Ziggy Marley: "I don't want to put anything into my body that's not natural"

Ziggy Marley's new album is called Wild and Free, which he thinks is particularly appropriate for the benefit concert he's playing this Saturday, January 21, to raise awareness and funds for GMO Free Boulder, an organization fighting to keep Boulder's public lands free of genetically modified seeds. We caught up with Marley to get his take on genetically modified food and why he thinks 2012 will be the year of the people.

Westword: Can you tell us about your opinion of genetically modified food and why you're playing this concert?

Ziggy Marley: I don't like that kind of food. If I was given a choice and saw something that was genetically modified and saw something else from nature, I would choose the stuff that's from nature. I don't want to put anything into my body that's not natural, that wasn't created by nature, because we are a part of nature.

And I want the knowledge; I need to know when I buy something. If the people are free, then they should have a voice. If they say it's public land, that means the people's land, and the people should have a voice about what's being done with the public land. And it shouldn't be that anybody could do anything with it as long as they have enough money. It should be the people's choice.

I believe in those basic freedoms, the freedom of the people over what they put in their body and what goes on their land. It's basic, it shouldn't be very complicated, and they should have a voice. And if this is a voice, we should represent the people. It needs to be loud and it needs to be supported.

And how does music fit into the people's voice?

I think it's the message in the music that we do. Music and what's happening in nature and the environment. I've done something on freedom and revolution, and my father's songs meant something beyond entertainment value, but had meaning to it. And I think music with meaning is an integral part of the struggle of people to have a voice. Music is what invigorates us, influences us into taking action, and if the music is positive, we will take positive action.

Can you tell us about what you've been doing musically lately?

The latest album is called Wild and Free, and the song "Wild and Free" is appropriate; it speaks about marijuana. But the idea of allowing seeds to be wild and free instead of seeds to be patented and owned by a company fits here, too. Nature is not owned by some company; it's less freedom for people, less freedom for farmers. Everything cannot be corporatized -- I'm making up a new word here. Everything in this world cannot be that. Please leave some things free!

Let's not capitalize on everything for the purpose of making profits. Something must be the way it is and the way it was meant to be. Please, can we have something that is free and natural in this world, for the future? That is where the struggle is right now; it's really about that. Can something not be monetized, does everything have to be monetized? Can seeds be just seeds? Can people be people instead of just corporations? The line is so blurred because of this economic situation.

A lot of people think 2012 is important for many reasons. What's your vision for this year?

My vision for this coming year is that people become more united in common ideas -- that is, common-sense ideas. Like this GMO thing: There should be no division amongst people that we should have a right to know if we go to a supermarket which food has been genetically modified and which food hasn't. Who argues against that? Which person can argue against wanting that knowledge? My view for 2012 is for the people's voice to remind the system, remind society, governments all over the world, that we are alive, we are aware, we are awake, and we should be part of the decisions that are being made to affect people.

We need people to rise again. Corporations are making some of the biggest profits. I would like to see the next news be that people are becoming more active -- more activism from people. And there is division against people. So I think that's what I want, is people becoming more aware and more united in action, to remind society that the people do matter. It's not just about money; people do matter. People matter more than the money that is being put in people's pockets. People's voices matter. And not just during election time.

You reach a lot of people with your music, but you're not exactly in the mainstream. How easy is it for you to maintain integrity in your music, even though you want to spread your message?

Well, it's difficult and easy, because you want to reach as many people as you can. But the thing is, if you try it by not being true to who you are, then you might lose everything. So instead of -- there's a saying that not all that glitters is gold -- instead of trying to grab or get greedy, I am satisfied with who I am and where I am and what I do. I don't need more than what I am right now. And the reason why, I think, is because I know that what we do is of meaning. [It] is of substance. Even if it's not the most popular thing or the most commercial thing, I know it has substance. I know it has meaning.

And that is what makes me happy, that what I do has meaning. It is not just something that is another fad; it's not something that you can listen to and forget. It's something that might plant a seed in you, and I like that. And I'm satisfied with that. And that is my place. I've found my place, and I'm staying in my place. This is where I was put, and I'm doing what I was meant to do, and if I tried to reach for things that I wasn't meant to look for, then I would lose what I have by reaching for something else. I'd rather keep what I have than reach for something that's not mine.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The main thing is, this year, 2012, is a year of unity for people. It's time for society, governments, systems, religion, all institutions, to know that the voice of the people can be united and can have strength, because I think a lot of the problems in the world today are because institutions neglect the voice of the people. And I think that anything can be done under people; they won't even see it coming. We need to let the world know that people are awake and our eyes are open.

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