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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

“Daddy, me lose the slingshot”: Ky-Mani Marley remembers his only meeting with dad Bob Marley

Ky-Mani Marley channeled the spirit of his father, Bob, onstage at Dubai's Reggae Beachfest,  Photo by Sanna Kontinen
Ky-Mani Marley channeled the spirit of his father, Bob, onstage at Dubai's Reggae Beachfest, Photo by Sanna Kontinen

Ky-Mani Marley offers fascinating evidence in the argument for nature over nurture. At the reggae singer’s recent Dubai debut – a birthday tribute to his father, Bob, no less – the 40-year-old soulfully tore through several of Marley’s best-loved classics.

Closing with a spirited Redemption Song, Ky-Mani’s warm, rasped vocals and ego-less, embrace-all charisma brought only positive comparisons with the patriarch who spawned him (although notably, Ky-Mani didn’t touch a guitar).

It must be in the blood. The older Marley passed away when Ky-Mani was just five, and the son – one of 10 recognised biological children born to seven mothers – can recall only one meeting with his father, as recounted in his tune Dear Dad.

When I had the chance to talk to Ky-Mani before Friday’s (February 10) concert, for promoters Reggae Beachfest, I couldn’t help but ask about this character-shaping encounter. And the story he told – of playing with brother Stephen, four years his senior – was so touching it felt only right to share it uncut, below.

If you haven’t already, check the full interview with Ky-Mani here.

“I was very young when he passed away,” begins Ky-Mani. “I have one memory of my father, and that was him picking me up from the little town I was from, and he came down in a Land Rover – open back, with a cover – he was with my older brother Stephen and a friend of his.

“I remember he was just coming back from the States. We went out to the country he was from originally. He’d brought back from the States a slingshot which was originally made of metal. For me it was something that I’d never seen before. Growing up we’re used to climbing a tree, finding a branch and making your own slingshot.

“Me and Stephen went out into the bush that very afternoon – I guess we said we were shooting birds, we didn’t shoot any bird [sic], and somehow the slingshot got lost. Stephen said ‘Daddy’s going to beat you for losing the slingshot’. I remember saying ‘I didn’t lose it’ – because I pretty much didn’t get a chance to play with it.

“Walking back to the house, this little wooden house, I remember [Marley] standing in the doorway. I remember walking up and saying “Daddy, me lose the slingshot”. He looked down at me and laughed, and when he laughed I realised I wasn’t in trouble, I wasn’t going to get a beating, and I walked back to play with my brother.

“It was just that. After he passed away, I still didn’t realise, really realise the magnitude of how many people he touched around the world, and how deep he touched them. His music and legacy continue to touch generation after generation after generation – I tell people all the time, the sweetest vibe for me is to go outside and see a five-year-old in a Bob Marley T-shirt. A six-year-old reciting songs word-for-word. A car going by playing one of his songs.

“That is just a wonderful thing to see.”