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Playing for change

The best music performances aren’t always played at large venues. Eight-time Grammy Award-winning reggae artist and philanthropist Ziggy Marley said he enjoyed playing to the smaller crowd at Kids Unlimited in 2006 so much that he is back for another appearance Monday, June 17.

The concert, in which a portion of the proceeds will benefit Kids Unlimited, is part of Marley’s international tour to promote his latest album, “Rebellion Rises,” which debuted May 18, 2018.

Although he has played all over the world and on some of the most prestigious stages, the smaller shows are often just as important to him.

“I’ve been to Kids Unlimited before, so I’m looking forward to that experience,” Marley said in a telephone interview. “Playing at smaller venues is sometimes some of the best shows for me. Intimacy, being close and just like, the music in that tight space has a different energy to it. I like playing in these small places. Some of my best shows are in small places, in my own mind.”

Marley said he has a passion for instigating positive change in the world, and it’s not only in his music where that passion is reflected. He has been involved in many creative ventures and charity work, such as writing a children’s book, a cookbook focused on healthy eating, and founding a nonprofit organization, Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), which supports children’s health and education and environmental efforts.

If we can influence our children in becoming better human beings, then this whole system that we’re seeing in this world today, come the next generation, it can totally be the opposite of this. Which would be really great. We talk about environment, and we’re not talking about it in a political sense or in a slogan sense, but in just being good caretakers of your home.”

Marley said that growing up, he had good role models in his parents, reggae legends Bob and Rita Marley, who were active in their community and would always try to find ways to help others. As a teenager, he began looking for ways to help people individually, humanity as a whole and the world.

“At one point, I came to the conclusion that it’s children that we really need more focus on,” he said. “I think that is where the real benefits are to be had in terms of making a real difference in this world.”

And the changes he wants to make in the world are basic, concepts even children can understand, according to Marley.

“Less divisiveness, less racism, less bigotry, less hate,” he said. “If we can influence our children in becoming better human beings, then this whole system that we’re seeing in this world today, come the next generation, it can totally be the opposite of this. Which would be really great. We talk about environment, and we’re not talking about it in a political sense or in a slogan sense, but in just being good caretakers of your home.”

Love is the foundation that everything that I’ve done is about or built on, and that will never change. I don’t want that to change."

Not surprisingly, these are themes found in much of Marley’s latest album “Rebellion Rises.” The music, he said, is testimony. Previous albums were more personal, spiritual and internal. On “Rebellion Rises,” he’s focusing on broader, bigger themes: social issues, environmental sustainability, unity, and chiefly, love.

“The music is me. You know what I mean? The music is what’s inside of me. My music is not like, make-believe music. It’s not like I’m creating something that like ... that someone has given it to me” Marley said. “My music is what is me. It’s about me. It’s about my life. It’s about the consciousness that I am growing into as I grow.”

But whether internally or externally focused, Marley said the main message of his music has always remained the same.

“Love is the foundation that everything that I’ve done is about or built on, and that will never change. I don’t want that to change.

“Sometimes, even with the last record, ya’ know, sometimes I think to myself, ‘Man, stop singing about love. Every song I wrote (has) the word love in it. Come on! Find something (else)!’ Marley said while laughing. “But it’s hard. It’s hard because that’s just me. I have to accept that.”

While the concept of love is central to Marley’s music — and he said it’s the emotion at the core of making changes for the betterment of society and the environment — he feels that listening to the messages in his music can be the beginning of making those changes happen.

“This music is for everyone. The betterment we speak about is not for a Democrat or a Republican or a black or a white or a Jew or a Muslim. It’s a betterment for all humanity. And that is where we need to go as a society, as a community, as a people, as a planet. This is the direction we need to go into. ... Let us pursue that goal.”

Although he has played all over the world and on some of the most prestigious stages, Ziggy Marley says the smaller shows are often just as important to him. (Photo by Fernando Aceves)