Downsound Entertainment is proud to announce the addition of a special performance by multiple Grammy winner Stephen Marley together alongside his eldest son, Jo Mersa Marley, saturday night, July 22, 2017 celebrating the 25th Edition of Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay Jamaica.
CEO of Downsound Entertainment, Joe Bogdanovich, has welcomed the inclusion of Marley to the line-up.
“The legacy of Bob Marley, and what he represents, is important to not only Jamaican music and culture, but also Sumfest specifically. Because of this it is only fitting that, on the 25th anniversary, Stephen, who has both carried on his father’s legacy and forged a successful path for himself in reggae, will perform on the final night of the festival,”Bogdanovich said.
Stephen Robert Nesta “Raggamuffin” Marley (born April 20, 1972) is an American Jamaican musician, who is the son of Bob Marley and his wife Rita Marley. Stephen is an eight-time Grammy award winner, three times as a solo artist, twice as a producer of younger brother Damian Marley’s ‘Halfway Tree’ and ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ albums, and a further three times as a member of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers.
In his self-produced solo albums Mind Control (2007), Mind Control Acoustic (2008), Revelation Part I: The Root of Life (2011) and Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life (2016) Stephen has displayed artistic creativity previously associated with American legends such as Stevie Wonder and Prince; where the artiste composes and produces all the songs on his album, and plays a variety of the musical instruments himself.
Stephen was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He currently lives in Miami, Florida, where he has a home and a private recording studio. His son Yohan Marley is working on an EP. His eldest son, Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley, is also a musician who recently released his EP “Comfortable”.
In 1979, a seven year old Stephen started his musical career as part of the child band the Melody Makers alongside older siblings Ziggy, Sharon and Cedella- the children of Bob Marley and wife Rita. The Melody Makers recorded the song “Children Playing in the Streets” written by their father Bob Marley. Proceeds of the sale of the song went to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In 1980, Stephen performed the lead on the Melody Makers’ single “Sugar Pie” and dedicated the song to ‘all the pretty girls’ when the group performed at Reggae Sunsplash 1981.
Stephen and older brother Ziggy- Bob Marley’s two oldest sons- were directly mentored into music by their father and performed alongside Bob Marley and the Wailers at the 1978 One Love Peace concert in Kingston, Jamaica, 1979 Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay and at Zimbabwe’s independence celebrations in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1980. After their father passed on, Ziggy and Stephen performed alongside the Wailers and the I Threes at Bob Marley’s funeral on May 21 1981.
After their father and mentor passed on, the Melody Makers continued with Ziggy taking over as the group’s leader, composing songs such as “What a Plot” in 1982, as well as “Lying in Bed” and “I Met Her on a Rainy Day” in 1984. In 1985, the group released their first album, Play the Game Right.
It was with the release of the third album, Conscious Party that the group found international fame. Now called “Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers” with Ziggy performing the lead vocals, Sharon, Cedella and their close friend Erica Newell the background harmonies, as well as Stephen playing instruments, the group shot to international fame with hits such as “Tomorrow People,” “Tumblin’ Down,” “Lee and Molly” and “Conscious Party.”
Released on April 5 1988, 15 days before Stephen’s 16th birthday, Conscious Party made Ziggy and international star. Ziggy wrote all the songs on the album and performed the lead, ably backed by sisters Sharon, Cedella and brother Stephen- who co-wrote and performed the lead vocals on the song “A Who a Say.” The album went platinum in the United States, and the Melody Makers would become the youngest recipients of the Grammy for Best Reggae album for Conscious Party.
The follow up album “One Bright Day” released in 1989 featured the hit “Look Who’s Dancing” written by Ziggy and Stephen. Just 17 at the time, Stephen shared the lead vocals with his big brother and performed dancehall toasting on the song, which also featured energetic backing female vocals by Sharon, Cedella and Erica. Stephen earned the nickname “Raggamuffin” or “Ragga” as he was the first Marley to engage in dancehall rap/deejaying.
Other albums released in the 1990s included Jahmekya, Free Like We Want to B, Joy and Blues, Fallen is Babylon and Spirit of Music. Stephen played a mostly background role, as an instrumentalist, songwriter and co-producer, but performed the lead vocals on some songs such as “Keep On,” “Postman,” and “One Good Spliff.” Stephen shared the lead with Ziggy on songs such as “Works to Do,” a track produced by Stephen himself, and “Water and Oil” adding ragga toasting to Ziggy’s singing. Another Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers song written and fronted (lead vocals) by Stephen was “Tapsy Dazy” featured in the soundtrack of the 1997 Hollywood film Anaconda. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers won a total of three Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album.
In 1999, Stephen produced “Chant Down Babylon” a remix album of Bob Marley’s music, modernised to appeal to a modern audience, featuring hip hop, R n B and rock stars including Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Guru, Busta Rhymes, MC Lyte, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Chuch D and The Roots. The single “Turn Your Lights Down Low” featuring Lauryn Hill became a huge hit internationally, Stephen modernising a song that had received little attention as a B side song in the 1977 Exodus album.
In 1996, Stephen produced debut albums by younger brothers Julian and Damian Marley (Bob Marley’s sons from relationships outside his marriage to Rita). Stephen was particularly successful in Damian’s musical success, producing his brother’s first three albums, “Mr Marley” (1996), as well as the Grammy Award winning “Halfway Tree” (2001) and “Welcome to Jamrock” (2005). Stephen contributed production of three songs to Damian’s collaboration album with Nas, “Distant Relatives” (2010). On that album Stephen produced the songs “Patience,” “Leaders” and “In His Own Words,” lending vocals to the latter two tracks.
Stephen also worked with the Fugees in their mid 1990s remake of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” and produced music for popular hip hop artists such as Krayzie Bone (“Revolution” from ‘Thug Mentality’ album 1999), Erykah Badu (“In Love with You” from ‘Mama’s Gun’ album 2000), Eve (“No, no, no” from her ‘Scorpion’ album, 2001), and Mr Cheeks (“Mama Say” and “Till We Meet Again” from the ‘John P Kelly’ album, 2001) . He also produced music for dancehall artists such as Capleton, (“Sunshine Girl” from the “Reign of Fire” album, 2004) and reggae legends Inner Circle, (“Smoke Gets in My Eyes” from the ‘State of Da World’ album, 2009).
After spending many years in the background as a producer, and backing big brother Ziggy as a Melody Maker, Stephen finally became a solo artist, releasing the albums “Mind Control” (2007), “Mind Control Acoustic” (2008), “Revelation Part I: The Root of Life” (2011), and “Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life” (2016). His first three solo albums won Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album, adding to the three Grammy awards he had already won as a member of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and the two other Grammy awards he earned for producing younger brother Damian’s albums “Halfway Tree” and “Welcome to Jamrock.”
Mind Control, which featured the single “Hey Baby” featuring Mos Def peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, while “Revelation Part I: The Root of Life” reached position 92 and “Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life” peaked at position 129. All Stephen’s albums reached the number 1 position on the Billboard reggae charts.
In its “Mind Control” album review published on April 13, 2007, the Austin Chronicle wrote; “Stephen Marley’s solo debut is everything a modern reggae album should be. Producer of myriad Marley family recordings, Stephen has developed an ambitious ear…Mindful of the music’s deep roots yet awash in dancehall toasts and hip-hop beats, Mind Control layers sound skilfully…the tradition rests in strong hands.”
In reviewing “Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life,” Jon Pareless, writing in the New York Times on July 20 2016, noted that;
“Being Bob Marley’s son has given Stephen Marley a voice with archetypal familiarity, some instant brand recognition and a cultural responsibility. On “Revelation Pt. I,” Mr. Marley stayed close to the roots reggae sound Bob Marley perfected in the 1970s with the Wailers, though his album added a few guest rappers. “Revelation Pt. II” is far less purist; it strives for both innovation and radio-friendly crossover. Mr. Marley’s aching voice suits love songs just as well as protests…and more often than not, Mr. Marley lives up to the ambition that his last name demands of him.”
As the eldest son of Stephen Marley and grandson of Bob Marley, Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley grew up surrounded by music. By the time he was four years old, Jo was appearing onstage alongside his father, his uncle Ziggy and aunts Cedella and Sharon (a.k.a. Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers) and their children as part of the group’s rousing concert finales with Jo often taking the mic and chanting the lyrics to the Melody Makers’ biggest songs, much to the delight of their audiences. Born in Kingston, Jamaica on March 12, 1991, Jo moved to Miami at age 11 where he keenly observed his father and his uncle Damian as they created music in Stephen’s Lion’s Den studio. Back then school was the priority for Jo; traveling with Ziggy and the Melody Makers was reserved for school breaks and summer vacations, yet those experiences provided first hand opportunities for Jo to expand his musical aspirations beyond the performance stage.
“I started making beats with MPCs (MIDI Production Center or Music Production Controller, a popular electronic musical instrument series) when I was about 11 but I wouldn’t save them properly,” Jo recalled in an interview in his father’s Miami studio. “Then when I was around 12 my cousins and I went on the Melody Makers’ Roots Rock tour. Uncle Ziggy bought my cousins an Apple laptop and we used the Garage Band software and made our beats on it; we recorded from the microphone, put on our headphones and that became our studio for a good three years. That is when my song writing started to get more focused and it even made my writing in school better because I started to take my words more seriously.”The seriousness of Jo’s words is affirmed by the five tracks featured on his debut EP “Comfortable” released 2014 on the Marley family’s imprint Ghetto Youths International (GYI). Spanning pop, hip hop, EDM and dancehall influences, the “Comfortable” EP showcases deft lyrical skills, ranging from Jo’s speed deejaying recounting of experiences with insincere women on “Bogus” (gimme the real woman who nah bogus through the last name they run down Joseph) produced by his uncle Damian Marley, to his cleverly-rhymed detailing of a budding relationship contrasted by his sweetly sung hook on the title track.Originally released in February 2013 on the GYI compilation “Set Up Shop Volume 1”, which topped the Billboard Reggae Album chart, the sleek electro-dancehall hybrid “Comfortable” and its accompanying video generated a strong response among music fans so it was chosen as the title track for Jo’s EP. Comfortable is also an apt description of Jo’s approach to music making. “We talked about it as a team, me, my father and my uncle Damian and “Comfortable” was just the most fitting name; the word works on many levels: I am just getting comfortable enough to give you a peace of my mind, comfortable enough so that I can open up and share my views, my thoughts and my heart,” Jo explained.Like his father and grandfather, Joseph Marley is an avid football (soccer) player; he received his nickname Jo Mersa from famed Jamaican footballer Alan “Skill” Cole, a close friend of his grandfather. Joseph’s competitive football playing technique suggested to Skill the determination of a boxer in a ring so he started calling him Joe Mercer, referring to the UK boxer, and the nickname stuck.Jo also inherited his father and grandfather’s abundant musical talent and he has been greatly influenced by their accomplishments but the decision to pursue a career as an artist was completely his own. “My father left it up to me; when I grew up it was my choice which way I wanted to go. And from there he said ok, if that’s what you want to do, let’s see how motivated you are.”
A month prior to his 19th birthday, Jo’s first single “My Girl”, which he wrote when he was 14, was released on GYI featuring his cousin Daniel “Bambaata” Marley, Ziggy’s eldest son. Jo’s first solo effort “Bad So”, followed in November 2011. A dancehall/club jam, “Bad So” demonstrated his skillful deejay delivery coupled with humorous lyrical detail reminiscent of the iconic dancehall artists who have also had a profound impact on Jo’s artistic development, which can be heard throughout the “Comfortable” EP. “Shabba Ranks, Professor Nuts, Ninja Man, Admiral Bailey, Papa San, Super Cat, Spragga Benz, Cocoa Tea, Sizzla Kalongi, and so many other artists who came from the time when I was born, I used to sing back their music not knowing what they were talking about. I heard the melody, the word play, the rhymes before I started preeing (understanding) the lyrics deep and what they were saying,” Jo revealed. “So there is a lot of my personal experience in these love songs on “Comfortable”, how I view a lot of things with young women, telling stories, just like how dancehall was back in the day.” On the club friendly track “Perfect 10” featuring Jemere Morgan (son of Gramps Morgan of the Jamaican-American reggae band Morgan Heritage), which Jo describes as a love story with a rude boy twist, his irresistibly witty flow presents the cure for his love interest’s broken heart: “the baldhead boy that likes to shine his head with Amaral made you sick of love so let me be your Panadol”. In the pursuit of exclusivity with a young lady on “All To Me”, Jo turns up the dancehall heat, offering a rapid-fire succession of compliments reminiscent of the comedic brilliance of the legendary Jamaican deejay Professor Nuts: “What is your secret? Mi know you no thief it, what a piece a body gal, me love how you keep it/wonder what your mother regularly a feed it?”
Jo came up with the melodic hook to “Sunshine” while singing to his baby sister Mia in an attempt to stop her crying. A detailed statement of intention towards the woman who continually brightens his life, Jo describes the song as the EP’s most intimate, as he nimbly rhymes over a bubbling dancehall rhythm embellished by gentle guitar strands: “you make me sing how you well comfortable, we go together like the bass and the treble/our lifestyle nah miserable so what’s next, the baby and the cradle?”
Each of the EP’s riddims (except for “Bogus”) were created by Jo, working alongside his father’s keyboard player Llamar “Riff Raff” Brown, with Stephen Marley handling the final productions. “From day one I have been hands on with my music but more of my hand is in my projects now because I have come a far way from where I started,” Jo reflected. “Riff Raff and I have a chemistry; if I hear something in my head, I tell him and he can play it back and add a little spice to it. We built the riddims but my father produced and finalized everything, he has magic ears, he knows if a track has too much of this or not enough of that or if it needs something else.”
Jo performed the entire “Comfortable” EP as the opening act on Stephen Marley’s Revelation Part II “The Fruit of Life” tour. As Jo’s career progresses, he looks forward to making his mark as an individual artist while continuing the Marley musical legacy. “My father calls my grandfather a magician because he was the only man who could bring peace to his country (during Jamaica’s deadly political skirmishes of the 1970s) and that’s a lot of power, influence, it’s magic, but I don’t let it get to my head,” Jo declares. “He made a big step for Jamaican music and it is time for me to add my works to it, to build on it. I am just getting started; I am just getting Comfortable.” From: www.Facebook.com/JoMersaMarley