Trojan Ganja Reggae Box Set (3 discs) Re-up
Ganja - Sensimellia, the sweet Collie Bud, the smooth Lambs Bread, has been the staple in more ways than one, of the Jamaican people for many a hazy decade. It's first recorded use was with the Arawak Indians who inhabited the lush island centuries before a certain Christopher Columbus 'discovered' Jamaica for his King and country to exploit. Unofficially, Ganja, or give it it's correct name, Marijuana, has held-up the Jamaican economy for many decades with it's export to the nearby USA bringing in a plentiful supply of much needed Dollars. The UK too appreciated the finest herb, and really took a liking to it in the swinging sixties as hippy culture from it's base in San Francisco spread peace and love worldwide.
It was known and used both as a brewed medicine and smoked through various means way before the Rastafarian faith took it to their hearts and minds. But now it will always be associated with those skanking Dreadlocks and their militant stand against oppression, exemplified by Bob Marley - the Rasta Rebel who dared to be photographed on his 'Burning' album sleeve with a smoking spliff between his lips. He was the ultimate anti-establishmentarian, fostered by Island Records to sell his rebellion to the white rock masses. And buy it they did, as well as sidling-up to the local Ganja-man for a couple of ounces of his finest direct from the lush hills way out in JA. One of fellow Wailer Peter Tosh's first solo releases was a demand to the government to 'Legalise It' - Ganja. The authorities predictable response was to ban his record from radio airplay.
Rasta and it's need to meditate soon found that a good chalice of herb aided the mind in it's relaxation, leading the user to higher heights and a serious reasoning could begin. The group Grounation was not complete without the said communal chalice, with the pipe passed from member to member instilling a feeling of togetherness - a being as one with nature.
By the time the Rastafarian faith had established itself in Jamaica, and been shunted aside by the mainly white authorities of the 1940's in to hill top communes or dank ghetto shantys, Ganja was as necessary as bread and water to the devotee. As the Rasta entered the recording studios in the formative 1960's so did the much loved herb. Like the religion itself, it was very much an underground thing,with severe retribution from the studio owner should either of the pair be discovered nestling in a dark corner.
Duke Reid of Treasure Isle Studio fame is well documented as disliking Rasta and all their accoutrements, and one of the only havens in those early oppressive days was Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's Studio One recording set-up. As Rasta almost secretly moved within the music circles, fostered by the ghetto musicians who were all either of, or sympathetic to, the faith, then covert comments started to appear on record. Don Drummond's 'Addis A Baba', a call to the Ethiopian homeland, Vernon Allen's 'Babylon', a commentary on the oppression of the faith by the Police, and Tosh and the Wailers stirring 'Rasta Put It On' all did more than hint that a new regime was coursing through the masses in the 1960's.
With the Rasta came the Ganja and songs about it's benefits, and songs about it's destruction at the hands of the authorities started to creep out as the studio bosses could hold down the groundswell no longer. The late 1960's saw every studio in the small island full of young singers and players sprouting shoots of dreadlocks, while older men were in full flow, both musically and with their platted hair. Everyone wanted to praise the herb from DJ, King Stitt's 'Herbsman', giving a view of the provider, to Glen Brown's fire-lit seduction of 'Collie And Wine', the smokey Ganja influence was everywhere.
As its influence in Jamaican society grew, although most middle and upper class citizens would denounce in public the good weed's use (and happily smoke it way out of sight), the police and army were employed in scouring the green hills for secluded fields of lazy growing Marijuana. Persons could be stopped and searched on sight should there be any suspicion that a leaf or two was concealed upon their person.
With the rapid outbreak of Dread in the early 1970's every Rasta was a target for the increasingly heavy-handed police. While the growing income from the crop helped instigate turf wars of the most brutal kind as the gangster element came to realise the great profits that could be obtained from this earthbound commodity.
Ganglords started to align themselves with the two political parties and take-on soldiers to enforce the new law of disorder that was to rage through Kingston night after night.
As the roots 1970's moved on the Dread and the spliff were seen as typical Jamaica, bathed in hot sun and swimming in a clear everlasting ocean to a soundtrack of Bob Marley.
The reality was somewhat different from the tourist dream, with increasing violence in the ghettos as general elections came and went. Many died and even more lived in fear every night - a far cry from Thomas Cook's glossy brochure.
Meanwhile in the UK, many of the old skinhead appreciators of the reggae had decamped to Bowie and a new youth faction was tuning in with the Ganja smoking Rasta - the Punks.
From their white middle-class ghettos of Cheam and Basildon, they aligned themselves with the suffering Trenchtown people. Seeing themselves as equal in their struggle of oppression and hardship, they strode along the road in time to records such as Tapper Zukie's 'Chalice To Chalice' and the stepping Upsetter sounds of 'Bush Weed Corn Trash' from Bunny & Ricky. Imbibing along the way quantities of Ganja beside other more chemical and addictive substances.
Luckily by this time there was a plethora of militant Ganja soaked records beaming from the Kingston studios, as every artist issued a praise to the now 'blessed herb', so the Punks had plenty to feast upon. Johnny Clarke, Barry Brown, Black Uhuru, all stepped out their Ganja anthems alongside dozens of other offerings, and all educating the masses on the various varieties and delights of a good smoke.
Even with the advent of Dancehall as the 1980's began, and the rapid decline of the reality-lyric tunes, Ganja still was a mainstay subject for the new-style singers and fast rising Deejays like Yellowman. The new Dancehall culture maintained the enjoyment of Ganja, and though it was still a crime to be seen smoking the herb, its use had never been more widespread.
Sadly as the 1980's progressed, hard new drugs slowly and insidiously usurped the peaceful Rasta's Ganja, culminating in today's epidemic of Crack Cocaine. The UK's premiere chart show, 'Top Of The Pops' almost played host to a Ganja anthem, albeit in a very sanitised fashion when Musical Youth reconfigured the Mighty Diamonds 'Pass The Cuchie'. 'Pass The Dutchie', (a large cooking pot) turned a Ganja anthem in to a culinary delight for all concerned in September 1982, and on the way dropped the teen group in at number one. Dancehall sensation, Barrington Levy also had a crack (no pun intended) at the national top forty focussing on Ganja with 'Under Me Sensi' in February 1985, but sadly stalled at forty-one.
Even in today's HipHop hybrid Dancehall culture Ganja is still a subject singers return to for a little inspiration, and Mr Vegas is heading straight up the reggae charts with a recover of 'Under Me Sensi'. This is a long way from the literally, heady days of the 1970's when the dancehall was filled with throbbing bass and the Ganja cloud rose like a mist early on a summer morning over the dancers. Its pacifying influence pumping along to the heartbeat of the reggae and taking the audience in to the musicians secret world of sound.
Jamaica certainly gave the world reggae music but more secretly, it also instilled through its culture an appreciation of the good herb - something whether the authorities like it or not, has become part of modern day life.
Michael de Koningh
1 Herbsman King Stitt, Andy Capp
2 Ganja Plane GG Allstars
3 Ishan Cup Lloyd Charmers
4 Collie and Wine Glen Brown
5 Real Collie Dice & Cummie
6 Kaya Bob Marley & The Wailers
7 Kaya [version] Bob Marley & The Wailers
8 Lick I Pipe Carl Murphy
9 Lick the Pipe, Peter, Pt. 4 Jah T
10 Pass the Pipe Observers
11 Herb Tree Aston Barrett
12 Ganja Free Clancy Eccles
13 Kutchi Skank Upsetters
14 My Jamaican Collie Max Romeo
15 Feeling High Rupie Edwards
16 Half Ounce Big Youth
17 Herb Vendor Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace
18 Better Calley (AKA Better Collie) Horace Andy
19 Calley Version Aggrovators
20 Bring the Couchie Come Reggae Crusaders
21 Couchie Dub Niney & The Soul Syndicate
22 Ganja Joe White
23 Collie Dread Johnny Clarke
24 Ashanti Ganja Dub Leslie Butter
25 Free the Weed Rupie Edwards
26 Free the Weed Dub Rupie Edwards All Stars
27 Bush Weed Corntrash Bunny & Ricky
28 Callying Butt Upsetters
29 Chalice to Chalice Tapper Zukie
30 A Hundred Pounds of Collie Cornell Campbell
31 I Love Marijuana Linval Thompson
32 Jamaican Colley [version] Linval Thompson
33 Smoke Marijuana Big Joe
34 Marijuana in My Soul Ranking Dread
35 Collie Weed Horace Andy
36 Marijuana Sly & The Revolutionaries
37 Marijuana in My Brain Dillinger
38 Herb Sly & The Revolutionaries
39 Collie Weed Barrington Levy
40 Collie Sly & The Revolutionaries
41 Scientist Ganja Dub Scientist, Roots Radics
42 Sensimilea Barrington Levy
43 Cannabis Dub Scientist, Roots Radics
44 The Great Collie Herb Derrick Morgan
45 Babylon Don't Touch My Sensi Neville Brown
46 Babylon Don't Touch My Sensi Dub Neville Brown
47 Sensi Man Mikey Brooks
48 Ganja Baby Clint Eastwood
49 Kaya Ronnie Davis
50 Sensi for Sale Tufftones