People power

Ziggy Marley takes Boulder stage for anti-GMO benefit

Jefferson Dodge | Boulder Weekly

Ziggy Marley wants people to get up, stand up and be heard, especially when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The eldest son of the late reggae star Bob Marley is headlining a benefit concert at the Boulder Theater on Saturday, Jan. 21, in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against GMOs.

The event, hosted by GMO Free Boulder, is titled “Wild and GMO Free,” a take-off on the title of Ziggy Marley’s 2011 album, Wild and Free. Marley’s appearance was made possible by White Wave founder Steve Demos of GMO Free Boulder.

“I have worked with Ziggy before and know that he is passionate about organic food and the natural image of Boulder,” Demos says. “He was very gracious in accepting this invitation, and we are quite excited to see such a notable celebrity supporting this local and important issue.”

Mary VonBreck, campaign manager for GMO Free Boulder, says funds raised by the benefit concert will go toward education and awareness efforts, because while a survey has shown that about 70 percent of Boulder County residents oppose GMOs on public lands, it also showed that many don’t have a good understanding of the subject.

“I hope the concert continues the momentum we have in raising both money and awareness,” says GMO Free supporter Doug Radi, chair of Naturally Boulder and vice president of marketing for Rudi’s Organic Bakery.

For Marley, GMOs are just the latest example of the establishment trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people.

“What we stand for is natural living in nature, and that’s close to what the concert and benefit is about: the freedom of the people, the freedom to choose,” he tells Boulder Weekly. “We should have some say in the food that we’re gonna put in our bodies, and have the right to know and the right to say. If this is the people’s land, then the people must have the right to say something about it.”

Marley adds that the GMO debate is an opportunity to send a message to the powers that be.

“People must come together and the people must stand up for their rights, the freedom to know, the freedom of knowledge,” he says. “We need people to be a part of it, and not just expect someone else to do it. We need everyone, everyone, to be a part of this. It’s that important. … It will send a message that the people are awake, that the people are aware. That will give pause to the machine that is trying to circumvent the people’s will.”

As early as 1988, Marley was writing lyrics like, “Here comes synthetic foods / And their big-time money / And they want to control / Our body and soul.”

He acknowledges that he was speaking more about processed food at the time, but feeding himself and his children food that is naturally and locally grown, even in one’s own backyard perhaps, has long been a priority, Marley says.

And the anti- GMO theme is well-suited to his music, he explains, noting that he won’t have to alter his standing set list much for the concert.

“It’s funny, my set list fits right in already, I don’t have to change anything,” Marley says. “We sing about revolution, we sing about freedom, we sing about love. My message and my music fit right in with ideals like this.”

Another reason for the people to rise up, he says, is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that essentially granted corporations personhood, untying their hands to spend as much as they want on election campaigns.

“It’s so crude it’s funny,” Marley says.

“It’s funny that the American people accept that so easily. I don’t even know what the heck that means, corporations are people. When did that happen? Who decided that? Did God come to them? Who decides who are people now? The Supreme Court? I think they have the idea that they could do anything and it doesn’t matter because the people are so distracted and in their own self-absorbed thing that they could put anything over on us. Believe that. They’ve done it before, and they’ll keep doing it.

“If we the people can use the power of our voice to overcome the power of the influence of money and media and government, then we can get the truth out and give people a choice. Money is a powerful tool in this society. Sometimes it buys silence where there should be no silence.”

He adds that he is currently working on a song that he will give away for free about recent revolutions that have been going on around the world, from the Middle East to the Occupy movement in America.

“Music should play a role in these things, and has in the past,” Marley says. “But because of the musical atmosphere and environment in America, especially today, you find that pop music does not reflect this type of revolutionary idea. The pop music of today reflects a fantasy of sex and money and fabulous living. Music is nothing but an entertainment factor, and does nothing for the movement of change in the world. We want to put music back in its proper place.”

His album Wild and Free has been nominated for a Grammy, which Marley says is nice, but he doesn’t take such things too seriously.

“It’s cool, but art cannot be judged by a commission of judges,” he says. “There’s no such thing as the best art. While we appreciate it, we cannot put too much behind it, the idea of it, where if you win, that means you are the best. That’s not how my art is judged. My art should be judged by its content, what it’s saying, and how it affects people’s lives. And you don’t get a prize for that. You don’t get a trophy for that.”

As usual, the set list on Saturday figures to have a few of his famous father’s tunes sprinkled in. And despite what some might think, he doesn’t get tired of being asked about his dad — or playing his music. “I love singing it, I love doing it,” he says. “It feels natural to me.”

On a different note, Marley confesses that he is closet fan of our fair state.

“I’ve been thinking about moving to Colorado,” he says with a laugh. “I’m looking for some space, you know, some land, and grow some food and have some animals. You know, like a country life. I like Colorado.”

Marley is also well aware that Colorado voters may be asked to legalize marijuana in the November election, and it’s no surprise where he stands on that issue.

“It shouldn’t be something that is abused, we still have to be conscious about how we use this plant,” he says. “But to criminalize using it is wrong.”

Still, he doesn’t think legalization will occur nationally any time soon.

“Politicians are weak-minded,” Marley says. “They are not free-minded. They blow with the wind. Anywhere the wind is blowing, they’ll blow. But it never stopped anybody from smoking marijuana.”