Rohan Marley on putting down roots in South Africa

Rohan Marley on putting down roots in South Africa


Channel24's Graye Morkel sat down with the son of the legendary musician and cultural icon Bob Marley, Rohan Marley to talk about honouring his father's legacy through charitable work, and his strong to connection to South Africa.  

Cape Town - When I first arrive at the Westin Hotel to interview Rohan Marley, I'm absolutely thrilled, and I have to admit - a little bit nervous. I remember practicing basic guitar chord progressions to One Love and No Women No Cry many years ago, and even though Rohan isn't a musician like his father he honours his values and beliefs through his many charitable initiatives. 

We sit down for coffee (he drinks it black with two brown sugars, by the way) and I am surprised at how easily the conversation flows I totally forget about the questions written in my notebook and topics of discussion move naturally.

This is Rohan's fourth trip to South Africa and he says that as a descendant of Africa it's a such a great place to be. 

"I'm not a tourist. And it's wonderful to see your home and see Africans thriving. There is such a great vibe."


Rohan was recently annouced as ambassador for Away to Africa and will be travelling through South Africa with SA Toursim.

His tour kicked off in the Mother City by attending the Cape Town Jazz Festival on Friday, and called the experience "very special."

"I haven't been to a jazz festival in decades. We used to have them in Jamaica, and I'd watch my brothers perform. But this was a special one. I heard Corinne Bailey Rae, she is such a legend. She did Is This Love and it really blew me away."

The 45-year-old says he can easily see himself living in South Africa: "Mama Rita has been talking about settling down in South Africa for a long, long time. Whenever I come here, my brother always tells me to find him a house. We [his family] see ourselves coming here more often."

"I would like people to know I believe that Africa is emerging, and it's been emerging. It's time to wake up. To my African brothers and sisters all over the continent I say, 'We are one.' No matter if you are two shades brighter, or two shades lighter. We are one people."

He adds: "We have to return to being kings and queens. And not look upon one another thinking that one's shade is greater or inferior to another."

Reflecting on the country's rich history, he says: "I am not a descendant of slaves, I am a king. Just because our forefathers were prosecuted and enslaved, that does not make them slaves. It makes their captor evil." 

"Madiba was not a prisoner because he was locked up. It's a state of mind." Rohan goes on to say: "He was jailed for 27 years and became a great leader. If Madiba can say, 'Live and let love,' we can't live in the past. We have to progress."


Rohan encourages us all to find our own identity. "It's not even the government [who determines our identity], it's within oneself. We need to get out of the colonial way of thinking," he says.

A similar exercise is when Rohan cut his dreadlocks, for the second time, in 2014. About the liberating experience he says: "I was able to remove myself from the eyes that only saw my outer.

"You look in the mirror, and you don't see yourself, you see your dad because you miss him so much. And you end up seeing him in yourself all the time. I had to become Rohan."

He calls South Africa "dynamic" and the "perfect melting pot of the world." 

Talking about the family's non-profit 1Love.org - which was inspired by Bob Marley's vision of hope, peace and unity - he says: "It's not about the brand. It's about our principles and how we do things as a family. If we go into business we want our business to be a reflection of who we are as a family."

Through the movement the family launched Marley Coffees and House of Marley, a range of eco-friendly headphones. 

The businessman and former American football player adds: "South Africa is so advanced with technology, from an entrepreneurial perspective. It's nice to see where the efforts should be put and what the mind should be focused on."

Rohan, who is the spokesperson for the organisation, says: "I love to travel and meet new people. I have no problem speaking to anyone. I love my dad, and everything we do as a family is in the spirit of Bob Marley. His drive and the things he loved. It's amazing being able to do this."

To everyone who continues to support what he is working toward, he says: "If you want the world to a better place. It starts with our word. It's important that we do what we say, and we say what we do. Our objective in life should be to keep your word. When you keep your word, you keep your peace."