Easy Skanking: meaning and themes in the famous Bob Marley album opener

Bob Marley's Kaya album sleeve
Bob Marley's Kaya album sleeve
Easy Skanking is the opening song on Bob Marley’s tenth studio album Kaya released in 1978 and preceding the historic One Love Peace Concert that marked his return to Jamaica after a prolonged exodus in London. The concert was interrupted when Marley famously put a stop to the civil unrest by prompting the leaders of two warring political parties to exchange a handshake and reconcile right on stage.
Despite such a remarkable background, Kaya doesn't linger on any political issues and instead finds its lyrics saturated with love, Rastafarian ideology, and marijuana fumes. Indeed, the very name Kaya is a Jamaican street-slang word for "dope," and the album's back cover features a ganja plant stylized into a joint—another widely-known term for a hand-rolled cigarette filled with cannabis instead of tobacco.
In the first stanza of Easy Skanking, Bob Marley repeats the title four times and his vocal line is echoed by the backing vocals of "skanking it easy" and "skanking it slow". The term skanking has at least two meanings, one of which appeals to the skank dance that originated in Jamaica in the 1950s at the time when the ska genre took over the cultural consciousness. The second definition goes back to the varieties of cannabis strains nicknamed "skunk" or "skank" for their particularly strong flavor likened to the smell of the spray from a skunk.
The next verse carries the main lyrical load describing the uplifted mental state felt by Bob Marley who, having smoked a marijuana joint, chooses to concentrate on performing the musical riff of the song. Here, the word "spliff" means a handmade cigarette containing cannabis buds:
Excuse me while I light my spliff
Oh God I gotta take a lift
From reality I just can't drift
That's why I am staying with this riff
In the remaining verses, Marley varies only two phrases "take it easy" and "we're taking it slow" while the back vocalists sing the song title or otherwise vocalize.
Listen to Easy Skanking by Bob Marley & The Wailers:
Curiously, during his two-year relocation to London, Bob Marley was arrested and charged with cannabis possession, after which he was found guilty and fined £50.
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