africa are great. I want people to take away that Africa's a great place, and isn't all the gloom and doom that's shown in the media. It's a great place with great people and experiences.