Image of Jamaican Rastafarian smoking the herb Mon
Mel Cooke ~ The Gleaner
Can we rebel against child murders now?
I have always wondered what would happen to the prodigious output of weed songs if the green gold was legalised. As much as I thought the law against marijuana was silly and ineffective, I never thought there would be a time - certainly not in my lifetime - when the clichÈ topic would be whisked away from would-be musical rebels.
That is not to say that there has not been genuine rebellion around the matter of legal use of what the lawmen refer to as "vegetable matter resembling marijuana". It would be grossly impertinent of me to dismiss Peter Tosh's advocacy through songs like Bush Doctor and Legalise It. And it would be woefully inept of me to not appreciate the sweet rub a dub of Barrington Levy's Under Mi Sensie, or the cheekiness of Sugar Minot's Herbman Hustling, or even the celebration of I-Octane's Puff It.
However, despite many a notable tune on the topic, marijuana songs had long gone the way of Mama and anti-gay tracks - it seemed almost every accomplished and wannabe artiste had to have one and most of the attempts were simply substandard at best and downright terrible at worst.
What has made me very cynical about the marijuana tunes is that in large part, they have been paltry excuses for artistes to claim rebellious natures and pass off themselves as real resistance to the 'system'. Appealing to the pro-marijuana sentiments of an audience at a reggae/dancehall concert in Jamaica is about as strong a statement against the 'system' as wearing a fake dreadlocks tam to Rebel Salute.
So what will happen when the laws against marijuana have been revised past the two-ounce relaxation? Will we then have a ton of songs celebrating the new-found freedom? And when that is over, will we be flooded with songs remarking on individual flavours, sources, and brands, along with novel uses?
It will all get very old, very fast, like the songs celebrating the consumption of various alcohol brands - and the rebel element would have been long gone, taking with it one of the major thrills in partaking of a spiff or chillum pipe.
(Here, I must pause to exclude Rastafari from all of this adjustment, both as performers and consumers, which will be required when marijuana is legalised.)

Positive Outcome

What I do hope, though, is that with the death of marijuana as a rebel tune, we will see an increase in the number of songs speaking out against the abuse (including murder) of children in the society. I know it is not just me who is struck by the silence of our music community in a situation where children are being killed 'willy-nilly', it seems.
The thought of the eight-year-old being slaughtered in the mass murder of four persons in St James earlier this week is unfathomable to me. That is not to say the issue should not be addressed in song, on record, and on stage. It needs to be.
Of course, chances are, some people have already begun to do so. But it needs to be a critical mass of music to send the
message home, to create the groundswell that this is not acceptable in the society. I would much rather have a deluge of songs condemning killing children than a drought - which we are currently experiencing.
Why is it that with so many things staring us in the collective face, that we could speak
about in song, we continue to generally stick to the well-worn themes? Is it that performers feel the audiences would not appreciate turning to music for escape and being slapped with reality? Or is it that we have a music press that thrives on the petty and banal? Or is it that music as a force for social change is lost in an era of limited attention spans?
For, how do you pack the importance of a child's life into Twitter and Instagram concentration times?

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