A look into the relationship between cannabis and music

September 25, 2020

”You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. ‘Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that’s enhanced your lives throughout the years were real fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes”  Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks, the prophetic 90’s stand-up comedian, made us see that in the monotony of our existence, we should yearn for something bigger, to not settle for the ordinary and that to do so we had to seek a higher state of consciousness. To untangle ourselves from whatever we consider is our reality and to constantly question it. He spoke of this often and passionately, of how certain substances and states of mind were not as dangerous as the powers that sought to control us through mediocrity and the crushing of our spirit. He wanted his rock stars ‘dead’, but in reality he just wanted them to be of substance. The musicians he adored were the great 70’s rock gods, like Hendrix and The Doors who inhabited a terrifying world of psychedelia. These guys openly smoked cannabis, and took acid, in a time where it was intensely rebellious, but music and cannabis stretches way back and forwards through time, elastic in the oneness of the electric marrow.

It has been theorised that mammals ingested cannabis and in turn evolved out of the bush, cannabis, this mystical weed that allowed the soul to ascend beyond the flesh, to become disembodied and then suddenly UNDERSTAND…


If you are making art or music, maybe writing philosophy or wishing to lose yourself in dance then cannabis is the one. A simple weed that has been ingested for thousands and thousands of years. The Chinese, as far back as Confucius and beyond literally sang its praises. It was recently found in Jerusalem on an altar in a remote temple, where they say it was routinely used in ritual services. This being at least 3000 years before Jesus was massaging it into lepers in olive oil. In Exodus, 30:23, God directs Moses to make a holy anointing oil which was composed of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, Kaneh-bosem, cassia, and olive oil. You can bet these ancient religious services were more fun than they are today. The priests were the original rock stars, coming to town and filling packed rooms with cannabis smoke as they incanted melodies, driving a trance-like state to those present chanting along, the cannabis rubbed into their bodies eye-rollingly seeping into their bloodstream. These were the first rock concerts. Whatever it is, smoking weed and music are husband and wife. It is being in the moment and then not. It is, being thousands of years ago in the future.

Dancing between the raindrops is where you want to be if you wish to create something that draws others  in….but what is it that makes music sound so good when you ingest it? Forgetting the guys who make it for a second.

Scientists are very clear, when we are high on cannabis the brain begins to listen to music differently because it alters the way we conceive time, and that physically we become able to absorb frequencies better than we normally would. Perhaps by being in the moment, the true moment, you can give your every fibre to it. With no distraction, resonating at one with the juddering molecules, we become aware of our own atomic make up. It is certainly true that bass, being so physical, is absorbed by our bodies with gusto. We become the music. There are moments when it is harder not to dance.

If we think of bass then we have to think of reggae, and reggae and weed cannot in any way whatsoever be distinguished from one to the other. Reggae and Rastafarianism are both dedicated to the love, again, of this ONENESS of spirit. The pure joy of connection. This is sacred.  Scientists can study electromagnetic waves, gamma waves, the hippocampus as if it is bones and wires. They can tell us that cannabis affects the areas in our heads where dopamine is produced, making us feel good and relaxed and good is the way you feel there is no doubt, but scientists talking about cannabis and music from looking into machines is a far cry from the experience. If you think about before, and what it means to be between the raindrops, when we listen to music on cannabis it is as if the mind is more open to distinguishing what is going on. The details become clearer, more pleasurable. The ability to separate the voice from the music, to focus intently on the various musical patterns and intricate beats is palpable. Jazz music in the 1930’s to this very day is associated with the reefer. You can’t take a photo of a jazz trumpeter without a plume of smoke surrounding his head. The squealing high notes and bizarre shifts and turns in composition. All of this coming alive and making sense suddenly, you are in it and…..GONG!  Hip hop music and weed continues the legacy, it is more than a lifestyle. Dr Dre’s world conquering beats and harmonies sampled George Clinton’s Funkadelic, a psychedelic 1970’s African American dance groove, that enabled the heavy squelch of the American ghetto to dominate music culture for decades. The energy it created is still cranking up the desire for hip hop and trap to this day. All powered and connected by cannabis. And who did George Clinton listen to?: The Beatles and King Crimson. British experimental music fueled by finding truth in the vapours of smoke. Pure vision.

It is not just bass and dance and tripping your brain through the many realms, it is space, space and time. Pink Floyd became global superstars, who still influence guitar music in villages in the Sahara to this day (this began when 70’s FM radio was beamed across the world). How incredible to think that some white middle-class stoners writing music in Cambridgeshire, staring up at enormous skies in the countryside, could connect with Tuaregs smoking hashish under a canopy of stars in the deserts of Africa. In the moment, the echo, the gentle reverb of time, the NOW. Not the past, not the future but the NOW, right there, here, and not in the song but in that moment the finger touches the guitar string and it elicits a squeak as it slides and that is reality for the moment and then it is gone.

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