One of the greatest forces of bass in nature occurs when thunder booms over the flatlands of Miami. And when lightning strikes, sometimes the Earth catches fire.
While the Everglades burn, waves of smoke as thick as wet concrete roll all over South Florida. In some places, the fat purple clouds nearly block out the sun. And for the past 20 years, the Nine Mile Music Festival has produced a similar effect. Many still call it Marley Fest, and yes, smoke will fill the air.
Bob Marley's mom, Cedella, founded the festival to fight world hunger. And in its 21st incarnation, front-gate volunteers will again collect tens of thousands of canned food donations for shelters in Miami and Jamaica. So far, the Nine Mile fest has distributed over two million helpings.
Stephen Marley, son of Bob, longtime Miami resident, and headliner at this year's concert, has been there since the humble beginning. "My grandma started the festival, and I've been part of it since day one," he says.
The five-time Grammy winner says that world hunger is a problem caused by "world leaders who dictate our comings and goings and would rather plant bombs than plant food. It's not one man," he emphasizes. "It's a system that runs the world, that keeps the oppressed oppressed, and the rich rich."
And if you don't believe him, smoke a joint and think about it. Because, Marley says, "The herb opens up your cranium and lets you realize the universe and your surroundings."
According to Stephen, there is a conspiracy to keep marijuana from the people. "They don't want everyone in a state of brotherly and sisterly love. Marijuana is an antidote to the stresses and the strains that society brings, and the trash, noise, and chemical pollution."
Three of the Marley brothers.
So when Stephen takes the Nine Mile stage with his brothers Damian and Julian Marley, and they "come with that fire that the family bring, and play that music that the people love," expect plenty of burning, and zero looting.
"When ya smoke herb or ya drink some herb tea," Stephen says, "it takes ya inna place where you really feel love. Ya don't have any hatred inside of ya when ya smoke good stuff."
Furthermore, when a bill for the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida comes up for the people's vote on November 4th, he'll be in line to cast his ballot. "And that's the only time ya ever gonna see me vote."
Then when the day comes that weed is legal at a federal level, Marley says his clan will come out with its own Bob Marley certified-organic herb. "We don't have it planned. But we just gonna take it one step at a time," he admits.
Currently, though, Stephen is busy in his Miami studio, The Lion's Den, working on the follow-up, Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life, to his Grammy-winning 2011 slab, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life.
He's also excited about the diverse lineup at this year's Nine Mile fest. "I love the bill. Everyone on there is our comrades. And I'm looking forward to Ms. Lauryn Hill," he says.
But he's emphatic that the roots of the movement extend back to the forefathers of reggae music. "The late Bunny Rugs was the singer of the band Third World. He is one of the great icons and pioneers of reggae music. Then you have Toots, Burning Spear, The Wailers, Culture, all of those guys and more who are the original ambassadors."
And Miami has always been in the mix. After all, a big-time Trenchtown DJ named King Sporty co-wrote "Buffalo Soldier" with Bob Marley at TK Records' studio in Hialeah.
Respect the roots.
Nine Mile Music Festival 2014. Saturday, February 15. Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds, 10901 SW 24th St., Miami. The fest begins at 12:30 p.m., and tickets cost $57.83 to $179. Visit 9milemusicfestival.com.
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