Reggae singer Bob Marley’s sons have honored his life, legacy and philosophy for the past 15 years with their annual Caribbean Fest concert in Miami. Stars who have graced the stage over the years include Santana, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, IndiA.Arie, Erykah Badu, Hootie and the Blowfish, DMX, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Toots and the Maytals, Mos Def, Foxy Brown, Maxi Priest and Morgan Heritage.
On Saturday, Marley boys Stephen “Ragga,” Damian “Jr. Gong,” Julian and Ky-Mani will perform without big brother Ziggy, who has a scheduling conflict, but Capleton, Richie Spice, Joseph Israel and Javaughn help make up for his absence.
Ky-Mani Marley, 32, talked to The Miami Herald about the festival, his new album “Radio,” memories of his father and touring with Van Halen.
Q. “You moved to Miami from Jamaica when you were 9. Why?”
A.We moved here because it’s the land of opportunity. I moved here very young with my mom and my grandmom - it was around `87, and that was the only way we were going to get anywhere.
Q. “How long have you been a part of the Marley Fest?”
A.From the very first one - it was on my 18th birthday. The fest was inspired by my father, and it’s a very important concert to me.
Q. “The show has a humanitarian message - how important is that for you?”
A.That’s what we live for. We live for community service - for me, it makes me smile more when I’m able to make someone else smile. That’s everything for me - I live for that.
Q. “What can we expect from you at the show?”
A.Oh, I’m a rebel, so expect the unexpected. I have a new album titled “Radio,” so I’ll play a lot of that, and I’ll play a song or two of my father’s.
Q. “Do you perform with your brothers on stage or is it all separate?”
A.On this one, we’ll play separate, but I’m gonna come back toward the end and play with my brothers. For the last couple of years, we’ve played together, but because I have this album and I haven’t played in Miami for a while, I just had to seize this opportunity to promote it a little more.
Q. “Your big brother Ziggy can’t make it this year. Did he have a big influence on you?”
A.He’s the ultimate big brother, so he influenced me in every way.
Q. “You recently spent four months on tour with Van Halen. What was that like?”
A.I’ve always tried to be an artist who can perform on any stage, and I’m a big fan. So when I was given the opportunity to do that, it was great.
Actually, a lot of the songs I played on the tour I haven’t even recorded, and it came across very well ... I proved to myself that no matter what stage you put me on, I will be present.
Q. “How did you get along with the guys in the band?”
A.Great. Eddie Van Halen was great. The vibe was very relaxing and easy to work with. It was a very humbling experience.
Q. “Do you have any memories of your father?”
A.I was 5 when he died, and I have one memory. I was going up into the hills to shoot a sling shot, and I remember losing the sling shot and thinking I was gonna be in trouble. And I walked up to him and told him I lost the sling shot and I remember him just smiling. And that was it.
Q. “Do you feel like you’re continuing his legacy and his message?”
A.Definitely. That is my job.
The only thing with me is, I have to do it my way, not the way maybe people expect me to do it, or think that I should do it. And that’s what “Radio” is all about.
Q. “When you recorded `Like Father Like Son’ (Ky-Mani’s album of Bob Marley cover songs released in 1996), how connected to him did you feel?”
A.Well, I was doing that out of fun - it wasn’t supposed to be an album. I was actually doing it for myself. I was in the studio one day, and there were a few tracks from my old man, so I’d pop one on and sing, and it was all in one take. And they’d pop the next one on and I’d sing through it. And somebody took the tapes and released it.
Q. “So you’re actually not OK with it?”
A.No, no, no - I definitely don’t approve of it.
Q. “Would you have been inspired to make music if it weren’t for your dad?”
A.I have no way to answer that. But I think it was in me because in my first years I had no interest in music - absolutely none. As far as singing in the bathroom, and that was it. But someone heard me one day and was like, “You have a nice tone - you should give it a shot.” And gradually it became what it is now.
So I’m saying it was in me, but now if my father wasn’t my father, would it be in me? I don’t know.