Who is Roger (Rojah) Steffens? - Bob Marley and Reggae Music Expert
Ziggy Marley

16 July 95
re: Free 2 B lp
by Roger Steffens aka Ras RoJah

Roger: You're on a new label, it seems like it's been almost two and a half years since your last album. How are things different for you in terms of the group and record label, and a new direction perhaps?

Ziggy: Well, our new record label seems to be more positive, and more in tune with the grass roots audience of reggae music, and they are enthusiastic about the new album, so everything look good. As far as a new direction go - I think every album we do is a new direction, we nuh stick with one direction. We're very versatile, and each album is something different than the next one. So we don't directly say is a new direction, and this is the direction we're going to stay in. We have different direction all the while, just people have fe watch it, which way we go.

Roger: So you didn't set out specificially to come up with any kind of new sound. It's just more of the growth of the group.

Ziggy: Yeah, we're always trying fe get new sounds, no matter what we're doing. We always try to make the music interesting.

Roger: There's a heap on this album that doesn't sound like anything you did before.

Ziggy: Yeah, that's what we wanted.

Roger: It seems to me that the theme of the album is pretty much the traditional theme that you've dealt with, which is faith, and love, and justice, and respect for the earth.

Ziggy: That's definitely it, that's the way we think, yeah.

Roger: The first track, "Power To Move You," which is also the single here in the U.S., sounds to me like a plea for people to believe in Jah. How would you describe it?

Ziggy: Well, is a statement to people that we have the power fe move them. That mean say, any sort of people, whether they are wicked people who try fe come do wickedness to we, as youth, as people - we have the power fe move them. The people have to listen to music, the music has the power to move them, the music is very powerful. So the music appeals to anybody still, rock audience, pop audience, this is the power we talk about, what we have, and the message there in it. And then the power of Jah is the almighty power.

Roger: Right. Whose choice was that for the single?

Ziggy: Record company and our choice, you know, we work together with the record company.

Roger: And then "Free 2B Like We Want 2B," it seems to me you're questioning the quality of equality in this one.

Ziggy: Yeah, you know! Freedom. Now we question this so-called freedom what we get inna South Africa. Freedom is a thing - I mean, we're free to certain limits, but once there's still limits, there's still that feeling that freedom is not total. So when we talk about freedom, we're not talking about just freedom to be poor, we're not talking about freedom to suffer, we're not talking about freedom to kill one another. We talk about freedom to love, freedom to live good life, freedom to prosper. We're not just talking about "release the chain," and then we suffer same way, just as we're suffering without the chain.

Roger: Did you write "Today" specifically for your sisters?

Ziggy. Yeah. "Today" - first, it was not specifically, but then we were looking for a song for them to do 'pon the album, and "Today" seemed like the nice one still.

Roger: It's a really beautiful song, and it's the first one that I can recall that the girls do the leads on, on any of your albums.

Ziggy: Yeah, you know, definitely it's time for that now, time for everybody to get up front, and stop - time for people to stop think about Ziggy alone, but is a group of us right now.

Roger: And that brings us to "Water and Oil," which is a real duet between you and Stevie, isn't it?

Ziggy: Yeah, "Water and Oil."

Roger: I love that song!

Ziggy: (laughs)

Roger: And you wrote it together. Did Stephen write the rap part of it, and you wrote the song part of it.

Ziggy: No, we write all of it together, rap and sing and the lyrics part. So everything write together. "Water and Oil" is about the political system inna Jamaica, still, where it try fe engulf innocent people and destroy innocent people, through political strategy as Daddy would say. So that's what we're trying to make them know - that we can't mix with them. You know, we and dem is not no mixture. There's no way we're gonna mix inna politics, or in a political event, or political strategy, which them try fe mix you up in all the while, from my father come, straight up till now.

Roger: Professor Marley, can you please tell me what "vanga vanga" means?

Ziggy: (laughs) That just mean, we no mix up inna slackness, inna dirty things. We not mix up with no "vanga vanga," no dirty things.

Roger: Is it true that both Cedella and Sharon were robbed last year?

Ziggy: Cedella, not Sharon.

Roger: There's a line in there about some unwanted visitors, some devil-worshipping Rasta-hating cold blooded murderer. Is this song about a specific incident?

Ziggy: Yeah, this song is about that period of time where Cedella get robbed, and then we were accused of distributing arms to Trench Town and Tivoli Garden. And Eddie Seaga get involved, and the Police Commissioner get involved. So there was a lot of news going around about us getting involved with these people, giving out guns, and starting a war, and all of this bullshit.

Roger: Did that just astonish you when people started saying this about you?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon, I was very surprised and very angry, because I know that's the system. We are victims of the system again.

Roger: As I understand it, you were trying to build a community center on the border, right, and get both sides to use it.

Ziggy: Yeah, you know. But I think the politician dem, they don't really want to see that. They want fe keep control, so if it seems as if someone is coming, trying to do something good and the people are loving it, then they get very envious and jealous and try fe get rid of the people. So that is the political strategy which them use, put out.

Roger: Yeah, the only way they can rule is by dividing and conquering.

Ziggy: Yeah, you know.

Roger: Do you want to say any more about that situation, how it is now?

Ziggy: Well, right now it kinda cool down, because it was stupidness and everybody know that it was stupidness, so there's nothing really more about it.

Roger: Does the community center exist?

Ziggy: No, it no start yet.

Roger: Oh, I see. So the battle was over even breaking ground for it.

Ziggy: Yeah.

Roger: So as a result, there's no community center for anybody.

Ziggy: Right.

Roger: Well, let me move on. Have you ever done much with Sly Dunbar in the studio before?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon, first album we do, Sly was on Play The Game Right. He was on Hey World. Yeah, mon, we just tend to work with Sly.

Roger: But is Squiddley Cole still your basic drummer?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon.

Roger: Tell me about "Live It Up." It's about continuing the struggle, isn't it?

Ziggy: "Live It Up" is a song, just telling people as the words dem say fe live it up, don't give it up, live up your life. You know, money is not everything. And is not everything that the preacher say him do, so you can't really put your trust in the preacher nowadays, as we know that. And it's saying also that before words were spoken, Jah law was written within. That mean, we didn't have to learn to talk fe understand the laws of God. The laws of God were written inside without any civilization coming to teach us.

Roger: I remember Bob and Peter both used to say that it was an inborn livity.

Ziggy: Definitely. Then we tell you say, with life there is no owner's manual to life, just learn and grow and just try fe do your best, and live it up.

Roger: And "Tipsy Daisy," that's another great song. That's Stephen's song.

Ziggy: Yes, Steve sing that. All right, "Tipsy Daisy," all me know is that Steve say that song is about a lady who's so mixed up, like one day she love him, one day she don't love him. Is like, the life can't settle down, is just confusion, one day is good and one day is bad, so she kind of "tipsy daisy."

Roger: Am I right that Julian Marley plays bass on "Bygones"?

Ziggy: Yeah.

Roger: Do you foresee any more collaborations with Julian?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon, definitely. Julian is a good musician, and a good artist, and he's learning a lot.

Roger: I love "Lion in the Morning" on the Marley Family Album on Heartbeat.

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. Definitely him grow and mature, just like how we grow and mature.

Roger: So you don't feel any separation from the other children then?

Ziggy: No, mon, no separation. We're there every day, Damian, JoJo, Ninja (Robbie), Rohan, and the whole a we just get together.

Roger: Great! Boy, when I listen to "Bygones," it sounds like there's some revenge in mind there. That's a strong song, Ziggy. Tell me about "Bygones."

Ziggy: "Bygones" is Steve sing that again. Yeah, "Bygones," I think, even more we would like you to talk to Steve still 'bout that. Him would explain it more.

Roger: "Hand To Mouth" was a really wonderful single last year in Jamaica, wasn't it?

Ziggy: Definitely one of the biggest ones for the Melody Makers inna Jamaica.

Roger: And you donated the profits to someone?

Ziggy: Yeah, we donate the profits to a school we used to go to called Melrose All Age School.

Roger: Was the song banned from the air?

Ziggy: No, man, that's how it got played!

Roger: In the old days, it would have been banned!

Ziggy: In the old days, yes!

Roger: So there is a little progress after all.

Ziggy: (laughs) Yeah, man. A lot of progress has taken place.

Roger: Do you feel that with FAME and IRIE-FM and the new stations there, that things have changed for the better for reggae musicians in Jamaica?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. Especially IRIE-FM who come with a full reggae station. So I think that the people them, because the country know that reggae is so important now because of Daddy and things like that, it's like everybody start accept it now more and more, so it become accepted by the class that didn't accept it up till now. Anything can play, even if we a talk about the system, and mosh up the system. There's a newfound light, a newfound consciousness. People is not afraid anymore to really say certain things. You know, a lot of talking out going on now.

Roger: Are things better under the new Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, do you think?

Ziggy: Not really better. Same system.

Roger: But a little more looseness in what people can say.

Ziggy: Yeah, but that is not because of the politicians.

Roger: No, it's in spite of them.

Ziggy: Yeah.

Roger: Tell me about "In The Flow."

Ziggy: "In The Flow" is about ganja.

Roger: Yeah, mon, "in harmony we'll smoke the tree."

Ziggy: "-smoke the tree." (laughs) Yeah, that song there is a song that was written while I was in the studio.

Roger: Were you well red at the time?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon, definitely. I was "in the flow" at the time. Well, it's a song about herb and smoking herb, and when we smoke herb we don't want to fight no war, we don't want to do nobody no wicked thing. When we smoke herb we just want to love, and reason. So it tells about herb, the beneficial part of herb, where no drugs and things can do what herb do. Herb is a peaceful thing what make us peaceful, have fe unite. That is what them fighting, the unity.

Roger: Yeah, it's the reason they surpress herb so successfully, because it makes people not want to fight, and the only way they can stay in power is to keep us fighting.

Ziggy: Yeah, it make people unite, and it make we so loving and happy. And they want to keep you under control, because becaw you have to get 9 a.m. Is a slavery, you know, 9 a.m. work, 5 p.m. come home, pay bills, drink - go to the bar, drink liquor, get drunk on the weekends, 9 a.m. Monday morning again you're back on the 9 a.m. shift. But if you smoke herb, now, you just cool vibes, you no bother even want to lick off a drink after that. You just go through smooth and easy, and it really asks them pressure you when smoke herb, cuz you laugh at them. (laughs)

Roger: Yeah, you can pick the sense from the nonsense.

Ziggy: Yeah.

Roger: Who was your inspiration for writing "Don't Go Nowhere"?

Ziggy: Who? (laughs) Well, you know, different, different persons. (laughs)

Roger: (laughs) Okay. I don't want to put you on the spot.

Ziggy: Is a real thing, still, a real true story.

Roger: Off one person - without any names?

Ziggy: Yeah. Is a love song. Is a true song. Is just a good vibe. Me did want a do a song like that 'pon this album here, you know, because that is a different side of us weh people nuh really see it that often. So me definitely want that them get a touch of that. That song there close to my heart, too, you know. Most of that song there me right. Me like the vibes of the song.

Roger: Yeah, it's really a beautiful song. I mean, Bob has "Is This Love" and "Waiting In Vain," in the middle of "War" and "So Much Trouble." And if love really is the answer to all the questions, you have to have some love songs, huh?

Ziggy: Definitely.

Roger: "G7" is a very political song. What kind of beat are you using in this one?

Ziggy: (big laugh) Steve play drum 'pon that one. Have fe ask Steve, caw I don't know what kind of beat that is. Caw the way he played it, I don't know, I don't know what you call it.

Roger: I don't either. It's almost calypso, isn't it?

Ziggy: I don't know. Definitely different.

Roger: And you're on organ.

Ziggy: Yeah, me play organ.

Roger: Nice. How many instruments do you play now, Ziggy?

Ziggy: Anything me really can put on, me can play still.

Roger: Yeah? Do you ever do drums?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. I mean, is not professional, but if we have a song, and me pick up a saxophone, me can find something what fit inna the song. That's how I make music. We can't really do it professional, but we can fit a sound into a song.

Roger: The line that really got me there is "revolution seems to be the only way." And that echoes your Dad again.

Ziggy: Yeah, that is the way, you know, revolution.

Roger: Now, what kind of a revolution, Ziggy? Guns and tanks and bullets and jet planes, or a revoltion of the spirit?

Ziggy: We no have a jet plane and we no have no tank. We the people, we no have that. The oppressor have that. We have our minds. And we have stones.

Roger: (laughs) Sticks and stones, yeah. Good enough for David. And you are David, after all!

Ziggy: You understand. First of all, a revolution have to be in a mental state first, definitely, because that is where the true freedom lies, in your state of mind. So that is where the big revolution must take place.

Roger: I never thought of your name in quite that context before, but I'm wondering if you ever feel a little bit like David versus Goliath.

Ziggy: No, me no really think 'bout it, you know. But I think there's a reason why I was named that, you know.

Roger: And then, a track that sounds different from anything that you've done before, "Beautiful Mother Nature." Was it inspired by any specific event, did something really set you off one day?

Ziggy: Yeah, man, the rain.

Roger: Were you up in the country?

Ziggy: I was up at our house in the hills, and the rain was falling, and the vibes - the music I think, that song is one of the most mystic songs dem what really me right, because it really come, like it come in the breeeze, it come in the rain. Like it write before me write it, you know. Me feel that song there very much.

Roger: Did the song just write itself?

Ziggy: Yeah, the song write itself.

Roger: Whole, all together?

Ziggy: Whole. And then the way the song write, tell that beautiful Mother Nature is nature, but it is personified as a woman, as a mother, as a natural human being mother. And she have a lot of children, but the more children she have, is like the more things get rough. So it very personalized, but is about the whole nature, but it in write, it was like me talking with Her. I'm singing about Nature, I'm talking with her.

Roger: It's your dialog with her.

Ziggy: Yeah, that's it, you know what me say.

Roger: There's a couple of lines in here that I really lover. "Her tears are falling like acid rain, and her voice sounds like earthquake." Powerful imagery, huh?

Ziggy: (laughs) Me like how you're talking.

Roger: Do you ever see yourselves doing that live?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. Definitely, mon.

Roger: I love it when you do acoustic things in your show. I remember you did a television show about three years ago for the Arts & Entertainment network, where you did an acoustic version of "Good Time." It gives me chills everytime I look at it.

Ziggy: Yeah, you see really, when we play music acoustic with just guitar in it, like the real spirit of the music come out more than we do whole band. Becaw there's a different vibes there, and there's a different spirit there for real.

Roger: It's heartical...Do you have any actual say in what unreleased Bob material can come out now?

Ziggy: Not right now, but me want inna the future, when all of this estate things settle and thing, definitely, becaw that what me want fe do, get some of that unreleased stuff out.

Roger: When I talked to Neville Garric a month or so ago, he said that you were probably going to buy the estate back from Chris Blackwell this year. Is that still in the plans?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. Definitely, 'bout two more months or so hopefully we can do that.

Roger: Have you ever cut any songs that we haven't heard by Bob?

Ziggy: No.

Roger: Because there's always those rumors. I mean, you come up with a lick that sounds so much like Bob or - somebody was listening to Julian's "Lion In The Morning," and said, "Well, that sounds like a Bob song that he probably just copied."

Ziggy: No. But, "Good Time," there's a piece which was from one of Daddy's songs which is unreleased. But that's the only one.

Roger: That line is taken from Bob's last rehearsal, which Neville Garrick videotaped.

Ziggy: But I think say you can really know the difference between a song what me write and a song what Daddy write.

Roger: Yeah, that's why I was curious, because I didn't think you had done that yet either.

Ziggy: There's a difference if you really listen to them.

Roger: Could you explain that difference, Ziggy?

Ziggy: Well, I feel say, right now at this time when me write songs, if you listen to the lyrics, is very current lyrics.

Roger: Yeah, Bob wouldn't have written "G7."

Ziggy: You understand. So you have to know the lyrics dem very current.

Roger: I read something recently where you said you never read any book about your father.

Ziggy: That's true.

Roger: So, did you at least look at Bruce Talamon's pictures in our Book Bob Marley:Spirit Dancer?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon. Nice pictures.

Roger: But you didn't read my text?

Ziggy: No, me no read it.

Roger: What did you think of it?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon, beautiful. I mean, it kind of melancholy. It kind of like a sad kind of thing. But, it good still.

Roger: In this year's Marley issue of The Beat, our readers wrote to us about what Bob means to them. And it fascinated me to see how many different cultures see Bob in their own lights, people in Kathmandu and in Addis Ababa, and on Indian reservations. They all want to adapt Bob into their own imagery.

Ziggy: Well, you all see that Daddy is universal. Different culture, yeah, but the message is so universal that, although him sing coming from Jamaica, him is still incorporated into every culture.

Roger: You must see that as you travel, right?

Ziggy: Yeah, mon.

Roger: To me, it seems the most interesting thing that is happening in recent years about Bob, that he just gets bigger and bigger every year, and more and more people are attracted to him. Above the city of Lima, Peru, someone has carved out on a mountainside "Bob Marley Is King." So Bob is really universal.



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