Ky-Mani Marley - "As poor as I grew up, I loved it" - Part 1 of 2

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By: Shilo Evans

Ky-marley_reggae_bob_marley.jpgThe Rt. Hon. Robert Nesta Marley O.M...musician, humanitarian, prophet, reggae icon, and legend. Bob 'Tuff Gong' Marley has been called many different names by the millions of us worldwide who love him, but for his offsprings, the title of 'father', 'dad', or 'daddy', is the most significant role...the most important title Bob Marley ever wore.

Even if you've been living under a rock for the past three decades or so, you will know who Bob Marley was/is, and everything that he stood for. There is no need for me to go into the biography of the Gong, so I will leave the root for now, and head directly to the branches.

"My music will go on forever. Maybe it's a fool who seh dat, but when mi know facts, mi seh facts.
My music will go on forever." - Bob Marley

He didn't lie.
It's no secret that Bob Marley's children have all worked hard, and the Marley name, the Marley legacy, will always be alive and on the forefront...in music, fashion, charity, everything. The name lives on.

"Dem a go tiad fi si mi face." - Bob Marley

The Marley name has always sparked interest and curiosity in many. Some out of genuine love and care, and others because dem just bad mind and love chat. Ky-Mani Marley, one of the offsprings of the Tuff Gong, has always peaked the interest of fans. I'm not sure if it's because of his warm friendly persona, the genuine smile, the laughter from the belly like his dad, the down-to-earth always mingling with his supporters attitude, his exceptional musical and acting abilities, or it could just be the shower scene from the movie 'Shottas'.
Whatever it is...Ky-Mani Marley has a lot to say, and he said most of it in our two and a half hour conversation yesterday.

Ky-Mani stated facts and dispelled myths and rumors. The fact that many feel as if he was born with a gold spoon in his mouth is also something Ky-Mani spoke about. [Nothing could be further from the truth.] After listening to him speak with heartfelt emotion about his childhood, it's apparent that the only thing Ky-Mani had an abundance of while growing up...besides his health, was love. Family love. A mothers love. A fathers love. Sometimes that's all a soldier needs.
If you don't know...ask somebody. Don't assume.

Born on February 26th, in Falmouth, Ky-Mani spoke happily about his childhood in Jamaica. Although very young, he roamed about freely and innocent, with no worry of danger. Growing up in humble surroundings, Ky-Mani felt so much love, being poor was never a factor...he didn't realize it. To him it didn't matter.

"People see the name Marley and think everything is everything cause my father is the King Of Reggae. Everything is good now, but it wasn't always this way."

At age eight, Ky-Mani and his mother, Anita Belnavis, former Ping Pong champion of Jamaica relocated to Miami to live with his grandmother and other family members. After arriving at what was to be his new home, Ky-Mani remembers thinking to himself, "this can't be it!"
The neighborhood left much to be desired, and Ky-Mani found himself growing up very fast surrounded by violence and drugs in the vicinity. He soon learned that life wasn't going to be as easy as he thought, but through it all, his mother taught him well, and he credits her with the man he is today.
"As tough and poor as I grew up, I loved it. It helped to build my character, and build my love for people."

Shilo
Tell us about the relationship between you and your mom.

Ky-Mani
Anita Belnavis is a strong woman. Militant in action and thinking. Hats off to her. She is way beyond just a mother to me. She was a single black woman raising a boy, and she taught me about everything. She gave me this militant mind. Teaching me to never back down from anything. She told me that anything that came my way I should face it. Our relationship is somewhat like brother and sister. No matter how tough the struggle was...my mother always worked it out. Anything I needed, she provided it for me...my shoes and clothes were always clean. I love that woman!
She might have been the Ping Pong champion of Jamaica at one time, but she never liked the limelight. My mother molded me. She gave me strength in everything, to face anything.

Even with the music, I didn't really want to do music, but my mother made sure I took guitar lessons, piano lessons and even made me practice the drum. She kept me active. Even though sometimes taking those lessons to me was like taking medicine, I now wish I had taken some of it a bit more seriously.

Shilo
I know and you know that Bob Marley is your dad...but when did you realize that your dad wasn't just any ordinary everyday dad. Your dad was Bob Marley the Icon, the Legend?

Ky-Mani
The magnitude of that didn't hit me until about seven years ago. I always knew he was a great man...a great musician. However, I never really realized how great he was until I started traveling the world. Going through places like Germany in little neighborhoods where everyone, even babies were wearing Bob Marley t-shirts, or going to countries in Africa and everyone greeting you with a Bob Marley memorabilia to be signed...even people who lived in the jungles, living by nature...they all knew the Gong.

I remember one time in Sweden, this young man, about twenty-four years old, came to me and broke down in tears. Apparently he had been going through some tough times and had also lost his dad. He told me he had contemplated suicide, and had had the gun ready to take his life. Someone had given him one of my father's cd's and he started listening. He said the more he listened to my father's words, the more his burdens lifted. He said the Gong saved his life. Yes my father was a musician...but it was more than that. He was like an angel to me. A gift. His music is timeless. Gong Marley music is always relevant. You never hear anyone saying they going to listen to some old Bob Marley tunes. Every Gong Marley tune is timeless. Always current.

Shilo
What is that one memory of your dad I have heard you speak about?

Ky-Mani
Jah blessed me. I have one memory of him. How I captured it [at 4 years old] is only Rastafari know.
My father, Stephen and my father's friend came to pick me up one day in Falmouth. Then all of us, and my mother went to Nine Miles.

When we got to Nine Miles, me and Stephen went into the bushes to play with my father's sling shot. The sling shot got lost, and Stephen said, 'yu inna trouble now, yu loss daddy slingshot!' I said, a nuh me loss it, and I started to fret. When we left the bushes and went back to the house, I saw my father standing in the doorway leaning up holding on to the column. I marched right up to him, walked up the bricks that formed the steps, looked up and said, daddy, mi loss yu sling shot. My father looked down at me and laughed. I have always remembered that...and I don't know why.

I never realized asking Ky-Mani to speak about his father's death would be so hard for him. When asked if he remembered where he was when he got the news that shocked the world, it was with tremendous emotion that Ky-Mani took me through that memory.

"Don't worry about a thing, every little thing, is gonna be alright." - Bob Marley

Shilo
We all remember that day in 1981 when the news about your father's passing made headlines worldwide.
Can you tell me your recollection of that day?

Ky-Mani
I was at the Center in Falmouth. I was five years old. A big man come up to me and said, 'your mother say to come home now!'
I didn't know why, but I went home. When I got to the house, everyone was sitting watching the tv, which I found strange cause no one really watched tv in that house. No one was talking, but everyone was crying. Someone said to me, 'yute, yu father jus died'. I didn't even know he was sick. From that day my life changed. I hold on to the memory of me walking up to him and telling him about the sling shot. I hold on to the memory of the way he looked down at me and laughed. I miss him, and I love him. I vision him sometimes. Sometimes he will be serious, but most times he is usually smiling. My father was a great great man, and a loving father.

Shilo
B.O.B---Bond Of Brothers
How is the relationship between you and your siblings?

Ky-Mani
The relationship between me and my brothers and sisters are perfect.
It's like a fairytale people find hard to believe. We're always together. As long we not on tour, we're together. We eat together, in the evenings we play ball together, and in the nights it's the studio. Ziggy is the eldest son...hats off to him and nuff respect to him. Stephen is the man. His mission is to keep the family as a unit. Ever since he was young, Stephen always placed emphasis on the family bond. Musically he keeps everything working. He won't stand for nonsense either.

My sister Cedella is the eldest. She is Bob Marley's first born. The mother bear. She is always fighting for family, and we all turn to her with our problems. She is very firm...but with so many brothers she had to be. I love her nuff.
I would gladly give my life for anyone of them, anytime. My brothers and my sisters. We support each other.

Shilo
I know if I have heard people making comparisons with Bob Marley and his sons...I am sure you have heard it also.
Do you feel pressure being the son of Bob Marley? Let me clarify...do you feel as if pressure is put on you to act a certain way or achieve certain things because of who your father is/was?

Ky-Mani
I love being compared to my father. There is no one else I'd rather be compared to. It shows I am on the right path.
The only pressure I feel is when people try to tell me what I should be singing about. Telling me I should sing this or that.
Take 'Shottas' for instance...I got heat from some people who thought that I should not have accepted the role.
Some said because I am Bob Marley's son, the movie was too violent a movie for me to be in. The movie is real. It's an eye-opener. It shows some of the things that goes on in the real world. It's art imitating life. We not glorifying violence. My character at the end of the movie ended up with nothing. I might have left on a boat with seven million dollars in a bag, but my childhood best friend was dead, police was hunting me, my woman was dead, and therefore I had nothing. It's teaching the youths that the life-style should not be glorified.

Photo Courtesy of www.celebrityplus.net

You can read part two this Saturday

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