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Ziggy Marley South African Road Trip

Jackson Lynch
May 14, 2013
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Most Fridays don't begin with phone calls inviting you to ride the new Ducati Streetfighter to Newcombs Ranch with Ziggy Marley.

Still foggy from waking, and taken aback by the offer, all I could utter was, "Huh?"

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"You'll get a chance to chat with him about his moto adventure across South Africa in 2010, and he's going to do a short acoustic set at the end of the ride," the voice added.

In spite of having seen Bob Marley's eldest son perform a number of times, I'd yet to meet Ziggy and I definitely wanted to twist the throttle up into the Angeles National Forest on one of the naked Ducatis. "Okay, I'm in," I replied coolly.

Coming of age in the late '70s and early '80s reggae, and more specifically Bob Marley's music, was as influential in my life as punk. Both styles were aching for change and each had its own methods to find meaning in a world filled with inequity. After his father's untimely death at just 36, Ziggy took on the mantle of his father's message.

"Being on stage with my father in 1980 for the Zimbabwe Independence Concert inspired me to become a musician, and it opened my eyes to Africa," said Marley as he reclined in the shade a few feet from "Estella", the Ducati Multistrada he rode thousands of miles throughout Africa.

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"It was a dream of mine ever since [1980] to go back with my brothers, to spend time with the people, to see how their world has changed, and to put on a free concert to continue my father's message of love, peace and unity through music," added the 44 year-old Marley, who's easy-going, accessible and eerily like his father.

Ziggy and "Estella" looked a road-weathered duo as he straddled the bike for a few press shots. However, moments later I learned Ziggy didn't even have a motorcycle permit until a few days before he and his brothers Rohan and Robbie set off on their epic trek across South Africa. A quick learner, he probably got a few pointers from brother Robbie "Ninja" Marley, 41, a renowned trick rider who lives in Miami.

Publicity duties handled, Ziggy, Robbie and 30 or so other riders mustered, mounted and rolled out for the 150-plus turns that lay between La Cañada foothills and Newcombs Ranch in Southern California. The latter is a moto-friendly mountain-top roadhouse in the heart of the Angeles National Forest.

Once we got stuck into the ascent, I could see that Ziggy was measuring the turns and getting reacquainted with his steed. Fortunately, this crew was populated with accomplished riders, so I was better able to take the measure of the Ducati Streetfighter - a superbike with a riser bar and no fairings - on this open road. Pitching from corner to corner, the Streetfighter is quick and agile like a track bike, but with lower pegs and a more upright position for comfort.

Ziggy marley south african road trip ducati motorcycles Photo 5/10   |   Robbie and Ziggy Marley check out the latest Ducatis

Those 25 miles and 4000ft of elevation literally flew by and we arrived mostly en masse to a celebrating throng of a hundred or so other riders and Marley fans who'd assembled for food, refreshment and reggae. Appearing with two other musicians and a backing singer, Marley's mountain-top mini-set included one of his father's most beloved tunes, "Three Little Birds," which the heir to the Marley legacy said came to mind while riding up the mountain.

"I'm not so used to all the twists and turns of these roads," Marley said, introducing the song. "So I sang this to myself as I rode today." Then he smiled that patented beaming Marley grin and sang "Ziggy don't worry about a thing. 'Cause every little thing gonna be alright." And it was.

** The six-part series, Marley Africa Road Trip, chronicles the 2010 journey, from its inception in Southern California, all the way through the trials and tribulations of staging a free concert in Soweto for over 50,000 people during South Africa's 2010 FIFA World Cup. The two-DVD set is available in retail and online stores (such as Amazon, etc) and also on Netflix.

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By Jackson Lynch
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