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Like father, like son

Some good ju ju


He looks and sounds just like you would imagine Bob Marley's son to look and sound - a dread-locked, reggae singing devout Rastafarian.

One of the many children that reggae legend Marley sired - an official count puts it at 11 - Julian Marley was born to Lucy Pounder in London, where he spent the first 17 years of his life.

Geographical distance was no deterrent to his father's musical legacy however. Summer holidays meant a trip to Jamaica to meet his father and half siblings. Being around his dad left an indelible mark on young Julian's mind. By age five, he had recorded his first demo at the Marley family home in Kingston. And back in London, he grew up on a steady diet of rock and roll, fusion music, jungle, hip hop and of course reggae.

In Kingston, he became an understudy to reggae veterans such as Aston 'Family Man' Barrett, Carlton Barrett, Earl 'Wire' Lindo, Tyrone Downie and Earl 'Chinna' Smith, all of whom inspired the young boy.

If in Jamaica he was Marley's son, when in London he was just another boy. "I grew up like a very regular kid, " Julian tells TOI-Crest. "I mixed with other kids, went to school with them, hung out with them. People and friends around me knew that my house isn't that great, so it was a kind of balanced childhood for me, " he states, offering us a peek into his early years.

A self-taught musician - he managed to learn the drums, bass, guitar and keyboards all by himself - he decided to move to Jamaica in 1993 to be closer to his brothers and become a reggae singer, just like his father. "I knew I will definitely become a reggae singer, because that always intrigued me. But I can never think of comparing myself with my dad. He was a legend and in front of him I stand nowhere, " he quickly clarifies however.

Being compared to his father is a pretty regular occurrence for the 32-year-old, but Julian Marley has, in the past two decades, with his body of work made significant contributions to the root reggae scene.

Along with brothers Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley, he set up Ghetto Youth International, a production company, in 1989. He put out his first solo album, Lion in the Morning, in 1996, which featured contributions from reggae luminaries such as Owen 'Dreddie' Reid, 'Chinna' Smith, Tyrone Downie, and his siblings Stephen, Cedella Marley and Sharon Marley. Rave reviews saw him and his band The Uprising complete a successful international tour.

In 1999, Julian, or Ju Ju as he is called, went back to work in the studio with his brothers Stephen and Damian, and contributed to the production of the platinum-selling Chant Down Babylon, a remix album by various hip-hop and rock artistes covering classic Bob Marley & The Wailers songs. It was produced by Stephen.

While he continued working alongside his brothers, 2003 saw him release his sophomore effort, A Time and Place, an album that bears testament to Julian's maturing as an artist.

Often when the Marley brothers perform together, they end up singing a lot of their father's classics, like I shot the sheriff and One love. While Marley Sr's impact on reggae and Rastafarianism can never be in doubt, it's easy for people to forget that the sons are also Grammy Award-winning artists.

Julian, whose last album Awake (2009) was nominated for a Grammy, doesn't think that his father's legacy at any time could override his creative endeavours. "My father's songs are epic and performing them always makes us remember his vision and achievements. In fact all those songs motivate us in life and help us to move ahead strongly, " points out Julian, who was six when Bob died.

Apart from the musical tradition, Julian has also followed in his father's Rastafari footsteps of 'one love, one planet, and freedom for all nations'. "Rasta is all about God and reggae is about the ups and downs of life. Both talk about spirituality, hope, love and oneness. When you add up all these things and you strongly start believing in such things, you become a very strong person. Rastafari keeps me hopeful and reggae teaches me the message of upliftment. "

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