San Bernardino probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when people think of Bob Marley. But for April 28 and 29, the biggest event in the growing desert city will be all about the reggae icon and the legacy he’s left behind, as his family brings their Kaya Fest to the National Orange Show Event Center. If you ask the Marleys though, the weekend-long event is about far more than simply celebrating the 40th anniversary of the iconic Kaya record.
“There’s so much things to know,” says Skip Marley, Bob’s grandson (through his daughter Cedella) and one of the youngest performers on the bill. “With Kaya being my grandfather’s album, not only are we gathering together to celebrate that, but also benefits of kaya as an herb and the good it brings to the people of the world. There will be a lot of great music, and it is only the second time in 10 years that we will have all of the uncles together.”
Of course, the “uncles” that Skip refers to are truly the reason for the festival in the first place. With Stephen, Ziggy, Damian, Julian, and Ky-Mani Marley all performing on Saturday (and Stephen returning on Sunday for an acoustic tribute to Kaya), it’ll be a night for any reggae fan to remember. Add in a few performances by younger members like Skip and his cousins Jo Mersa and Daniel Bambaata Marley — as well as a headlining set on Sunday by the mother of some more of Bob’s grandchildren, Ms. Lauryn Hill — and you have one of the biggest Marley family gatherings in history
While a normal reunion for most families would take place around a dining table or at a wedding, there’s really no better venue for the Marley clan to all get together than on a stage. After all, the third-generation artists like Skip may have never met the man who gave their surname such significant meaning, but they’ve grown up with the same music in their blood since before they were born.
“I’ve been living in it and growing in it,” Skip says of his grandfather’s musical talents and legacy. “There are so many things to understand, [like] the impact he had on the world and that we continue to have an impact on the world. Since I was small, it was in me. I’ve been playing piano, guitar, drums, voice, it was all just leading up to this. We have such a love for the music ingrained in us all.”
Although his performance at Kaya Fest may have an extra layer of meaning for Skip personally, he’s had a couple of nice warm-up sets at Coachella to get used to performing to a festival crowd in the middle of the desert. Considering that he spent a good chunk of last year performing at major award shows like the Grammys with Katy Perry on their hit track “Chained to the Rhythm,” big shows are nothing new for the 21-year-old artist — but that didn’t make his Coachella debut any less thrilling.
“It was a good experience for me as a young artist,” Skip says. “It was good because I went on during the day, so I could see all the people come in and rap to the music right as they got there. There was a lot of dust and a lot of people, but the greatest thing was that when I started, it was small. Then from the stage I could see people coming from all over. It was really good to see.”
After Kaya Fest, the young Marley will be turning his attention to releasing his first full project this fall after only dropping singles over the last few years. For now, Skip’s focused on honoring his family the only way he knows how.
“There is going to be so much love with everybody gathering together to celebrate my grandfather,” Skip says. “We just want to spread love and joy with everybody there.”
Kaya Fest, featuring Stephen Marley, Ziggy Marley, Damian Jr Gon Marley, Lauryn Hill and more at NOS Events Center, 689 S. E St., San Bernardino, (909) 888-6788, www.kayafestivals.com. $65 (single day passes)-$145 (two-day passes). 12 p.m., All ages.