Stephen Marley has been a musical all-rounder since childhood. At the age of seven he formed The Melody Makers with his siblings – singing, playing guitar and drums – and performed on the festival circuit with his father. Today, the 44-year-old has six Grammy Awards to his name – more than any other Reggae artist in history – due to his unique ability to bring together the music of past and present.
His new album, Revelation Pt II: The Fruit of Life, combines roots reggae with rap-verses from the likes of Busta Rhymes and Iggy Azalea. Here, Marley gives a five-song guide to the music of his home country, Jamaica.
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Bob Marley – “One Love”
“It won’t come as a surprise that my first pick is a song by my father. Considering the global impact his music has had over the last 50 years, he is the ultimate gateway to Jamaican music. No other song of his captures the vibe of the island better than “One Love”. He wrote it during the turmoil of the Jamaican elections of 1976 as a call to unity. It’s a timeless peace anthem which I love to cover at my live gigs.”
Toots and the Maytals – “Pressure Drop”
“He was a friend of my dad, we used to call him Uncle Toots. He’s such a vibrant character. I love him. His high-energy live performances earned him the reputation of being Jamaica’s James Brown. This upbeat song, that was featured on the soundtrack of the film The Harder They Come, introduced the world to reggae music and it remains one of the best Jamaican songs of all times.”
Alton Ellis – “I’m Still In Love With You”
“If you want to explore Jamaican music tradition a bit further, I suggest you listen to this song. A lot of people know Sean Paul’s cover version, but the original is by Alton Ellis, one of the innovators of the rocksteady genre. Rocksteady is a precursor to reggae. It’s a little faster and borrows heavily from US soul music, hence many rocksteady songs have a very positive vibe. It’s beautiful, check it out!”
Culture – “Jah, Jah See Dem A Come”
“Some people think of reggae as nice sunshine music, but especially during the 1970s, reggae was extremely political. Spurred by the US civil rights movement, artists like Burning Speak and Culture recorded socially conscious songs that opened my eyes to what was going on in the world. In my teenage years, songs like “Jah, Jah See Dem A Come” were an integral part of my political education.”
Third World – “1865 (96 Degrees In The Shade)”
“This song is like a lesson in Jamaican history. The lyrics retell the events of the Morant Bay rebellion from 1865 [in which starving black farmers rose against their white neighbours] in a very poetic and beautiful way. I was only nine years old when I heard the song for the first time, but I feel like I really understood the political message. It’s proof of the revolutionary power of Jamaican music.”