(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Cannabis! A theatrical concert Baba Israel

Show Description


Baba Israel and his band Soul Inscribed featuring Grace Galu use music and spoken word to explore the history of Cannabis. This theatrical concert is based on Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational, and Scientific by Martin A. Lee (2012). Grounded in the Hip Hop tradition of the remix, the show mashes-up iconic music from La Cucaracha of the Mexican Revolution, Louis Armstrong and other Jazz “vipers,” to the Beat era, 60’s Rock n’ Roll, and Reggae. Israel adapts the stories of countercultural icons, grassroots activists, and the plant itself, weaving a time-traveling tale of jubilation, injustice, and transformation.

We are embarking on this project recognizing that we are at a tipping point in America’s history with cannabis. More than half of the states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing cannabis. Now is the time to challenge the taboos and perceptions of the plant by exploring its history, medical impact, the racist roots of prohibition, and its continued legacy of mass incarceration of communities of color.

Lastly, we want to explore the opportunities and contradictions emerging as legalization spreads across the country. We imagine a production that is both politically charged and an uplifting and celebratory event.

Featured Media

Artist Bio

Baba Israel is an artist, producer, educator and consultant raised in New York by parents who were core members of the Living Theatre. He co-founded Playback NYC, the first playback theatre company to integrate freestyle hip hop. His debut solo show “Boom Bap Meditations” was supported by the Ford Foundation and the Hip Hop Theatre festival. He has toured across Asia, Africa, Europe, the South Pacific, North and South America as a hip hop and theatre artist and led cultural ambassador programs internationally supported by the US State Department. His work has been featured in documentaries such as Freestlye and Hip Hop for Hope, and on MTV and BET. 

He was Artistic Director and CEO of Contact Theatre in Manchester, a leading venue at the intersection of youth leadership and innovative performance. He premiered his most recent multimedia performance The Spinning Wheel as a resident artist at BRIC in Brooklyn. The production was developed and toured in the UK, Holland and Norway and in America with MDC Live Arts and the University of Madison, Wisconsin. He holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College and is the Co-Artistic Director of the Performance Project based at the University Settlement.

Soul Inscribed is a hip hop, and spoken word collective who are the core band for the production. The ensemble creates an eclectic new vision of jazz, dub, and funk. Soul Inscribed is comprised of Baba Israel (emcee/production), Grace Galu (vocalist/composer), Duv (vocalist), Sean Nowell (Sax, Flute, FX/composer), Doron Lev (Drums) and Yako 440 (instrumentation/production).


“"Israel starts the musical off by rapping about the herb’s use by shamans and Sufis in ancient times. He then follows cannabis across the Atlantic, brought by enslaved Africans through the Middle Passage to the plantations of Brazil. From there, Israel’s verses make their way up to Mexico, and thence into the United States, picked up by the jazz vipers, beatniks and ultimately hippies — who spread it around the world with the rest of the counterculture zeitgeist."”
— Bill Weinberg, Cannabis Now Magazine

Cannabis a theatrical concert

Project Feed

Photos from our work in progress at Nublu by Farbeon

We had a great work in progress showing at Nublue in the Lower East Side. It was our first chance to share the music from the show with an audience in our hometown of NYC. We got great feedback from...

Cannabis! A theatrical concert (work in progress Aug 30th, 2018)

- Cannabis! A theatrical concert  (Work in Progress sharing on Aug 30th, 2018)   I have been working with my band Soul Inscribed on the music for our production with HERE. We are excited to finally share the material we...

Cannabis! A Theatrical Concert Prologue

Peace! Our next Work in Progress Performance  will happen on March 18,19th 2019. For more info and to get tickets  http://here.org/shows/detail/2050/