The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reggae?

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The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reggae?

Postby Apostle » Mon Nov 04, 2013 3:28 pm

Was shortly reasoning with a fellow reggaelover about this during the past weekend. Reggae music in general and rastafari culture in particular is always associated with ganja smoking. But isn't this a worn out stereotype? Is it really true that reggae and ganja are inextricably connected? And isn't this cliché the main reason a lot of people refuse to take reggae seriously?

I'm not trying to be silly: reggae obviously attracts a crowd that likes to smoke. Some herb smoke in the air is standard on a reggae concert and it would be rather weird when this would be absent.
I enjoyed reggae with and without herbs. I had a pneumothorax (lung collapse) on a reggae festival some three years ago and haven't smoked ever since. (Interesting detail: in the small circle of hardcore soundsystem lovers I know, I know three people that also had a lung collapse. They all went back to their smoking habit after they recovered). I never had the feeling that I enjoyed music less without smoking. I'm just a bit less 'in the vibe' but I can dance longer if I want. I'm not trying to be judgemental about it either, I definitely had my fun with smoking. But I also had bad experiences and the pneumothorax just switched a button in my head.

I also know where the stereotype comes from: for a lot of people reggae equals Bob Marley and Lee Perry and ganja leafs. Both Marley and Perry but also Peter Tosh and so many other artists advertised ganja smoking. And reggae and soundsystem promotors also made extensive use of the ganja image- because it worked. An older reggaedj once told me that in the 80s and early 90ies they just put a Bob Marley head with a huge spliff on the flyer and that guaranteed a lot of people would turn up. This was also Belgium, where ganja was easy to get and the penalties never that severe.
Another aspect is that ganja smoking has its function in rasta culture. But what they do seems to me something very different from what we do in Europe- puffing spliffs and gettin' mushed and tired. I also think the product we consume is entirely different from what they smoke in JA.

But at the other hand: when you grow a bit older yourself you start to see the ganja stereotype makes reggae look immature. While there are so many other things to talk about when you're talking reggae.
Some artists were big ganja lovers but so many weren't. I can't really imagine Prince Jammy, King Tubby or Leo Santic being super stoned all the time. Jah Shaka doesn't want to be portrayed while smoking because he wants to set a good example. When he lights a spliff during a session he sits down and hides it like a 14-year old (at least when I saw him playing). Never saw Mikey Dread smoking during a session either. There's so many producers that keep totally sober - no drinking no nicotine no weed- because they have to keep their **** together.

Am I sounding like an old bore here? I don't judge smoking at all, if you like it go ahead. It's the old cliché that says reggae equals marihuana and slow dancing hippies that bores me to death.
Go to any party and all types of drugs are being taken, so I don't really get why reggae has to keep being branded as druggy music. And what does start to irritate me is the aura of unprofessionalism that is always around reggae and definitely is ganja-connected.

So, any thoughts on this? Hope the subject is not too sensitive :wink:
Last edited by Apostle on Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Roman » Mon Nov 04, 2013 3:38 pm

Image

"To smoke weed or not to smoke weed - that is the questioin"
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby monkeystyle » Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:22 pm

I think the main problems is the stereotype of ganja. Legalize it.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby underated » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:11 pm

I was a stoner for many years , just got bored with it & wanted to grow up & mature just a little bit,
that was a good few years back, best move i ever made.
As regards to reggae & my thoughts on the matter, well i don't go to gigs & don't jam with musicians anymore, i just don't want to be around smokers, i guess that might be regarded as double standards.

I don't have any time for the soon come attitude .
reggae does attract the tokers out there, of course it does, if there was no weed probably less people would listen to the music.
I just find the whole weed thing a bit played out.

Many hip hop fans & artists smoke , yet the music is not thought of as weed music.
Many rock fans drink yet the music is not regarded as booze music.

Sidenote ,

I imagine the people that post here are rather smart & take a toke to relax after a hard days work.
stone cold stoners are a totally different matter :)
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby underated » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:13 pm

monkeystyle wrote:I think the main problems is the stereotype of ganja. Legalize it.


Yes that is the way forward,

But if the youth still stand at street corners getting wasted, the problem still exists.
Education is the key.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby steve rice » Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:23 pm

I have a lot of involvement with reggae..the people that smoke weed are in the minority in the circles i move...or to be more accurate almost non existent..the biggest problem i have with weed smokers is that they think everything they have to say is fascinating
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Apostle » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:57 pm

underated wrote:reggae does attract the tokers out there, of course it does, if there was no weed probably less people would listen to the music.


That's exactly what I wonder about. The way you put it it seems like reggae attracts smokers because it's smokers music. This suggests that it always has been this way, and that's what I doubt about.
I read here and there that in the first roots sessions in the UK, people were just standing and listening to the music. The reason they came to listen was because this was music with a militant message that gave people in a difficult situation at that time something to hold on to. Drinking and dissolute behavior wasn't tolerated, people didn't gather there to 'chill out' or 'go wild'. It's only later, when the sessions became bigger and also drew a smaller white audience, students were sitting on the floor and rolling spliffs.
Of course I wasn't there in the 'early days' so what I'm writing here is from hearsay and partially speculation. But this anecdote makes me wonder if there ever has been a lot of truth in the cliché of weed smoking black men that make reggae. I suppose in rasta communities there was effectively a lot of ganja smoking for spiritual and ritual purposes, but as I said that's entirely different from the recreative smoking that we know.

I didn't really want to start a pro-con marihuana discussion here. I just wonder if my idea is right that the whole ganja-reggae link is partially based on a misunderstanding that comes from a eurocentric way of looking at things. To be honest, I think weed is a drug like any other and I don't believe smoking it all day has anything to do with spiritual purposes. When you listen to f.e. Peter Tosh, smoking ganja was part of a more natural way of life, and the advertisement of ganja was a means for emancipation in the Jamaica of that time. But that has very little to do with young guys smoking a spliff in front of the speaker and mumbling Jahjah - whom I find laughable. The way I see it smoking lots of weed is a youth man thing and has less to do with reggae music as such.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Roman » Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:06 pm

Steve Rice: According to my little experience, the difference between introverted and extroverted weed smokers is as huge as the difference between introverted and extroverted non-weed smokers.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby SimonJ » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:10 pm

Great question Apostle and one I've often pondered.

I would say herb has helped reggae spread itself outwards and 'whitewards' from its origins in Jamaica. The lyrical advocacy of herb smoking and the imagery - just look at some of the mid seventies album covers - have done much to attract a rock audience. Like many I would guess the herb helped me get into reggae - all music can sound enhanced when under the influence but reggae, and dub in particular, really does lend itself to a 'refreshed' state. Nowadays, it makes no difference to me and I can enjoy a good tune just as much in the car on the way to work as unwinding with a spliff on a Friday night.

Of course, there's a difference between smoking to get out of it and the spiritual rasta use although I would hazard a guess that the intoxication is not an altogether unwelcome side effect for some and its sanctity is a pretty good excuse just to get high!

I'm very much a roots lover, and praising the herb is part and parcel of that and there are some fantastic tracks out there on that theme. I do get your point though that it can seem a bit tiring and lyrically stilted and 'cheap' especially if not done well.

I've got no experience of the industry and its use among singers and players but guess that some do, some don't and the ones that do don't let it interfere with their professionalism. In my one and only visit to Jamaica I must say I found it pretty widespread!

Anyway, enough of my musings - off now to have a mug of cocoa and listen to some Pablo :D
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Roman » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:59 pm

SimonJ wrote:I've got no experience of the industry and its use among singers and players but guess that some do, some don't and the ones that do don't let it interfere with their professionalism. In my one and only visit to Jamaica I must say I found it pretty widespread!


I've never been to Jamaica myself but I guess they smoke more sativa than indica down there?
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Mick Sleeper » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:56 am

Some stereotypes about ganja and reggae that I have always found tiresome:

1. You have to smoke ganja to "get" reggae.
2. If you listen to reggae, you must smoke ganja.
3. Automatically using a ganja leaf to identify with reggae (or Jamaica).
4. Thinking that reggae artists are "funny" or "bad ass" because they smoke ganja.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Mark T » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:54 am

Mick, number three is certainly the one I find most tiresome, enough of the ganja leaf imagery already!
That said, I imagine that if I had been brought up in the poverty of the ghetto I'd smoke some weed to try and forget how bad things are! I don't think I'd need to cloak it any mythical/religious BS either - it's kind of like traditional working class people (stereotype alert!) getting totally pissed on a Friday night. Nothing more, nothing less. Any link Biblical justification is very tenuous to say the least, if not plain nonsense.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Ital Dokta » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:16 am

I think the ganja/reggae link is twofold in nature, on the Jamaican side it is clearly part of the history and culture and while not universally used (some of the older generation of producers like King Edwards for example could not abide the herb smoke at all) I imagine it was fairly widespread among musicians/artists...certainly as the rastafari influence strengthened and economic/political realities became worse. On the non-JA side it can be traced back to Blackwell/Branson etc. and their efforts to sell reggae to a white, college age audience looking for a rebellious sort of musical and social scene to get behind. The 60's hippie protest days were over but rock album art was being taken very seriously and these guys knew full well the marketing power of a strong image. At some point some bright bulb must have realized many of these guys liked to smoke, cue the Zippo lighter and spliff cloud filled covers. It worked, at least for a time and this association in the minds of the public has continued to this day. I've certainly had the sniggering reaction more than once from people who know nothing about reggae other than Bob and find out I listen to it, as a non partaker it does get tiresome and irritating. That said the stereotype is true to some extent as the music does attract those who are into it more as a lifestyle choice than any particularly deep musical connection - at least in this part of the world where reggae & Caribbean culture does not have quite the history and tradition that other places like the UK have had so media & image perhaps play more of a part in spreading it to a new audience.
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby MulatuAstatke » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:02 am

Apostle wrote:
underated wrote:reggae does attract the tokers out there, of course it does, if there was no weed probably less people would listen to the music.


That's exactly what I wonder about. The way you put it it seems like reggae attracts smokers because it's smokers music. This suggests that it always has been this way, and that's what I doubt about.
I read here and there that in the first roots sessions in the UK, people were just standing and listening to the music. The reason they came to listen was because this was music with a militant message that gave people in a difficult situation at that time something to hold on to. Drinking and dissolute behavior wasn't tolerated, people didn't gather there to 'chill out' or 'go wild'. It's only later, when the sessions became bigger and also drew a smaller white audience, students were sitting on the floor and rolling spliffs.
Of course I wasn't there in the 'early days' so what I'm writing here is from hearsay and partially speculation. But this anecdote makes me wonder if there ever has been a lot of truth in the cliché of weed smoking black men that make reggae. I suppose in rasta communities there was effectively a lot of ganja smoking for spiritual and ritual purposes, but as I said that's entirely different from the recreative smoking that we know.



I'm pretty sure reggae and music in general has always been about enjoying yourself, especially in the situation of a dance/blues. I don't think people were just solemnly standing about listening to heavy bass, not all the music was about rasta and not all the music was about ganja. I think its more been the Shaka influence which has continued to this day that encourages the stand still, meditate on bass weight, testoreone fuelled, minor key funeral music. Back in the ska days rum was the inebriator of choice and I doubt they held back.

this is all speculation as I wasn't there!
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Re: The ganja stereotype: is it correct and does it help reg

Postby Apostle » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:14 am

MulatuAstatke wrote:I'm pretty sure reggae and music in general has always been about enjoying yourself, especially in the situation of a dance/blues. I don't think people were just solemnly standing about listening to heavy bass, not all the music was about rasta and not all the music was about ganja. I think its more been the Shaka influence which has continued to this day that encourages the stand still, meditate on bass weight, testoreone fuelled, minor key funeral music. Back in the ska days rum was the inebriator of choice and I doubt they held back.


Thanks for that addition, as I said it's just hearsay. If I remember it right, that anecdote comes from one of the extra interviews with Idren Natural on the Musically Mad DVD, where he talks about the first 'solomonic' sessions. At the other hand, I also heard stories from Belgian guys that went to see Shaka in the seventies, and they speak about small rooms packed with people where you could barely see a thing because of the amount of ganja smoke.
As other people already pointed out, reggae has always attracted audiences that liked the entertainment aspect of it. So the 'sober party' I was talking about might be a myth.
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