For more on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, check out New Times' Taste guide, hitting newsstands Thursday, February 21.
Ziggy Marley comes from musical royalty. His parents are Bob and Rita Marley, who, with the Wailers, brought Jamaican reggae from the Kingston ghettos into the mainstream. Being the eldest son of musical icons has rubbed off on Ziggy. At age 44, he's already had a musical career spanning three decades, receiving five Grammy awards in the process. Marley has also acted, most memorably portraying Ernie the Rasta Jellyfish in Shark Tale. He has also grown his family's Tuff Gong label into a worldwide enterprise, created the Marijuanaman comic book, and is active in many charities.
Marley is also passionate about advocating for the labeling of GMO products in our foods, and he's launched Ziggy Marley Organics, a line of products that are USDA-certified organic, non-genetically modified, and kosher. The products include flavored coconut oils and hemp seeds.
Marley combines his passion for music and food at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where he's closing out the weekend's events at Guy Fieri's Reggae Jam with Ziggy Marley Live (6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 24, at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, $95). The Caribbean-themed evening will feature a full concert by Marley, and partygoers will have a chance to try the hemp seeds and coconut oil.
We caught up with Marley, who spoke to us about how food and music play into his culture and lifestyle.
New Times: How did the closing event concert with Guy Fieri come about?
Ziggy Marley: We have the food line now and I wanted to expose it to as many people as possible. To reach the people at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is very special.
What made you want to start an organic food line?
I love good food and it's been a big part of my culture growing up. I'm from Jamaica. We have very special foods there. I'm a food person, so when the idea arose, it was natural, really. I like healthy food. I know the difference between eating good and bad food because I've eaten both. When I eat well I feel a life energy; after eating badly I feel sluggish and lousy. So I'm conscious of this, especially when I'm performing and I'm on the road. Food is a very important part of that. That love and knowledge of it is very natural.
How did you decide to start with coconut oil and hemp seeds?
The two products are made from items that I know. Coconut and hemp seeds. These things I know. It's not like I'm doing a ham. Ziggy Marley's ham. I don't eat ham so I can't do that.
Are you vegan?
I'm not vegan, but I would say I'm mostly vegetarian. It's good to be vegetarian. When I eat vegetarian I feel very light and lively. I try to eat vegetarian most of the time, though sometimes I eat fish too.
So we won't be seeing a sausage soon?
Maybe a vegetarian version.
You have two products now. Do you plan to grow Ziggy Marley Organics into something larger?
For right now I'm satisfied taking it easy and slow. Everything we do has to be thoughtful and appropriate with our lifestyle and philosophy. We're taking our time. This is something I'm comfortable with; it's a part of me. Anything I do is going to be something that I'm close to.
For instance, I grew up with coconuts. In Jamaica we drink the water, eat the jelly -- which is the meat inside -- and we cook with it. We grew up eating this food. It's a part of our culture. This is natural, it's organic, GMO free. Besides, if you don't want to eat it you can put it on your skin, you can put it in your hair. It has multiple uses.
Let's talk about the hemp seeds. Do you think that people are going to buy them because of Ziggy Marley and your lifestyle, which is connected with marijuana culture?
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Sure! Any way you want to take it. I have a comic, Marijuanaman, and my song "Wild and Free" is all about hemp. This is part of my circle. If people get turned on to hemp seeds because of my affiliation, that's fine with me. Because in the end, hemp seeds are really nutritious. They work well with our bodies. It's who I am, not just music and food. It's books and comics. I'm trying to express myself fully and truthfully. There are a lot of things in me that still have to come out.
This is your first South Beach Wine & Food Festival. What are you looking forward to at the festival and while you're visiting Miami Beach?
My grandmother used to live in Miami and we used to visit her regularly. My brother used to play football for the University of Miami, so I love it here. I'd like to try some Cuban food while I'm here, maybe go to Calle Ocho. At the festival, I want to explore everything. I'm just getting introduced to the chefs and the food scene.