Rastafari Rootzfest addresses music advocacy for marijuana
The launch of Rastafari Rootzfest 2018, which took place at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road on Wednesday, was filled with informative and passionate speeches, as well as captivating performances by reggae singers Richie Spice and Lila Ike - two of the entertainers billed to perform at this year's festival. The three-day festival, which speaks to the education on Rastafari ideology and culture, is in its fourth year.
Speaking at the event were the likes of Dr Jahlani Niaah of the Rastafari Studies Unit at UWI; Senator Mark Golding; Dr Ellen Grizzle of UTech's College of Health Sciences and Barbara Blake-Hannah, the cultural liaison from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, representing Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange.
While most of the speakers focused on the legalisation, research and economic benefits of marijuana to Jamaica, Sister Mitzie, who is part of the organising team, addressed the topic of music advocacy. "Artistes need to take an example from past entertainers like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh by not only producing music to increase their earnings to buy a house and car. Music is important, and the role it plays in the advocacy for the legalisation of marijuana, in addition to educating the public, is larger than many may think, but artistes are focused on other things."
Jamaica Music Conference coordinator Joan Webley, a past panellist of the festival, told The Gleaner that artistes could be speaking more about the healing benefits of marijuana and writing lyrics to correct the misinformation that the world is exposed to.
"First of all, when I think of the legalisation of cannabis, I am immediately reminded of Peter Tosh. For decades, he was the one singing for it, and now, we have an exciting opportunity to move forward. Sister Mitzie is right, not enough is being done musically," said Webley. She continued, "But the artistes have been playing their part in advocating by sharing their love and telling the story of cannabis."
When Richie Spice took to the microphone, the guests in-stinctively knew the first song that the reggae entertainer would be performing. "It is one of the first songs I did advocating for marijuana, and when it was released in 2004, radio stations avoided playing it until years later. But they would bleep out the word marijuana," Spice shared.
Following his performance, the Marijuana Pon De Corner singer told The Gleaner that he has written an album's worth of songs advocating for marijuana in one way or another. "You see words, sounds and power are something artistes must use and defend the herb because it is beneficial to the growth of our country and people - not for the high, but job creation and development of medicines."
The main speaker for the night was Ras Iyah V, who took a nostalgic trip down memory lane to talk about his travels to the Middle East and Africa, where farmers and festivals organisers were promoting the recreational, medicinal and spiritual uses of marijuana. He closed the evening by challenging his guests to become more educated about marijuana at a global level. "That education will help us to understand when outside investors come into the island seeking business. Marijuana cannot be like the sugar cane, bauxite and even reggae music - we must take care of our products."