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'High Times' for Jamaican culture

Published:Sunday | March 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Bob Marley
Damian Marley -File
Peter Tosh

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

High Times magazine will dedicate most of its June edition to Jamaican culture, covering a variety of topics such as Damian Marley's latest project and the Maroons of Accompong.

Chris Simunek, a senior editor with High Times, and photographer Brian Jahn, were recently in Jamaica to look mainly at the country's music scene. During their visit, they conducted interviews with reggae-rock band Rootz Underground and rock-steady great Ken Boothe.

"It's been some time since we've done a Jamaica issue, so this is a bit overdue," Simunek told The Sunday Gleaner.

Founded in 1975 by American radical Thomas Forcade, High Times' main thrust has always been marijuana. It takes a monthly look at the fight to keep, or make use of the plant, legal in the United States (US) and other countries.

The New York-based magazine has traditionally done interviews with artistes or sports personalities who use the weed for recreational or medicinal purposes. Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, Stephen Marley and Luciano have all appeared in the publication.

Damian Marley and American rapper Nas will be the highlight of the June issue. They discuss their highly anticipated Distant Relatives album which was released this month by Universal Republic.

Simunek and Jahn travelled to Accompong in Trelawny for a feature piece on the Maroons who have lived in the Cockpit Country region in south-central Jamaica for more than 300 years. They not only looked at their detachment from mainstream society, but discussed their use of marijuana.

Simunek said Rootz Underground's unique story will also get some prominence.

"They're not many bands around recording in Jamaica. These guys have got like a rock-and-roll approach to the music, and that's pretty cool," he said.

Jahn has been covering the reggae beat for more than 25 years. He has released one book, Reggae Island: Jamaican Music in the Digital Age, with writer Tom Weber, an overview of reggae during the 1980s and 1990s. Jahn has also contributed photos to numerous publications and record companies. He said after a boom early this decade, dancehall/reggae is currently at a crossroads in the US.

"Overall, it's slowed down considerably. There's really nothing going on," he said.