SA band Trenton and Free Radical. Picture: Supplied
SA band Trenton and Free Radical. Picture: Supplied

Trenton & Free Radical honours slain cannabis activist Julian Stobbs

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Nov 24, 2020

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South African band Trenton and Free Radical have announced the release of their final parting track, “Grootboom”.

The song features legendary Jamaican musician and producer, Lee “Scratch” Perry.

“Grootboom” is a tribute to cannabis activist Julian Stobbs, who was killed during an armed robbery at his Joburg home in July.

Stobbs was shot dead at his home near Lanseria during on Friday, July 3.

A percentage of the proceeds from the song will be donated to “Fields of Green for All”, the non-profit organisation Stobbs co-founded to fight ongoing cannabis prohibitions in South Africa.

Commenting on the song, the band's lead vocalist and co-founder, Trenton Birch, said:” I wrote the song five years ago and we recorded it a year later but I was not happy with the recording or production, so it did not make the last album.

“Also due to the song content and the job role I had at the time, it was too risky to release the track.

He added: "The last time I saw Julian and Myrtle, the 'dagga couple' was in Barcelona in March. We hung out and I did what I believe was their last interview.

"While I did not know Jules that well and had only met him a few times there was a connection and we had a lot of common ground.

“When he was killed, I decided to rework the track as a dedication to him. I spoke to Myrtle and she was happy for us to go ahead so we reworked the track and then a whole lot of people contributed with the photographs, video clips, etc. that we used in the ’Grootboom’ video.

“It was a collective effort and a humble tribute to help celebrate Julian's life and all those who have fought for legalisation (of cannabis).”

Stobbs and his partner Myrtle Clarke fought relentlessly for the right to use cannabis in the SA courts.

The “Dagga Couple” have been hailed as being instrumental in the battle for the decriminalisation of dagga for personal use in Mzansi.

Earlier this year, Birch launched “Cheeba Africa”, a pioneering SA cannabis company with the first cannabis education platform on the African continent.

With the release of the band’s final track, “Grootboom”, he parts ways to pursue music as a solo artist.

“The universe, of course, works in mysterious ways. I originally recorded this track five years ago. I couldn’t release it because it was too controversial.

“Now, as a tribute track to Julian and the cannabis activists in our country, the reinvigorated, updated version comes at the perfect time as we push hard for legalisation in the face of a current draft bill that still excludes so many South Africans from benefitting from the well-regulated cannabis industry.”

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill 2020 is due to be reviewed this month.

Birch is a musician, poet, activist and entrepreneur. He has worked as a live music promoter running festivals and gigs in both Europe and Africa.

He founded the label Black Mango and has worked extensively with brands and music.

He has spent many years in creative media education in leadership roles with SAE Institute. He is the South Africa director and founding member of the international the non-profit organisation,"Bridges for Music".

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