Exclusive: Fabian Marley, Bob’s eldest son
A DNA test recently confirmed: the Fabian we met in Runaway Bay is indeed one of Bob Marley’s children. His brothers have embraced him as a member of the family and on 6 February of this year he was invited to lively up the celebrations for his father’s birthday at Emancipation Park. On 22 April he did his first real interview, with Reggae.be.
There was no plan or appointment anticipating this meeting. On the fishermen’s beach of Discovery Bay we went to meet Rupert ‘Daddy Spear’ Willington, who in 1969 founded (The) Burning Spear with Winston Rodney. His story can be found elsewhere on this site. After our conversation Daddy Spear overheard that my travel companion, Tiny Tim, was interested in dub plates (specials) for his sound, Bangarang. “Wi go a studio right now,” said Spear, who had never before made a special, but apparently felt good enough vibes to go ahead and try right at that moment. Next thing we know, all of us, Golden Eggle, Singing Chris, Major Knight, Sprine, Herbie and Floyd Lloyd, are driving to the nearby Runaway Bay. In Jamaica you go with the flow, and everything will be alright. You never know what is going to happen, but you can count on being surprised.
Sanstormz Studio is located on the first floor of a big commercial building on the central square of Runaway Bay, along the busy main road (Major Highway). Smoking is not allowed inside the studio and the police station is right across the street, so the terrace is solely for smoking cigarettes. The herbs are consumed in Sanstormz hot, messy entrance hall. Sitting there, in a creaky chair, is a lean Rastaman.
“Meet Fabian Marley,” says Daddy Spear, “Bob Marley’s son.” He says this with such obviousness, I believe him instantly. Why would this originator lie to me or try to take me for a ride? He doesn’t elaborate, but leaves me there with the Rastaman, and enters the studio.
I introduce myself and we start talking. We don’t talk about his name or parentage. We talk about the roots of reggae and Rastafari; reasoning, like we basically do here all day. It is not until his much younger ‘manager’ joins us, him also being the owner of Sanstormz, that a possible interview is mentioned. Fabian discusses the matter with him and then decides he wants to allow me an interview. “I & I give thanks to the I for spreading the truth.”
And there I suddenly am, talking to a new Marley, or at least a Marley whom no one had heard of until recently. ‘Gong Kid’ Fabian knows what I want to ask him: how come? Why did he keep his identity hidden all these years, only to decide now, at 44 years old, to out himself as a Marley?
"Nothing never done before the time," he says. "I was here from the beginning, and as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. I was born in Kingston 12, Trenchtown, on the 27th of July, 1968. So I would actually be Bob’s first son. My mother is Raphie Munroe, she live in Miami. She advise me not to come out with my father’s name but I know this is the time the world haffi know of me."
"As a youth, it was people like Bunny Wailer who guide and inspire me, Peter Tosh and Wailing Souls. Then we move to East-Kingston, Vineyard Town, Rockfort dem area. There, I live among The Skatalites, Roland Alphonso, Johnny Dizzy Moore… They teach me how to read and write music, and how to play it professionally. These were our elders, they were there even before Coxsone days! In this time, we had a little band called Sounds of Rainbow."
Sounds of Rainbow? Wasn’t that the first group of Rohan Lee? Didn’t he also used to work with Johnny Dizzy and other members of The Skatalites?
"Yes man! Chinna is mi bredren! But in those times dem never know Bob Marley was my father, ‘cause I grew rough in the ghetto, from east to west. Learning who I am and what I’m supposed to do coming out the lineage of the great Robert Nesta Marley, I couldn’t jump on the road and show myself. First I had to study the music and learn the business. See how things go. Now I have a DNA-test taken, whole leap of people will remember me."
"Later, I moved to St-Anne’s Bay, amongst Iqullah rastafari bredren. That’s where I start to excel in music, learned how to play different instruments, playing with different bands, touring a foreign, improving my writing skills, composing and arranging."
"You know, reggae music start from the grass root, coming from kumina, poco, nyahbinghi drumming, one drop, the beat of the heart. But I see the corruption and the brutality that have been done to our great music. I can hardly hear any real reggae music right now, made and produced in our own country. I remember this tune, ‘Sting fling’, ‘Sling ting‘ something. That sound break down the standards of our heritage, which is reggae music. Computerized riddim don’t have any soul. That’s why our musical market is going down in Jamaica and this was one of the reasons I never show up."
"Now is the time to speak the truth once more. I will do my very best to put reggae music back on the right track, just like my father would have wished. All Marley-bredren and reggae artists have to get this thing together. We haffi keep the vibes in the place where they originate. Not sell it out or break down the levels. Reggae music has done a lot for this country. Jamaican people haffi realize what they have here! This is a music that has no end, since it started in King David’s days. It’s created a great inspiration around the world. But everything has become a sell-out and a buy-out. It’s just a money thing and not a spiritual thing. We need to cut this crap out. All the musicians need to play the heartbeat music now."
"I know the world is looking towards us. I travel (with Iqullah) to Sweden, Holland UK, and everywhere people ask us: what kind of music coming out of Jamaica nowadays? All this slackness and gun t’ing! These were songs that used to get played only behind closed doors. Our radio stations should make sure reggae music become conscious again. Youths should learn how to play instruments again. Music is word and sound, and word and sound create power. A song don’t just play and stop. It go through the sequence and move through the entire universe. That’s how people gravitate to a song and it becomes a hit."
Let’s get back to your family. Were you ever involved in the settling of Bob’s estate that took place in the 80ies and 90ies?
"I wasn’t a part of that. In those days I was in exile, studying the spiritual part of reggae music. But in the meantime, I’ve met my brothers. Rohan, Ky-Mani… They accept me. ‘Cause blood thicker than water. They know that I am their brother. One can’t come and imitate no Marley. This is a time when DNA talks."
Still, people could think that you’re after the money, that you only want to harvest on your father’s name.
"What people say, I don’t care. I know I bring out the truth hand I know I’m on the right way. Righteousness exalted a nation but sin is a reproach to anyone. None of the Marley family can ever say I come to collect a part of the estate. I create my own music and I’m mainly interested in the spiritual part of my father’s work. I don’t look to the money t’ing. Anything that come I can give back to the poor. When my father start, ‘im never get any help from his family or anybody, and ‘im also get rejected. Mi no feel no way, and then I’m not rejected by the Marley family. I performed on my father’s birthday, February 6, in Emancipation Park. Played two songs of him and two of my own. First time I perform as a Marley was Peter Tosh Birthday, October 2012, singing with Andrew Tosh."
And now you have an album ready, Nature’s Valentine.
"I’ve got two tunes out already, one of them with American rapper OS Rapp. I worked with Caveman (Everton Moore), building riddims. Sizzla has voiced one of them. Now we have our own label All Fruits, where we only use analogue riddims, played by real musicians, horns included. That’s what I’m been striving for. I’m on a mission and I won’t ease up. Just as mi father say: dem I go tired to see mi face, but dem can’t get mi out of the race. I’m here, the next piece of Robert Nesta Marley, and I’m very serious with my music."
"You know, people are very thirsty for the real thing but dem took of reggae off the shelf, just how they took real food form the shelf and give us mass products. Dancehall is just a beat, has nothing to do with real reggae music. France, Europe, Africa: the whole world gravitate to this real reggae music. So we haffi secure the heritage and carry it to a higher dimension."
Published on 28/04/2013 by Jah Shakespear
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