LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – Go to House of Marley’s booth at CES and the first thing you’ll see is Bob Marley’s sell-out son mugging and aping for the press with not a care in the world, artlessly singing along to the lyrics of his father’s songs.
It can be embarrassing, not just for spiritual rastafarians but for any person who appreciates legacy and finds himself cringing in embarrassment at the betrayal of what they might think to be a grander, less capitalistic ideal. That said, as silly as you might think the motif of House of Marley’s gadgets (“Stereo for stoners”), it’s hard not to admire their design or construction. These are sound systems that are trying to make a point.
House of Marley’s latest accessories are both silly and beautiful. Take the Djembe, House of Marley’s answer to the Jambox. It’s a Bluetooth compatible wireless speaker featuring one full-range driver and one passive radiator for bass reinforcement. It’s powered by four AAA batteries, while also allowing a standard 3.5mm line-in and integrated USB compatibility. It sounds great, costs $60, and is meant to hang from your sack thanks to a sold, attractive carbiner loop.
Fantastic, right? But the Djembe’s thoughtful technology must be considered side-by-side the silly design of the device, which is meant to look exactly like a fungal stoner’s bongo. As a gadget fan, you end up finding yourself as fond of the tech as you are embarrassed by its execution.
On that bongos note, there’s also the Bag of Rhythm, House of Marley’s $350 over-the-shoulder sack of sound. Like the Djembe, it’s made of bamboo encased in hemp, and features iPhone and iPod compatibility. Unlike the Djempe, though, the Bag of Rhythm was demo-ed by a mugging Rohan Marley, a curious artifact in that he is both: a) the son of Bob Marley, but b) named after one of the most prideful races in Middle Earth. He’s a weird guy, as earnest as he is a sell-out, as real as he is a mirage.
Ultimately, here’s the deal. House of Marley is a wonderful sound-system maker masquerading as a lifestyle brand. They make solid tech, and beautiful sound gadgets, but if you don’t buy into the stoner mystique, a certain degree of irony is required. That’s exactly the side of the House of Marley brand that makes me sort of bemusedly fond of their products, but if you’re the kind of person who never wants to entertain a conversation with a crunchy stoner… well, caveat emptor.