Interview with Berry Lee Berry & the Benders, Gnostafari Band from Mierlo, The Netherlands
Interviewer: Welcome, Berry Lee Berry. Your band, celebrated for its distinctive Gnostafari style, has adopted the white gorilla as its emblem. Could you elucidate the symbolism behind this choice?
Berry Lee Berry: Thank you for having us. The white gorilla embodies our core identity—white on the exterior but more black within. This symbol is a metaphor for the convergence of dichotomies, a concept deeply rooted in Gnostic thought. Similar to the gorilla, a being of formidable strength yet gentle nature, we embrace the dualities within ourselves and the cosmos, reflecting the Gnostic pursuit of understanding the divine spark within the material world.
Interviewer: Fascinating. Could you delineate what Gnostifarism entails and how it diverges from Rastafarism?
Berry Lee Berry: Gnostifarism is a spiritual movement drawing from ancient Gnostic traditions, emphasizing personal spiritual enlightenment or ‘gnosis.’ It’s a quest for inner illumination and self-discovery transcending cultural or racial confines. Rastafarism, in contrast, is more anchored in African identity and the reverence of Haile Selassie, focusing on a collective cultural and spiritual journey.
To us, they do not conflict.
A difference between Gnosticism and Christianity is that there is disagreement on the nature of the God of this world. Christians believe it is Jahweh, Gnostics believe it is Yaldabaoth, which is not the highest God but a demiurg, like the Gameshow master in the Truman Show. Different gnostic schools view this Demiurg in different manners. Some believe it is good, some neutral and some see the Demiurg as a force of Evil. The latter faction is relatively small.
Interviewer: Does this mean you are opposed to Rastafarism?
Berry Lee Berry: Absolutely not. We respect all spiritual paths. Our intention isn’t to dictate the spiritual journey of others, but to navigate our own. In the spirit of philosophical inquiry, we align with the notion posited by Friedrich Nietzsche that “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Our path is different but not oppositional. The rastafari movement is very important to black culture, and we are just a bunch of white gorillas on the side.
Interviewer: You do not smoke grass, and claim cannabis is not the grass of love.
We do believe Teff is the real grass of love, and we do believe that ’the poison flour’ should be replaced by it. Teff, the grass of love from Ethiopia, is a far more real answer to the problems of this world than the painkiller plant cannabis. They bleach floor with a certain chemical that is the actual cause of diabetes.
People don’t realise this floor is the essence of their demise, of a hollow calorie life. They think they are eating healthy, but when half of your food has no nutritional value, you are not eating healthy.
Interviewer: Are you opposed to smoking cannabis?
Not ‘opposed’ as in ‘we want to tell other people what to do’, But we are a shamanic band and we want to use the teacher plants as nature has shown humanity to use them: carefully, and with purpose. Cannabis is mainly a plant that has painkilling properties. We are more prone to Amanita Muscaria, the mushroom, one of our members wrote an entire book about that which is about how ‘Buybalon’ came into existence in the first place:
The Amazon Paperback version
or if you can, order the hardcover, full color one:
Interviewer: Your name, Berry Lee Berry & the Benders is surely a hommage to Lee Perry?
Berry Lee Berry:
Of course. I actually met Perry when I lived in Istanbul. He held my hand and gave me his blessings. I see him as one of the great teachers that has walked this earth the last century, a shaman, a gnostic saint. What would reggae have been without Perry? So we wanted to pay hommage.
A friend of mine said recently that a song I sent him sounded like ‘a mixture between Leonard Cohen and Lee Perry’. That’s where I got the idea for the name.
Also, we love berries. Doesn’t everyone?
Interviewer: Your upcoming album, ‘Run for Cover,’ to be released on Hieperdepiep Records—what should listeners anticipate?
We are growing into a style that mixes poetry and roots reggae. Not all of are songs will be even classified as reggae, some are more jazzy or pop-like. Another big example of ours are the Bad Brains, whom combined reggae with hardcore punk music. I would call HR another Gnostic Saint that walked this planet. All in all, we will have to work very hard with such beautiful rolemodels to create something unique.
Here is one of the songs of the album:
Interviewer: Thank you for this enlightening conversation, Berry Lee Berry. We eagerly await the release of the album.