Press Release from Howlin' Wolf:
If music is a state of mind, GANJA & HESS is a hypnotic trance...
Howlin' Wolf Records is very proud to present GANJA & HESS by award-winning composer and musician extraordinaire Sam Waymon. Dr. Sam Waymon, well-known for his collaborations with legendary screenwriter, actor, and director Bill Gunn, formed a creative partnership and brotherhood with the late director in the 60's that lasted until Bill Gunn's death in 1989. Sam Waymon is also internationally recognized for performances with his sister, Eunice Waymon, better known as the "High Priestess of Soul" Nina Simone.
GANJA & HESS was commissioned in 1973 by Quentin Kelly and Jack Jordan to piggyback off the success of blaxploitation films such as SHAFT (1971) and the 1972 cult classic BLACULA. Bill Gunn had no interest in writing and directing a blaxploitation horror film based on vampires, so in a clever sleight of hand the director fashioned the vampire theme contextually as a metaphor for addiction. The film stars genre icon Duane Jones from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, along with Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon, Leonard Jackson, John Hoffmeister, and Mabel King, who also sings with Sam Waymon on the soundtrack. GANJA & HESS was the winner of the “Critics’ Choice” prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and is hailed by Cannes as one of the Ten Best American Films of its decade. Despite brutal edits to the film that completely obliterated the narrative and tone set by Bill Gunn and Sam Waymon, the film is finally again seen in its original cutting-edge form thanks to a brilliant restoration by Kino Lorber.
The soundtrack for GANJA & HESS was recorded in a studio with a bent towards creating a sound that was "live" in every sense of the word. The composer wanted a raw, live sound to accompany the dialogue. About the use of the "thumb piano," fuzz/laser-type sounds, harp, and piano, with the distorted reverberations and repetitive delays, the composer comments: "The use of delays and echoes was primary, again a metaphor for how life itself can be a series of delays and echoes." To represent the ancient African civilization of Myrthians, who were possessed by a blood lust, the amazing tribal music of "Bongili” was chosen.
The deluxe 20-page insert booklet for GANJA & HESS features in depth liner notes written by Wall Crumpler with insightful and compelling commentary by composer Sam Waymon. The brilliant packaging designs by Javier Burgos include vivid imagery from the film and era, capturing the mood and essence of a great avant-garde cinematic classic.