Reggae royalty Damian Marley plays in SA
Bob Marley's youngest son continues to keep his dad's music alive through creative collaborations and a brand new album, writes Tymon Smith
When he died 36 years ago Robert Nesta "Tough Gong" Marley left behind not only a legacy of reggae music that has continued to inspire generations across the globe, but also 11 children, many of whom have continued to bring the music their father made into an international phenomenon to new generations all over the world.
The youngest of Bob Marley's children is Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, the only son of the musician and former Miss World Cindy Brakespeare.
With his distinctive dreadlocks, gravelly voice and characteristic dj-ing style, the youngest Marley is a two-time Grammy winner who's collaborated with everyone from Bobby Brown to rapper Nas and dubstep superstar Skrillex.
As he says, "You can be very creative if you're always looking to try something new.
"Some of the people I've worked with - it's been because I have been a fan of their music before meeting them and some of them were friends of mine.
"Skrillex reached out to me but then someone like Nas I have known for years. There's a different story behind each collaboration, but ultimately it's about the music."
This is his first trip to South Africa; he's just performed in Johannesburg and will be playing Durban on Sunday, May 27.
For reggae diehards like Andy "The Admiral" Kasrils, who together with his partner Jah Seed has been at the forefront of the local reggae scene through their weekly YFM show and legendary weekly Ragga Night gigs, Marley's arrival in South Africa provides music lovers of all genres with a "chance to see not only a great musician but someone who is reggae and dancehall royalty, and who wears the Marley name in the most honourable way".
WATCH the video for Damien Marley's hit track Welcome to Jamrock
Most famous for his 2005 smash hit Welcome to Jamrock, in which, as one critic described it, Marley "roars righteous rage at tourists sitting on beaches in Jamaica while people starve and kids shoot each other a few miles away", Marley has continued to spread his socially conscious and distinctively delivered rhymes as one of reggae's A-list artists. Kasrils points out that "in an era when a lot of fans are saying that the music is losing its soul - there are a number of artists who are trying to bring back the old school".
Marley and his older brother Stephen are two such artists at the forefront of this movement.
When I ask Marley whether it's been difficult to forge a unique identity in the light of the size of his father's legacy, he says: "We do it because we love playing music - it's something we do naturally - and we'll always be our father's children because that's a part of what we are, being ourselves. We do what we do because we love it."
With the new album Stony Hill, his first solo project since Welcome to Jamrock, due for release later this year, Marley assures fans that he'll be treating them to a mix of classics and new material at his Durban gig.
He says he hopes that "on this album you can hear some growth in me as an artist and evolution as a human being.
"I'm trying to do more singing - I have a very singing, ballad type song and I've never done that before.
"You'll hear growth in terms of me as a person just evolving as a human being."
• This article was originally published in the Times.