by Xavier LeBlanc
In West Palm Beach, there is no greater gathering of music lovers and summer fun than the long celebrated SunFest music festival which first began in 1984. But this year, more than ever before, the sun was shining and the weather was sweet. Thousands of attendees were graced with the presence of living reggae royalty and a legacy of music just as vibrant and thriving as the festival itself. Music icon Ziggy Marley welcomed a capacity crowd to an assortment of new music, album highlights and unforgettable classics that have resonated throughout generations of reggae fans.
2017 has been a marquee year for the always evolving singer and multi-faceted entrepreneur with high honors such as his Grammy win for Best Reggae Album at the 2017 Grammys (his eight Grammy overall). His self-titled album from Tuff Gong Worldwide also scored the number one position on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart. He then received the Gershwin Lifetime Musical Achievement Award, the first reggae artist in history to receive the award. The performance at SunFest also marked the precursor to his new international We Are the People concert tour.
As the 9:00PM start time neared, the area surrounding the outdoor “Tire Kingdom Stage” inexplicably grew larger by the second as eager eyes quickly gathered in anticipation for their glimpse at the “Fly Rasta” singer. As Ziggy entered the stage he emerged in a fitted t-shirt featuring an American flag with the words “Home of The Free, Home of The Brave”, and displaying his trademark charismatic smile. He wasted no time in taking a hold of his stylistically designed white guitar and greeting the cheerful crowd. Joining him onstage was his talented band which included Takeshi Akimoto, Tracy Hazzard and others.
What followed was a moving performance of his Personal Revolution track from the 2011 Wild and Free album, fueled by powerfully resonating lyrics that are perhaps more relevant than ever in today’s social climate. A song that inspires the listener to become a catalyst for change beginning with themselves.
The sea of people that encompassed the crowd poured out from the left and right sides, whilst even those who were unable to see the stage amongst the bevy of fans remained eager and ready to hear Ziggy’s words echo around them.
Wild and Free especially provoked a jovial lively response as Ziggy directed a few words toward the audience before reciting lyrics that included “I see marijuana trees blowing in our breeze / I see fields forever growing wild and free”. The vibe throughout became increasingly joyful with bountiful energy spreading, smiles everywhere and bodies rocking along to the reggae star’s sounds. From there, he transitioned into further uplifting and loving compositions like Forward to Love and Butterflies. He then delivered a live rendition of his popular hit “Love is My Religion” while incorporating smooth acoustic elements.
The night would not have been complete without musical tributes to his father, the one and only Bob Marley. These included covers of Get Up, Stand Up and War, which united the expansive multitudes of people into one united spirit as they sang along to lyrics such as “Until the color of a man’s skin / Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes”. They chanted words like these together loudly, demonstrating the power of timeless messages and the way that Ziggy is able to effortlessly embrace the universal themes of his father’s music, while speaking to new generations.
His ability to keep his finger on the pulse of the world today was cemented even further as he performed one of his latest songs “We Are The People”, from the self-titled 2016 album. This was evident as he sang directly to the hearts and minds of the audience with his words, “So you think they care / It’s a paper town / With paper politicians”. Ziggy has unmistakably remained emblematic as a voice of the people by expressing what millions are often feeling and thinking.
By providing the perfect balance between melodic tunes that promote love and socially conscious messages, Ziggy is one of the few artists who can deliver on both fronts. All in one night, all while keeping thousands entertained and never missing a beat.
For more information on Ziggy Marley’s upcoming tour dates please visit: https://ziggymarley.com/upcoming-shows/
Special thanks to Michelle of Tuff Gong Worldwide, Sheldon Robertson and ReggaeReflection.