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It's All About Bob

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
It's All About Bob

Ky-Mani Marley wasn't born with a golden spoon in his mouth. The son of reggae great Bob Marley and Anita Belnavis had to find his own way and is now out to spread the love, he tells JULE SCHERER of NZPA.

Ky-Mani Marley laughs out loud and mumbles "nice, nice, wonderful", when he hears that New Zealand celebrates his late father's birthday as a national holiday.

Of course Waitangi Day has nothing to do with Bob Marley, who was born on February 6, 66 years ago, but without a doubt his music is a favourite of many New Zealanders.

Ky-Mani, the second youngest of Bob Marley's 11 children, is excited to be in New Zealand.

"Ever since I have been a child I wanted to come to New Zealand, and being here for the first time is a wonderful experience," he tells NZPA

On Saturday he will perform at Rotorua's Raggamuffin Festival and continue to spread his father's message of One Love.

Growing up with famous parents and finding one's own identity is never easy, but Ky-Mani -- whose name means adventurous traveller -- certainly has his own story to tell.

Last year he released the book Dear Dad, sharing the story about his upbringing in poverty as one of Marley's children born out of wedlock.

He is the only child from a relationship between Jamaican table tennis champion Anita Belnavis and the reggae icon.

Born in Jamaica in 1976, he moved to one of the most violent ghettos of Miami at the age of nine and while the rest of the Marley kids grew up in Jamaica like royalty, he lived in a two-bedroom flat with eight people.

But looking back he holds no grudge.

"My life experience made me a stronger person and a person can relate on all angles, and not just from one side of the coin.

"When I reflect now on my life, when I was younger, growing up I was a bit bitter but now that I am a man, I wouldn't want it any other way.

"The trials and tribulations I had to go through helped me to better understand life," he says.

Growing up, music wasn't his first love, but in 1997 the now 34-year-old teamed up with hip hop artist Pras of The Fugees for a rendition of Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue".

Since then he has released four albums, was nominated for a Grammy and is now working on his fifth record, Evolution of a Revolution at his father's Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica.

It would be understandable if he looked at his father's other children with some jealousy, but he embraced a different path instead.

"I had no reason to be jealous. I don't have a jealous bone in my body.

"I come from a family that has a lot of love. My brothers, we always knew we're part of a great mission; knowing that it is what our father would want.

"It just so happened that my earlier years were more orchestrated by the adults," he says.

For the upcoming 30th anniversary of Bob Marley's death the family isn't planning anything special, the musician says.

"We're always together, we celebrate life not death.

"Every chance we get to be together, we are together but we also have our mission, that is continuing my father's legacy," he says.

Part of this legacy is also his philanthropic work. In 2009, he started the Love Over All Foundation which focuses on empowering and educating young people, using the two means Ky-Mani's parents planted in him: music and sport.

"We know that music is the most powerful way to relay a message and I make sure to relay it (in) every form that I can," he says.

During his performances he always plays some of his father's songs, but the emphasis is on his own work.

"After all I am an individual that has been through a lot and has a lot to say.

"I'll play you some hip hop, some reggae, I'll play you some of my father's songs and (some) of my new material I am currently working on for my new album," he says.

Joining the line-up of this year's Raggamuffin festival are Bob Marley's original band the Wailers.

Having toured Australia together, Saturday's show will be the last one of the tour and Ky-Mani plans to join them for a couple of songs on the stage.

With a voice like his father's and sporting the same dreadlocks it will be as if time has turned back, with the reggae icon back to treat the audience to his famed sound.

* Raggamuffin Feb 5, Rotorua International Stadium

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