ON GANJA MUSIC

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

ON COMPUTER MUSIC

Consider this. Arriving at your studio, a young student sits down at a computer with a synthesizer keyboard in front of it. Putting on the headphones, he begins his ritualistic playing of the Minuet in G using a harpsichord setting on the synthesizer. After yielding to the temptation to punch all of the buttons on the synthesizer (which is always amusing), he puts a disk into the computer and does rhythm drills. (He’ll tell you that doing rhythm drills with the drum sounds of the synthesizer is much better than hand clapping.) At the end of his private lesson, you suggest that he drill his IV chords using the harmony program. Meanwhile a high school student, at the computer and synthesizer of course, is
putting the finishing touches on his original composition. It’s a piece for piano, violin and synthesizer. He was able to enter all of the parts from keyboard and is now editing the notated score that appears on the computer screen. After his lesson he’ll have the computer print out the violin part. Rehearsal is tomorrow and he wants to get feedback from the violinist . . .This is not a scenario from the twenty-first century. It’s happening today.

Found in Computer Applications in Music: A quick lesson in basic technology and terminology by Randall Faber.

Source: American Music Teacher, Vol. 37, No. 6 (June/July 1988), pp. 22-23, 54

Image source: http://www.muzines.co.uk

 

ON GLOBAL APPEAL AND SPREAD

It is my belief that the global appeal and spread of the Jamaican Rastafarian movement can be linked to a number of elements or factors.

The first is the pre-eminent position the Bible holds in Rastafarian ritual and ideology. Second, the stress Rastas place on healthy, natural living and their sub sequent rejection of Western artificiality in the realms of food, medicine, social relationships, etc.

Third, Rastas’ outspoken condemnation of the hypocrisy, corruption, injustice, and white biases inherent in colonial and neocolonial societies and institutions.

Fourth, Rastas’ exhortation to the colonized and subjugated peoples of the world to take pride in their ancestral heritage and culture and to look to their own indigenous traditions for guidance and support.

Fifth, the amorphous and decentralized nature of the movement, which gives adherents everywhere the freedom and flexibility to select and interpret specific aspects of Rastafarian religion and culture in a way that is best suited to their own needs and situations. And finally, but perhaps most importantly, the powerful links that exist between the movement and various aspects of contemporary transnational popular culture – namely music, drugs, and fashion.

Found in Conclusion, from:  TRANSNATIONAL POPULAR CULTURE AND THE GLOBAL SPREAD OF THE JAMAICAN RASTAFARIAN MOVEMENT, by  Neil J. Savishinsky.

Source: NWIG: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, Vol. 68, No. 3/4 (1994)

Image credit: ROBERT KITCHIN/The Dominion Post