Off to See The Wizard!
By Shelah Moody
Photos by Lee Abel
With all of this green, there must be a wizard.
During the weekend of Dec. 9-11, activist Tim Blake, in conjunction with producers Dan Sheehan and Thomas Cousins of Ineffable Live Music Group, presented the 13th Annual Emerald Cup—Northern California’s premiere cannabis competition, at Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, CA. The Emerald Cup brought together organic farmers, manufacturers, artists, politicians, musicians and supporters of medicinal cannabis who proudly showed off their wares. In essence, it was both the Super Bowl and the Oz of the weed. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Santa Rosa anymore!
The yellow brick road took Island Stage Magazine on a mystic journey through amazing performances on two stages by Black Am I, Kabaka Pyramid, Collie Buddz, Stick Figure, Tribal Seeds, Dirty Heads, the California Honeydrops, Raging Fyah, Natali Rize and more. We eased on down the road through Absolute Extracts Care by Design Pavilion featuring 215 vendors, the open vape tent, live glass blowing demonstrations, lectures and seminars, Eden’s Hall of Flowers and the India Gourmet booth, where we experience the warmest, fresh homemade naan ever. Heavy rains that weekend did not deter thousands of music revelers and cannabis industry professionals and consumers..
The spirit of Bob Marley, who was one of the first global musicians to openly advocate marijuana use, was undeniable at the Emerald Cup. At one of the vendor’s booths, a representative for Bob’s son, Grammy-nominated reggae musician Julian “JuJu Royal” Marley, showcased his elegant brand of elegant vape pens Rasta STIIIX. At another booth, we met the cannabis industry’s own Glenda the good witch, who literally turned marijuana into gold. Her name is Chelsea Kerwin, of Ras Boss Real Cannabis Art www.rasboss.com. Her custom made jewelry sold for $175 to $420. Her elegant pieces have graced the necks of Damian Marley, Jah Cure and Black Am I, who rocked Ras Boss jewelry in his videos.
“We specialize in hand crafted, strain specific leaf pendants,” said Kerwin. “They include real leaves, real seeds, 24-karat gold and Ethiopian fire opals. We also just released our newest product, which is a 24-karat dipped cannabis nugget. It’s a real piece of cannabis dipped in 24-karat gold. We embellish them with Ethiopian fire opals as well. We’ve been doing it for about four years and we’re based in Sonoma County. It’s a growing project.” (No pun intended).
Still, I asked myself, with all of this green, when do we get to meet the wizard?
Lo and behold, on Saturday night, we were finally taken to meet the wizard—behind the curtain was the musical high priest of the Emerald Cup—none other than Grammy winning DJ Damian “Jr. Gong” #Gongzilla Marley, son of Bob and longtime ganja activist. His throne turned out to be a couch in the back of a luxury tour bus, where he held court with family and friends, singers and players of instruments, journalists and industry professionals.
Recently, Marley ventured into the marijuana industry, establishing his dispensary, Stony Hill by Tru Cannabis at 1630 N. Federal Blvd in Denver, CO. https://www.mytrucannabis.com. On their website, Tru Cannabis is described as a go-to dispensary for all things cannabis, whose mission is to provide and dispense exceptional lab tested cannabis products at competitive pricing. In 2016, Marley joined forces with another company to buy the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA and turn it into a cannabis growing facility.
“We partnered with a company called Ocean Grown Extracts, and with the team over at Ocean Grown, the opportunity arose for us to purchase a prison,” said Marley. who was relaxed on the couch with his ankle length dreadlocks wrapped around him. “Obviously, a prison is a place where, more than likely there are people locked up for marijuana. Now, it has come full circle as a place where marijuana is grown. It’s justice.”
On Friday Dec. 9, Marley hosted an exclusive Emerald Cup pre-party at the Grace Pavilion Stage, featuring DJ Westafa, Kabaka Pyramid, Kingston 12 and Collie Buddz. Marley did not perform, but he was on hand to watch his Ghetto Youths International protégé, Black Am I, rock the stage with conscious roots reggae.
“I haven’t had the opportunity as of yet to walk around the park and see what’s going on, but everything that’s going on in marijuana culture is very exciting for us,” said Marley. “(Marijuana) has always played an important role in our lives; it’s a part of our day to day ritual. When I see things like this, it’s very encouraging to see the way that the world has opened up to marijuana—especially here in the states.”
On that note, I asked Marley how the Nov. 8 passing of Prop. 64, which legalize the adult use of marijuana in the state of California, would affect the cannabis industry, especially medicinal use for those with chronic illnesses.
“I think it’s the beginning, you know,” said Marley. “You have to take everything one step at a time,” left foot, right foot, walk. It’s a step in the right direction.”
One of the Emerald Cup judges described Damian Marley’s Saturday night performance as one of the best productions he’d ever seen. Backed by the Council band, which includes his longtime friend, bassist/producer Shiah Coore and vibrant singers/dancers Rosyln Williams and Sherieta Lewis, Marley delivered a magical and soulful reggae/dancehall/pop set that featured the flashing of lights and the waving of flags and praises to Emperor Haile Selassie I and hot tracks such as “More Justice,” Beautiful” and the ubiquitous “Welcome to Jamrock.”
I asked Marley about a video and song from his upcoming album, that is creating a lot of buzz, “Nail ‘Pon Cross.” Marley laughed softly when I told him the video reminded me of something Michael Jackson would do.
“Well the song is really about not being judgmental toward people and stereotyping and things like that,” said Marley. “It goes for your normal day to day life as well as world affairs. Of course, we talk about the imagery of the cross; something that was a form or crucifixion in ancient days. As we all know, Christ was crucified on the cross, and so were hundreds and thousands of other people. That’s kind of what the imagery is all about in terms of being judged in the ultimate way.”
“Nail ‘Pon Cross” is one of the songs that will be featured on the highly anticipated upcoming album release, Stony Hill, the follow up to Marley’s Grammy-winning album “Welcome to Jamrock” (2005).
“Yeah, we put the release date back a bit, so it will probably come out around April, 2017. We don’t want to give any definite dates as yet. Luckily, that enables me to put some finishing touches on the album. It’s still a work in progress although the majority of the work is done. So far, I have collaboration with Steve, (his brother Stephen Marley) which is expected. We’ve always collaborated on my albums over the years. I also have a collaboration with Major Myjah, who is Bounti Killa’s son. He’s a singer; I have a nice little song with him.”
Aside from the celebration of the passing Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, the Kingston, JA based roots reggae band Raging Fyah were the talk of the Emerald Cup following the Dec. 6 announcement that their latest album, “Everlasting” was nominated for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. Kumar Bent (lead vocals, guitar), Demar Gayle (keyboards), Anthony Watson (drums), Delroy “Pele” Hamilton (bass) and Courtland White (guitar) were four lions who were high on life that weekend.
Raging Fyah performed at the smaller Sonoma Stage on a drizzly Saturday afternoon, giving the Emerald Cup audience and up close and personal experience. I asked the members where they were and what they were doing when they learned that they were nominated for their first Grammy.
“Yeah, well, I was in my house in Jamaica, in my bed, right beside my wife,” said Bent. “My manager called me and told me and then I started calling and telling everybody. Then, I made some breakfast and had some fun!”
Kumar said that if the band should win the Grammy, it will be a big win for past, present and future Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts students and it will also solidify the school’s reputation as a world class institution that produces outstanding musicians.
Perhaps no one was happier about Raging Fyah’s Grammy nomination than their manager, Lukes Morgan, who earlier this year, accepted the Grammy for Best Reggae Album “Strictly Roots” with his brothers Gramps and Peetah Morgan at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
“Actually, I was sitting at my computer, watching the ‘Today Show’ when they were announcing the top four categories,” said Morgan. “And then I got a text from my friend Cristy Barber; she was like, ‘Congrats!’ And I was like, for what, and she was like, Lukes, Raging Fyah got nominated. I paused. It was just so humbling for this to happen to Raging Fyah a year after me, as a member of Morgan Heritage, won.”
“The Grammy award is the highest accolade that you can get in the industry,” said Morgan, who incidentally, is keeping his Grammy in a safe deposit box. “Just being nominated is a win. To be nominated for our first independent album as Morgan Heritage was incredible. We gave our speech, but backstage, we broke down, we all started crying. It took us twenty something years; and this is (Raging Fyah’s) third album. It’s a great thing!
As for the Emerald Cup vibe, Morgan said he was just taking it all in.
“Well, growing up, you know, my dad (Denroy Morgan) smoked weed,” said Morgan. “I remember people going to jail for marijuana and to come to a festival that’s all about marijuana is like, unbelievable! I don’t smoke weed, but I know I’ll get high just walking and inhaling.”
Kabaka Pyramid on the other hand, one of the hottest performers on the reggae scene, admitted that he did more than inhale that weekend.
“Yeah, I’ve tasted a few things and we have gotten many packages,” said Kabaka. Big up to the growers and all of the manufacturers who brought things to our bus. It’s a big thing for me. It’s a good festival with a huge crowd. You know, I’m a man who deals with the marijuana industry. Self-sufficiency, organic growing—these are all things that come from Rastafari and Jamaica, so we haffi represent at things like these. This is where I see the evolution of man coming into place so we give thanks for a brighter future and events like this.”
At the Emerald Cup pre-party on Friday night, Kabaka Pyramid performed a DJ set with King I-Vier of Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi, who he credits with helping expose his music to the world after he released his first CD. On Saturday night, Kabaka delivered a full set with the Kingston-based Bebble Rockers band, performing tracks such as “Well Done,” “No Capitalists,” “Never Gonna Be a Slave” “Lead the Way” and “Worldwide Love.”
Sunday was the big day, as Tim Blake and 20 judges, decked out in shiny emerald robes, gathered on the stage to announce the Emerald Cup winners. One of the Judges was African-American comedian Ngaio Bealum, who hails from San Francisco and lives in Sacramento. Bealum started out as a comic and pot smoker and eventually became a marijuana activist currently performs across the country at cannabis conventions, shows and benefits.
“My jokes are mostly weed, sex, quantum physics and a little reggae music,” said Bealum. “We picked the (Emerald Cup) winner earlier this week. So, now, we are gonna stand on the stage in our robes and look very official and announce the winners. We spent the past month trying out different strains of marijuana. It was hard work, but it was great! I love weed, so it works for me.”
I asked Bealum what effect the Trump presidency would have on marijuana legislation and the cannabis industry.
“I think we can hope to fight a staying action,” said Bealum. “I mean, all of the people that he’s picking for his cabinet right now have pretty much been strict prohibitionists in the past. We can hope that the tax money and the jobs and the revenue generated from states that have legalized marijuana already will thwart anyone’s tendencies toward prohibition. I have friends who are just now getting out of jail for shit that happened 10 years ago, for growing weed, for having a weed club. No one should ever go to jail for any marijuana issue.”
P.S. The role of Toto in this Emerald Cup piece was played by Cocoa, the Stick Figure band mascot.
For more information, go to www.theemeraldcup.com
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