ON MUSLIM RASTA

While conducting research in Senegal I was very fortunate to develop a close relationship with a 38 year old Gambian Baye Faal named Moussa N’Gom, who also happens to be one of the best known and most highly respected pop musicians in the region. A founding member of the Gambian group Guelewar back in the late 1970s, Moussa went on to become a lead vocalist and songwriter with the popular Senegalese band Super Diamono. Possessing a keen awareness of the world outside West Africa-as he has travelled and
performed throughout Europe and North America-it was Moussa who convinced me of the very close connections that exist between the Baye Faal and the Rastafari.
During the various trips he made to New York, London and Toronto, Moussa often found himself in the company of local West Indian Rastas. Bonds of friendship quickly developed between the two as they discovered how much they shared in common, e.g. a love of music and ganja, a deeprooted spirituality and a strong commitment to African unity and black solidarity. And it was from direct contacts such as these that Moussa gained his knowledge, appreciation of and respect for the Rastafari and the more universal aspects associated with their movement (although, like most Baye Faal, he finds the Rastafarians’ deification of Haile Selassie and reliance on Judaeo/Christian-based religious teachings thoroughly misguided). As Moussa, always one to emphasise the inherent unity rather than divisions, was in the habit of pointing out:
Like Rastas, the Baye Faal are totally free and flexible, and this is what is most
important-the true Rasta man and Baye Faal is a free man and not a slave to
anyone or anything. We make our own rules, and we are accountable only to God
and his prophets. Some Baye Faal smoke, some don’t, some drink alcohol, some
don’t, some pray, some don’t. You see, it is up to us what we do. And, like Rastas, we try to set an example to the world of how a good man should live-that is, not offending God and not offending one’s fellow man.

From The Baye Faal of Senegambia: Muslim Rastas in the Promised Land by Neil J. Savishinsky.

Published in: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 64, No. 2 (1994)

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