Seven-Time Grammy Winner Launches Family Cook Book in Menlo Park, CA
By Shelah Moody with Safi Wa Narobi of KPFA F.M. Berkeley
“The food of my youth, and my wife’s Orly’s, continues to be the food of our adulthood. An Israeli of Iranian decent, Orly really understands food and family. She grew up in a stable family structure, and she places a high value on family meals. We eat a lot of Persian and Israeli foods at home. We celebrate Shabbat every week, along with Jewish Holidays like Passover and Hanukah. All of this has taught me even more about the relationship between food and family.”—Ziggy Marley
Having known Ziggy Marley, aka the Fly Rasta, for nearly three decades, I am convinced that this man has coolest job ever. Case in point, at press time, his latest album, “ZM” released on the family Tuff Gong Worldwide label, is currently at the top of Billboard’s Reggae Charts.
On Sept. 13, Marley, in connection with Tuff Gong Worldwide, MusiCares Foundation and the Grammy Foundation, presented a sold out panel on the History of Reggae music, which included Marley’s longtime drummer and famed Studio One sessionist Santa Davis, former radio host and Nyabinghi specialist Ras Michael and acclaimed singer/songwriter Lloyd “Bread” McDonald of the Wailing Souls. The elders on the panel were also friends and contemporaries of his iconic father, Bob Marley.
On Oct. 19, two days after his 48th birthday, the seven-time Grammy winner chose Kepler’s books in Menlo Park, one of the most affluent communities in the Bay Area, to launch his latest endeavor, the “Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook: Delicious Meals Made with Whole, Organic Ingredients from the Marley Kitchen” (Akashic Books/ Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2016). Incidentally, Menlo Park is best known as the Facebook headquarters (thumbs up emoji to that). #ziggymarley!
As my media colleagues and I took our seats and waited for Marley’s book discussion with “New York Times” bestselling author Adam Mansbach, I noticed the seats filling up with not only music lovers, millennials and bibliophiles, but entire families. Behind me, a restless toddler in the lap of his pregnant mom tugged at my hair and squealed “Iggy! Iggy!” in anticipation of seeing his favorite singer.
After the discussion with Mansbach, Marley remained in Kepler’s Books greeting fans and posing for photos until every book was signed. The following night, Marley and his dynamic, multi-cultural band played a sold out show at the historic Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco, an extended set of conscious feel good music including tracks such as “Conscious Party,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Black Cat,” “True to Myself,” “Butterflies” and “Amen.”
During Marley’s conversation with Mansbach, I learned a few fun facts about the reggae superstar. For instance, his is three favorite albums are: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and Bob Marley’s “Survival.” I also found out that the Fly Rasta has a sweet tooth, having confessed to an obsession with maple syrup when he first came to America. Indeed, the “Ziggy Family Cookbook” also has a dessert section, (pp. 86-93). “Many sweets, including the Stout Gingerbread,, the Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mama Carmelita’s Flan remind me of the incredible baking my aunties would do for birthday parties while I was growing up,” Marley writes. “Birthdays were when you killed the goat and cooked it in a big fire outside, a giant pot, making curry goat, mannish water, because the party wasn’t for just for the children, it was for the community. Bu then, auntie brought out cakes and other sweets she had baked. Talk about coconutiness.”
So, what did you do on your birthday this year?
Ziggy Marley: Played some music. I was on stage. The crowd in Duncan, British Columbia, sang “Happy Birthday” to me twice, and I didn’t really ask them to! I mean, twice; that was a first, that was a memorable moment. It was incredible!
You are a musician, husband, father, entrepreneur, Emmy winner, author, environmentalist and advocate of clean, non-GMO food. I knew you like to cook but I did not know you were a chef. How did the “Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook” come about?
ZM: I’m not a chef at all! Growing up in Jamaica, I learned to be an independent person, an independent man. I learned to cook so that I would not have to depend on anybody to cook for me.
For someone like me, who is not that proficient in the kitchen, what recipe from the “Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook” would you suggest I start out with? I’ve got a stovetop, a microwave oven and a toaster oven and a blender. It’s sort of like your set-up here on the tour bus.
ZM: Hmmm…Try the Mancakes breakfast (pp. 16-17) and see how you like it. Breakfast is my favorite meal. That’s when I enjoy food the most, at breakfast time. Breakfast is the most important meal to me. It’s how I start my day.
So, the book signing –what did it mean to you this evening to have so many people show up and for you to be so giving and to sign all of those books?
ZM: Well, the people are giving to me so I give back. I reach out to people and then again I may attract new ears by talking to and interacting with people. It gives me a chance to reach out to different types of people; that’s what I like about it. It’s a new experience for me. Every new experience makes me grow. Even as I’m doing these things, I’m growing.
You’ve been touring with another Grammy winning reggae band, Steel Pulse, since 2013. How did that connection come about?
ZM: Well, the same agency that puts our shows together puts their shows together. Steel Pulse is one of my favorite groups and I’ve known David (Hinds) for a long time. It’s always good to see them again and share the stage.
There are two, very danceable songs that I’m addicted to on your latest album “ZM” —“Ceceil” and “Amen.” Tell me about the origins of those songs.
ZM: “Ceceil” is an “ex.” It could be anyone or anything or any country. Ceceil is just a metaphor. The phrase goes: “Why don’t you try to be loving, Ceceil?” It is so much more; it is not a love song to a girl named Ceceil. There’s a verse in the song that asks “When will war be the answer that you’re looking for?” To me, love and relationships always relate back to the world. The beat has some ska elements, but it also has an African beat in the front. In my mind, I’m paying homage to Fela Kuti. Sometimes I pay homage to Aston “Family Man” Barrett in my music because he inspires certain basslines. ‘Amen’ has a little more positive tone. It is an acknowledgement of what we are saying, like, here’s my truth, you know, and what do you think about it? Like when you are in church and the preacher says “amen!” and the congregation says “amen!”
Last month, you hosted a panel on the History of Reggae Music at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. I like what you said about how the foundation artists, like Ras Michael, Santa Davis and Lloyd “Bread” McDonald are your crew and that you are not leaving them.
ZM: Yeah, I grew up around the elders, I learn a lot from them and I have a connection to them in a way—a spiritual connection.
On the Grammy panel, you described yourself as an “old soul.”
ZM: Right! So you understand what mi a seh! See it deh?
Piggybacking on the panel, would you ever consider teaching a university level course on reggae music?
ZM: I think that you have to teach it by doing it; you can’t talk it. I mean, you can talk it, yeah, but if you see how it’s done, then you realize that it’s real freedom; that’s how you learn, when you see it happening. So, it can’t be limited to a book or a lesson. It’s freedom; at least that’s how I do it, I don’t know about anybody else.
Ok, during your book discussion today, you named Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as one of your top three albums. I don’t know how I missed that connection after all these years, because it’s one of MY top three albums!
ZM: (Laughs). Yuh neva know dat?
What’s your favorite song on the album?
ZM: On “Thriller?” All of the song dem bad, mon. My friend and I, we used to dance like Michael Jackson when we would play “Beat It.” (hums a bit of the melody). My friend had the red jacket! There are certain times in your life that you always remember!
Did you ever meet Michael Jackson?
ZM: Mi tink me meet him when he come to Jamaica. And mi talk to him again when we was working on some kind of project. He seemed quiet and shy.
Given all of your accomplishments in the last two decades, is there an official “Ziggy Marley Day” somewhere or a key to the city?
ZM: There should never be a Ziggy Marley Day, come on! Mi all right! I don’t want just one day, I want a lifetime; I want generations (laughs).
Serves 3 to 4, Vegetarian/Gluten-Free
2 cups of flour or substitute gluten-free flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1/1 tablespoon salt
3 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Seeds, Crushed
1 Tablespoon walnuts, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
4 Tablespoons Ziggy Marley’s Coco’Mon Coconut Oil or coconut oil of your own choosing
2 Cups water, or substitute coconut soy, almond, rice or whole milk
Mix all dry ingredients together, then add eggs, coconut oil, water and blend well
Spoon batter onto a hot grill
Once pancakes bubble, flip over and cook until golden brown.
Serve with maple syrup and enjoy!
Click the pic to order!