Rhythm & Views

Ziggy Marley

Thanks in part to Yogi Berra, Westerners are familiar with the Zen koan, which often refutes logical understanding but is accessible via intuition. In the first line of the opening track on his latest album, Ziggy Marley establishes a koan-like tone for the rest of the work. The simple becomes substantial.

Although the tune shares its title with a Madonna song, it couldn't be more different as Marley sings, "Into the groove, where we lose ourselves just to find out who we are / ... where we get to fly but need not see the sky." Also with this song, Marley signals right away that he's not stuck in Jamaica. With its delicate blown-glass guitar rhythm, bouncy bass figure and sunny horn arrangement, "Into the Groove" is Afro-pop at its finest, a meeting of the styles of King Sunny Ade and Femi Kuti. It's a fresh direction for the famous reggae scion.

Fear not, loyal fans: Marley soon enough returns to the pop-inflected reggae that has marked his career. The second track, an extended metaphor that reads on the page like thin poetry, throbs to life when melded with Marley's joyous rhythms.

This is a pattern throughout the disc. Songs that seem lyrically shallow--"Oh, a lifetime isn't enough to love you," for example--plumb greater depths of emotion when accompanied by this rich, human music.