x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 February 2018

Review: Bob Marley's son celebrates his dad's birthday on Yas

Marley Junior's set featured plenty of his dad's hits

Courtesy Reggae Beachfest
Courtesy Reggae Beachfest

There’s a small island nestled in blue waters, with a history of slavery and oppression, that has historically punched far above its weight in terms of culture, sport, and specifically music. That island is Jamaica.

Yas Island can only lay claim to a couple of Jamaica’s achievements, but we spent Friday night there as it celebrated Jamaica’s most famous son’s birthday (with apologies to Usain Bolt) with the Reggae Beach Festival. It’s an island, after all, and thus the perfect place to celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday.

Of course, there is a world of difference between the island of Jamaica and the island of Yas. Not least in terms of the response to warm up DJ Teddy Jam which perfectly illustrated the slightly surreal nature of a reggae festival on Yas.

The authenticity of the event, then, is clearly somewhat debatable. We previously spoke to one of the few local distributors of genuine Jamaican foodstuffs in the UAE, who was unable to access to the festival on economic grounds, but that’s fine – we had a very nice pizza to keep it authentic. Pizza is popular in Jamaica, just like everywhere else in the world, and served as a further reminder of the slight cultural confusion surrounding the event.

The music was why everyone was really here though, and by and large it hit the spot. There were some slight misfires during the earlier, DJ-led section of the event – I’m not sure when Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida entered the reggae canon, but all was forgiven when Ky-mani Marley, hit the stage at around 11pm. Ky-mani, is one of reggae legend Bob Marley’s many children, and while he may not command quite as much public recognition as his sibling Ziggy, reggae and his father’s legacy are close to both his heart, and presumably his bank account too. With eight studio albums of his own to mine for material, the first half hour or so of his set was politely received, if not entirely familiar, but when his father’s hit Iron Lion Zion finally kicked in, a previously intrigued crowd became a full-on fan base as Marley finished up with a medley of his father’s greatest hits.

With a nine-piece band pumping out the basslines and drum fills Marley offered up the closest you’re likely to get to a Bob Marley gig in the absence of his departed father. It wasn’t quite the real thing, as evidenced by the Jamaican pizza, but it was enough to leave a sizeable crowd with their reggae fill for the night.

*Ky-mani Marley returns to Yas Beach at Reggae Beach Fest tonight (Saturday, February 10) from 5pm