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Not Your Father's Marley

03:45 AM Thursday 9/27/07 | |

Stepping out of the shadow of late reggae legend Bob Marley is a tall order, even without having the added competition of 12 brothers and sisters.

Singer and actor Ky-Mani Marley, who scored the support slot on the Van Halen / David Lee Roth reunion tour that kicks off today at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena in North Carolina, told Pollstar he's up to the challenge but he's determined to do it his way.

Ky-Mani, the 11th of Marley's 13 children, including Damian, Ziggy and Stephen, said following in his father's footsteps wasn't always a given.

"Starting off for me it was all about sports," Ky-Mani told Pollstar. "Music was something that came to my life later on. It was destined for me though, because I really never made the decision to do music, it kind of gradually just took over my life."

After giving in to his fate, he found it was going to be a struggle to make his voice heard.

" It was a little difficult, because everybody thought that I should be doing music one way - because that's the way my dad did it - and that my message should always be along those same lines.

"It took me some time to find the strength to say, 'I'm not happy doing it the way you want me to do it, and at the end of the day, you're not going to be pleased either - because then I'm just a cover version or a copy of my father.'

"I need to express me, myself, while continuing that legacy in an updated way. I stepped out of the box and decided that I'm going to do me - love it or hate it."

One thing that made finding his own voice easier was lots of support from his brothers and sisters. He and his brothers recently finished taping a reality show for BET, "Living the Life of Marley," which will allow fans to see how the siblings are carrying on the legacy of their father. The series is scheduled to air in October.

The singer's first foray into music came with 1996's Like Father Like Son, which was, in fact, an album of cover versions of his dad's songs. That was followed in 1999 by The Journey and in 2001 by Many More Roads, which was nominated for a Grammy for best reggae album.

Ky-Mani is also kept busy by his acting career, which he said came about purely through a lucky break.

"The first movie I did was 'Shottas,' which was actually written and produced by a friend I grew up with. At that point it was some boys having their childhood dream and wanting to do a movie and having a budget to make it possible.

"We just kind of went in blindly, not structuring the business part, because we didn't imagine that 'Shottas' would do what it did."

What the 2002 movie did was become a wildly popular cult favorite solely through the underground circulation of a bootleg cut, leading to its eventual official release by Sony Pictures in 2006. Since then he has appeared in several other films, including "One Love" and "Haven" and will begin work on "The Return" in February.

Marley said it's not just acting though that has kept him away from the recording studio for six years.

"It was a transition - acting played a little part - but mostly it was leaving one [record] company and taking a break to kind of build myself into a complete artist."

The new album, Radio, was released September 25 and features guest appearances by a number of artists, including Young Buck, Mya and Gail Gotti.

Although Ky-Mani has toured extensively in the States and in Europe, he's never undertaken a trek on the scale of the Van Halen tour before. He's grateful to the people he works with and a certain guitarist for the chance to reach such a huge audience.

"All the credit goes to my management team - and to Eddie for giving me the opportunity."

Marley and his band, which he's played with for the past six or seven years, will accompany Van Halen on every stop on the 38-date tour. Immediately after the tour, he'll head out again for a run of headlining dates in North America.

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