Despite the initiative by the Rastas those forces which harangued Bishop on the question of elections but turned a blind eye to the elections in Guyana still hoped to foment discontent from within. The elementary initiatives towards solving the needs of the working people were affected by the deteriorating security situation as the incidents of bombings and shootings increased, culminating in the June 19, 1980 bombing attack at Queens Park, St George. The Prime Ministers and the officials of the State had gathered to celebrate Labour Day when the bomb exploded. But no one on the platform was hurt; the force of the bomb killed three children and injured others. Some of the elements involved in this bombing campaign were involved in the large scale planting of ganja. This ganja was not for local consumption but for the international capitalist market and the big planters attempted to use the centrality of the weed in the lives of many youths as a leverage to move the Rastas after the previous attempt at demonstrations had failed. Ganja and its use pose a serious problem throughout the Caribbean for the way in which the trade is now linked to international gangsterism. Those imported psychologists and doctors who describe ganja as a dangerous narcotic forget that the British State imported ganja into the Caribbean up until 1907 to sell to the Indian indentured workers. The use of ganja by youths in the sixties and seventies was a principal method of social control and as soon as a youth was perceived by the state as rebellious the charge of – possession of ganja was always a useful weapon in the hands of the coercive apparatus of the state.
Found in Rasta, Ganja and Capitalism, from: THE RASTAFARIANS IN THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN by HORACE CAMPBELL. Source: Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4, RASTAFARI (December 1980)
Image source: AP Photo/David McFadden
As the central sacrament to Rastafarians, the importance of ganja (marijuana) has been well documented and this importance extends into the sphere of Rasta-influenced Jamaican music. Rasta-influenced musicians were often outspoken advocates of ganja smoking, with songs full of exhortations to “smoke the herb”: Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It,” Bob Marley’s “Kaya” and “Easy Skanking,” Culture’s “International Herb,” Horace Andy’s “Better Collie,” Lee Perry’s “Free Up the Weed” and “Roast Fish, Cornbread and Collie Weed,” and Leroy Horsemouth Wallace’s “Herb Vendor” are a mere few of hundreds of such songs. Yet while it would probably be difficult to find a Jamaican musician of the roots era who was avowedly anti-ganja, some Jamaican musicians nevertheless felt that the prominence of this theme led to a distorted view of reggae in the world at large, as musicians played to the expectations of their international audiences. Paul Henton voiced a sentiment common among some Jamaican musicians, who felt that their colleagues sung about ganja at least in part “just because they know that the white people love it. If tomorrow morning the people or the fans say ‘Okay, we don’t want to hear anymore of this ganja stuff,’ they’ll stop singing about it and stop promoting it!”
Inside Jamaica, where ganja songs have flourished within several genres of Jamaican popular music (such as roots reggae and ragga), the situation has been more complex. Ganja was declared illegal in Jamaica in 1913 and for the decades since, its illegality has been a primary tool used by the ruling class in the social control of working-class Jamaicans. Correspondingly, it became a combustible element in the constellation of factors (including music, Rastafari, class conflict) that factor into Jamaica’s social tensions. As such, it is not surprising that ganja played a central role in the blended class, cultural, and political content that exploded in Jamaica in the 1970s and that arguably found its most powerful and passionate articulation in roots reggae. This centrality can be felt in the comments of legendary drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace: “The people respect you in Jamaica when you can put forty and fifty bag a ganja on a plane! We don’t call that drugs. That is ganja business. . . . We do those things like we are revolutionary. We put forty bag on a plane and feel good. . . . We send those so people in America could smoke the good ganja, not just for money alone.”
Found in: The Ganja Factor, from: DUB Soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae by Michael E. Veal. Wesleyan University Press 2007.
Image source: Peter Tosh
While conducting research in Senegal I was very fortunate to develop a close relationship with a 38 year old Gambian Baye Faal named Moussa N’Gom, who also happens to be one of the best known and most highly respected pop musicians in the region. A founding member of the Gambian group Guelewar back in the late 1970s, Moussa went on to become a lead vocalist and songwriter with the popular Senegalese band Super Diamono. Possessing a keen awareness of the world outside West Africa-as he has travelled and
performed throughout Europe and North America-it was Moussa who convinced me of the very close connections that exist between the Baye Faal and the Rastafari.
During the various trips he made to New York, London and Toronto, Moussa often found himself in the company of local West Indian Rastas. Bonds of friendship quickly developed between the two as they discovered how much they shared in common, e.g. a love of music and ganja, a deeprooted spirituality and a strong commitment to African unity and black solidarity. And it was from direct contacts such as these that Moussa gained his knowledge, appreciation of and respect for the Rastafari and the more universal aspects associated with their movement (although, like most Baye Faal, he finds the Rastafarians’ deification of Haile Selassie and reliance on Judaeo/Christian-based religious teachings thoroughly misguided). As Moussa, always one to emphasise the inherent unity rather than divisions, was in the habit of pointing out:
Like Rastas, the Baye Faal are totally free and flexible, and this is what is most
important-the true Rasta man and Baye Faal is a free man and not a slave to
anyone or anything. We make our own rules, and we are accountable only to God
and his prophets. Some Baye Faal smoke, some don’t, some drink alcohol, some
don’t, some pray, some don’t. You see, it is up to us what we do. And, like Rastas, we try to set an example to the world of how a good man should live-that is, not offending God and not offending one’s fellow man.
From The Baye Faal of Senegambia: Muslim Rastas in the Promised Land by Neil J. Savishinsky.
Published in: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 64, No. 2 (1994)
“After nearly two years of study in Jamaica, I’d found ganja was used to stimulate work.”
Dr. Melanie Dreher, reefer researcher