Stephen “Ragga” Marley Talks Bob Marley Birthday, Kaya Fest, and Survival

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Watch A Live Stream Of Gong’s Earthstrong As We Reason With Ragga

On this day Robert Nesta Marley, aka the Tuff Gong, aka the King of Reggae, would have turned 72. Gong’s Earthstrong will be marked by a full day of celebration at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica. Starting from 6 o’clock in the morning, priests from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church come and bless the place. Niyabinghi drummers and the whole thing straight back to night. For those cannot be there in person, Tuff Gong Television is streaming the celebration live today. “Yeah man,” says Stephen “Ragga” Marley by telephone after a long day of rehearsals. “Nice vibe.” We reached out to Ragga in honor of Bob Marley’s birthday and also to talk about another big celebration for the Marley family coming up this year. Stephen recently announced the launch of Kaya Fest, with the stated purpose “To educate the people of the many uses of this plant as well as to inspire and encourage positive public awareness since medical marijuana became legal in Florida in 2016.” Reasoning After The Jump…

Kaya Fest kicks off with a press conference and launch party on Stephen’s birthday, which happens to be April 20th—aka 4/20, the official herbalists’ holiday. But don’t mistake this event for just a “smoke out.” On the following day, April 21st, Kaya Fest will host a symposium about herb. And then on April 22nd comes the concert in Miami’s Bayfront Memorial Park, Stephen and his brothers Ziggy, Damian, and Ky-Mani will perform together on stage for the first time in more than 20 years. The Kaya Fest lineup also boasts performances by the likes of Sean Paul, Inner Circle, Wyclef Jean, and a special guest appearance by Ms. Lauryn Hill.

BOOMSHOTS caught up with the singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and eight-time Grammy Award winner who shared his thoughts on Kaya Fest, the Healing of the Nation, and the return of SURVIVAL.

So What is Kaya Fest all about?

It’s mostly to do with the plant. What we really ah try emphasize is education before recreation. We really try emphasize the message about this plant, knowing the benefits of this plant. To some people it’s a miracle, you know. So that’s what we’re really trying to emphasize.

So many different things we can think ’bout right now. Forestry. Industry. I read about this kid who went from 600 seizures per day to 6 from just the medical benefit of the plant. I don’t know what is a miracle if that’s not a miracle. To go from 600 to 6 just using the extract from a plant. And all these years doctors have not been allowed to research it. Most of them haven’t really studied it at all. It’s like a conspiracy. There must be some kind of conspiracy with this plant. Why they don’t want us to reap the benefits of this plant? And them try to use the whole stigma of the smoking and the getting high to put a cloud over it.

Kaya Fest is not a smoke-out thing. It’s really trying to get one to learn about the medical uses, the industrial uses, the environmental benefits, the healing potential of the plant. And to ask why really is there such a fight against this plant?

One time in America if you owned a certain amount of land it was mandatory to plant herb you know. Mandatory. So it don’t make sense, the whole fight this plant get don’t make sense.

What was the inspiration for Kaya Fest?

Well I man born 4/20. That was the initial inspiration. “OK, your birthday is 4/20—do something.” You born 4/20 for a reason. While thinking about what to do—and obviously we think about herb, because 4/20—me kinda decide say, “Yo, is a serious topic. And I don’t wanna do a smoke-out.” It’s not a smoking, get high thing. It has so many benefits to mankind in so many different ways. It should be a crime to not utilize this plant for many various different purposes. Me meet a guy who build a plane out of hemp—out of the fiber. Me meet a next guy who build a sports car out of the fiber. Me tell you, it’s stronger than metal.

This will be the first time you and your brothers Ziggy, Damian, and Ky-Mani will be sharing a stage together in over 20 years. What brings you all together now?

Kaya and the music… Music brings people together and we listen to the music with the Kaya. All who advocate the use of this plant. The festival is very exciting. Me kinda feel the spirit of the gathering. I can feel the spirit and it’s a couple months away. To have the brothers perform on the same stage, same set, in Miami. It’s been quite a while. So people can look forward to that.

Was the last time you all shared one stage in 2005 in Ethiopia?

Yeah. But other than that we do the Nine Mile Festival each year in Miami, and we go on stage together. Like, me Damian and Julian will go onstage together and sing. We do we own songs and thing in our own set. When we come together as the brothers though, it’s one set. It’s a different thing.

That’s major. Plus Ziggy will be there.

I mean, Kaya Fest. We have this festival yah where we ah try shine some light pon educating yourself. That’s it. Ziggy is a man weh love the educational aspect of these things. The knowledge. Don’t just follow the trend. No! Know the plant. Just being advocates of the plant…All I and I. Our father was one of the biggest advocates. Look pon him album cover with the biggest joint back in the ’70s. Our legacy, our belief in the use of the plant—we stand by that. This is just another platform for us to show that and to teach people about this plant.

So when the Rastaman talks about herb as“The Healing of the Nation” it really can be that?

Yes sir. Trust me. It’s incredible.

What else will be happening at Kaya Festival?

Well, speaking of the Healing of the Nation, Gong Earthstrong is a perfect day to talk about survival. Gong did publish a newsletter called Survival starting back in 1978. And the time has come to bring that work forward in this time, with so much politicks going on, so much trouble in the world, SURVIVAL is a must. We are working to have the first issue of SURVIVAL: The Movement of JAH People premiere at Kaya Festival, this time as a magazine. It’s the Healing of the Nation magnified in every aspect.


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