From its inception, reggae music has characteristically been associated with Rastafarians, the tropics, and spliffs sending up plumes of cannabis smoke. Acknowledging this everlasting connection to music, Clyde McKenzie, organiser of the upcoming Reggae Sumfest symposium, wishes to propel conversations that inextricably align cannabis use with reggae music.
Along with topics such as the technical art of sound engineering and the correlation between music and violence, McKenzie has organised for a panel to open a discussion on music and herb on July 12 at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge at The UWI Mona Campus, during the symposium.
Regardless of the fact that many places around the world, including Uruguay and Canada, have recently embraced cannabis as both medicine and recreation, Jamaica is still tiptoeing towards accepting the product as viable in business and in health. But there is another connection that is well known, but perhaps undermined for its not-so-pretty history as a criminal element.
“There is a historical nexus between the plant and Jamaican music. Many of our leading exponents have really promoted or recommended the use of ganja in their music. The fact is that the Rastafarian movement is significant to our cultural music, as is their sacramental plant,” McKenzie told The Sunday Gleaner.
“The question we’re asking is how do we continue the synergy between ganja and Jamaican music; what can be derived from continued associations between the two; and what should be the nature of this relationship. How will the businesses that are marijuana-related invest? Will they use Jamaican music to promote it? Or how will they invest in Jamaican music?” he questioned.
To continue pushing the conversation, local music festivals like Rebel Salute and Reggae Sumfest have either dedicated features to the event (like Salute’s Herb Curb) or inviting the participation of advocates, activists and the few licensed entities that exist.
Since Jamaica began issuing licences to select growers who are developing medical and recreational dispensaries, a variety of players entered the fledgling industry. According to Joe Bogdanovich, some of those players will be represented at Reggae Sumfest.
“It’s a really significant industry, maybe a game changer industry, maybe in more ways than we actually know. I’ll say it’s all positive and constructive. It’s an industry that we recognise at Reggae Sumfest,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
“Here in the island of Jamaica, it’s a situation where there are a lot of medical marijuana applications. From my understanding, it’s much more significant than just the other kind of marijuana. We do understand that it helps cancer patients, with dietary problems and all sorts of things,” Bogdanovich observed.
For the Sumfest principal, his position about the shifting global attitude to cannabis primarily aligns with medicine. However, the historical nexus, McKenzie highlighted, is not lost on the popular entrepreneur.
He added: “Marijuana was a common thing, back in the Peace Movement in them’60s that was revolutionary at that time. It’s something that comes all the way from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and all of those people. This is just the continuation, an evolution of business.”
So far, Bogdanovich has secured the support of RAGGA (Rastafari Grassroots and Ganja Cluster), a group representing all the mansions of Rastafari at next month’s staging of Reggae Sumfest.
“RAGGA is one such licensed organisation and they’re definitely on board. Island Strains is on board, and a few others brands want to get on board, but they’re not totally approved as of yet. We’re working on getting that done,” he revealed.
Among the other topics to be explored at the July 12 Reggae Symposium, are the relevance of radio in the advent of social media and the question of appropriation or misappropriation. Totally free to the public, the symposium only requires online registration via Reggae Sumfest’s website. Thee organisers say that space is limited and refreshment will be provided.
Reggae Sumfest kicks off on July 14 with ‘Morning Medz’, a breakfast party at Tropical Beach. On Monday, July 15, the festival will take to the streets with a Street Dance at the Old Hospital Park. The action moves to Pier 1 on Tuesday, July 16, with the All-White Party. It’s all black on Wednesday, July 17, when the party moves to the Hard Rock Café in Montego Bay. The Global Sound Clash takes place on Thursday, July 18, at Pier 1, and this will see top selectors Ricky Trooper, Pink Panther, Yard Beat, and King Turbo competing for honours.
The performances begin at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre on Friday, July 19. Among the artistes who are now in rehearsals for Reggae Sumfest Night 1 are Chronixx, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Spice, Agent Sasco, Dexta Daps, Squash Spragga Benz, Elephant Man, Munga, Govanna, and Dovey Magnum.
The curtains come down on Reggae Sumfest on Saturday, July 20, with heavyweights Buju Banton, and Beres Hammond as well as Protojé, Romain Virgo, Chris Martin, Dalton Harris, Jah9 and Etana.