dUb, Higher Learning

On Sound System as tool against oppression

How have the protest anthems of the classic era of reggae been transformed into support for Jamaica’s tourist industry?
Stephen King tackles such general questions of co-optation in his monograph a revision of his dissertation that at times suffers from an overly academic presentation, particularly when he attempts to fit data to the categories of his particular social movement theory.

The study attempts to “comprehensively trace how Jamaica’s protest music has changed both lyrically and musically over a twenty-one year period, and how the Jamaican government has attempted to silence or co-opt these voices of protest”.
King concludes with a look at how Rastafari claims for social justice in reggae have been co-opted first in the service of the island’s emergent nationalism and then to assist Jamaican tourism.

King locates the roots of reggae in ska (1959-65) and rocksteady (1966-67), the two musical forms that preceded it. It was ska, a music that blended mento , the indigenous Jamaican version of calypso, with American jazz and rhythm and blues, that reflected the optimistic mood of the country during the run-up to Jamaican independence.
As economic conditions worsened for the majority of Jamaica’s blacks during the mid-1960s, the more aggressive lyrics of rocksteady gave voice to the frustrations and alienation of the island’s under- and unemployed ghetto dwellers.
And then there was the advent of reggae in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, the period that is remembered as the high- water mark of Rastafari influence on an emergent Jamaican nationalism. Reggae, of course, began as a Rasta-inspired music that not only articulated the pan- African vision of the movement and its demands for social justice, but that celebrated the cultural practices and symbols of Rastafari.

King does a credible job in mapping the general contours and themes of these musical developments against the backdrop of a changing Jamaican society. In the course of this he shows how the roots of Rastafari musical protest are organically intertwined with the development of both preceding forms. While this is hardly newsworthy to many aficionados of Jamaican music, King provides some interesting examples that illustrate how critical commentary and protest themes, however restrained, existed within ska lyrics from the outset.
The occasional presence of Rastafari drumming, biblical references (e.g., River Jordan, Mount Zion), and allusions to repatriation through the idiom of the “promised land” were all important resonances in
this music that portended the development of popular music as an important communicative medium for the Rasta movement.

King describes rocksteady as a music that is more aggressive, that speaks more directly to the collective frustrations and suffering experienced by the island’s lower classes. Frequently, this music celebrates the “Rude Boy” or new male ghetto rebel as he has been memorialized in popular discourse.
Prince Buster’sToo Hot” and Derrick Morgan’s Tougher Than Tough” are both examples of this figure, an individual who sought social and political justice with a ratchet (knife) or a gun.
King points out that rocksteady lyrics tended to condone more aggressive protest against the oppression of the “sufferah” class, while in specific cases evoking linkages with the general Rastafari critique of the “Babylonian” neocolonial system.

Of critical importance to the dissemination and popularization of this music, King notes, were “sound systems” developed to carry high-fidelity playback equipment to rural and urban dances throughout the island.
This portable technology, he argues, enabled the development of a community of dissent by transporting music to sites where “the voice of the poor could be heard without interference by local authorities”, a development that continued from the era of ska through reggae to the present. It is certainly true that
sound systems served to strengthen an already extant discourse of protest, but King fails to recognize that long before sound systems, the Rasta movement itself was about creating alternative spaces for face-to-face communication in which counter-hegemonic discourse was reproduced and disseminated.

Text from:

Review: UNDERSTANDING A MODERN ANTIQUE: CHALLENGES TO REPRESENTING RASTAFARI IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Author: John P. Homiak
Source: NWIG: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, Vol. 79, No. 1/2 (2005)

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dUb, Higher Learning

On essence of Rasta


Extracting the essence of Rasta

The internal conflicts and contradictions of the movement which surfaced in the centenary celebrations illustrate the problems of the last twenty years. Relations have sometimes been so poor that one night when two Rastafarian groups met at a radio station to do a programme on the movement, one group
decided to leave if the other was allowed to speak. Some groups are more willing to speak to white foreigners than to each other. Leading up to and during the centenary, Rasta houses forgot about areas of common interest and focused more on idiosyncratic differences and personal feuds between the leaders.

Each leader struggled to contain the movement under his vision, while projecting religious rituals over intellectual arguments. The result is that the movement devolved closer to empty symbol status while the society continued to extract the useful substance of the social theory.
This process of extracting the essence of Rastafari will continue until and
unless the movement produces leadership with five essential capabilities:

  1. spiritual insights to unite the various houses;
  2. intellectual acumen to engage the Afrocentric thinkers;
  3. managerial capabilities to build transnational sustainable businesses;
  4. cultural engineers to build the necessary rituals for living; and
  5. brand management.

Text from:

From Peace and Love to ‘Fyah Bun’: Did Rastafari Lose Its Way?
Leahcim Semaj (2013)
https://doi.org/10.1080/00086495.2013.11672485

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Babylon Report, dUb, Higher Learning

On versatility of Rasta creed

Japanese rasta @ THE BUDDHA’S DREADS: RASTA-BUDDHISTS, JAPANESE RASTAFARIANS AND THE NGAKPA TRADITION (THE SPIRIT OF LOCKING PART 2)

Religiously, the Rastafari are committed to the belief in the living God :
God living in and among his people.
Accordingly, such a belief throws cold water on anyone who claims leadership status. The living God, which according to the Rastafari is Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is not only the ultimate decision maker, but there is no distinction between him and his followers. Thus, every member is an autonomous person whose obligation is to nothing but the convictions of his or her inner self. In this sense, the Rastafari is antihierarchical through and through.

As the Rastafari is a movement where flat hierarchy prevails, every member is a professional activist, none of whom has grounds to claim a distinct and sumptuous posture. Thus, insofar as a symmetrical relationship between the leaders and the led is integral to the philosophy of the Rastafari, it is of
no avail to have a formal hierarchical organization.

Structural versatility is also manifest in the religious dimension of the movement. The Rastafari is what a sociologist of religion calls an emergent religion. The absence of formal organizations, leadership, and official creeds is what differentiates emergent religions from traditional ones.
Hence, the Rastafari as an emergent religion differs from traditional religions such as Christianity.
The absence of churches and leaders, and the perspective of movement participants about the Bible, is
what makes the Rastafari unique
. Because the Rastafarians consider each member as a church unto him- or herself, the existence of a separate Rastafarian church is considered redundant and superfluous.

Prayers and other religious rituals can be conducted in any place as long as there is a group of Rastafarians. Consequently, among the Rastafari there is no professional staff of ministers who provide leadership and disseminate the doctrines of the movement. Unlike mainstream religions, the Rastafari does not have an established institution that formally trains a set of religious experts whose purpose is to disseminate the message of the movement.
Even the Rastafarians do not refer to the teaching of Haile Selassie as do Christians and Muslims to the teachings of Christ and Mohammed. This is simply because Haile Selassie did not have a set of religious principles that he set out for his followers, nor did he at any time declare himself leader of the movement.
This is one of the reasons why the Rastafari are at liberty in interpreting the messages of the Bible.


Ras Michael @Rasta elder claims Selassie is ‘not God’

Text from-

Title: DECENTERED MOVEMENTS: THE CASE OF THE STRUCTURAL AND PRECEPTUAL VERSATILITY OF THE RASTAFARI
Author: Alemseghed Kebede
Published: Sociological Spectrum. 2001.
https://doi.org/10.1080/02732170118234

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dUb, Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm

On world turning Rasta and getting high without getting high

Jah Bilah intro:

This examination of the rise of Rastafari in mainstream following popular conversion of Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion back in 2013 contains some reasoning by UK bredrin Benjamin Zephaniah and Maxi Priest.

“Regarding the body as a temple, which must be loved, respected and well looked after, is another Rastafarian mantra. And contrary to popular belief, not all Rastafarians smoke marijuana, and if they do, they don’t simply smoke to get high.

However, this happens today within the context of an ever-increasing amount of anti-smoking campaigns highlighting the negative effects smoking has on the body, which are being taken more seriously now and are much more chronicled and echoed from the rooftops.


The reasons Rastas give up smoking marijuana are the same reasons why tobacco users kick the habit. Although there are many Rastafarians who still smoke, others, especially those who follow a stringent orthodox lifestyle, advise smokers to respect their body.

Most people think all Rastafarians smoke marijuana, but I don’t smoke because I view my body as a temple,” says Zephaniah, who lectures at Brunel University.

I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need ganja to get high and I didn’t like the habit I developed. So I have been getting high from not being high for the last 30 years.

Agreeing, Priest adds: “You get one chance to live and you must learn to preserve it so that you can live a longer life with meaning, caring and understanding. 

“I had a heart attack, and even before the heart attack, I wanted to stop smoking. But when I had the heart attack – that made me realise how precious and delicate my temple is.

“The biggest myth about Rastafarians in terms of stereotypes is weed, but you don’t have to smoke weed. There is more to the understanding and the faith of being a Rastafarian than just weed.”

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Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm

On Rasta reasoning


Text from:
THE SOCIAL DRAMA OF RASTAFARI
William F. Lewis
1994. Dialectical Anthropology.

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Babylon Report, dUb, Higher Learning

On Judah to Jamaica and Rastafari hermeneutics

Ras Fari Joseph, 2012


Verses, names, symbols, and concepts from ancient Judah can come to figure centrally in a religious movement of modern Jamaica only through an unusually varied and extensive series of religious and cultural transmissions.
This process of conceptual transformation and confluence has been the object of interest and inquiry in its own right, as scholars have attempted to trace
the twisted path to a Rastafari hermeneutics as the movement ‘hijacked’ Judeo-Christian Scriptures and converted them into vehicles for identity, ‘ideation,’ and liberation”.
Rastafari reggae involves orders of intertextuality, multiple reconfigurations of language, meaning, names, and symbols, and the continual development and accrual of layers of additional semantic content and commentary.
At one time literally grounded in concrete geopolitical and historical actualities, “Babylon” and “Zion” go on to become abstract concepts that pass themselves on like “memes” through modulating traditions, practices, and translations, eventually to occupy a crucial position in the religious art form of an Afro-Caribbean heterodoxy.
The complex path of influences and inheritances by which the Psalms become Rastafari reggae songs goes back, according to tradition, all the way to the time of David, to whom some of the original psalms are ascribed. Evidence to place and date the Psalms historically is almost completely lacking, however, and thus there is room for considerable disagreement about these texts especially, as compared for example to many of the prophetic writings.
Still, in broad terms, the path of migration may be said to extend from pre-exile Israel and Judah, to the first waves of Assyrian deportations of the northern kingdom in the eighth century BCE; to the sixth century Babylonian captivity and destruction of the Temple, and then the return and restoration; to the flourishing and fixation of the Hebrew scriptural tradition in the Persian or Second Temple period; to the Roman occupation, the watershed destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and the diaspora. Meanwhile the Septuagint, already in Koiné Greek for centuries, is taken up in the rise and spread of early Christianity in the Hellenized Roman Empire, to be Latinized, Europeanized, handed down through a thousand years of medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation developments in the West, ultimately to become the “Old Testament” of the 1611 “Authorized” or King James version (KJV) of the Bible, making its way to the “New World.”


“Conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés” depicts the 1521 Fall of Tenochtitlan, in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

It was thus in the classic English translation of the Bible that Jamaicans discovered the Judaic texts, but even then the reception was further modulated, mediated by resistance and interference.
One may have expected missionary efforts to have been undertaken on the part of eighteenth-century British colonialists to convert indigenous and slave populations and spread Anglican Christianity, as had been done with Catholicism in Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Instead, according to Barrett,
the English planters in Jamaica adamantly refused to share their religion with the slave population”; for the Africans of Jamaica, “the Church of England and its high liturgy was considered too sophisticated”.

After England took over Jamaica and established the slave trade, no attempt had been made to Christianize the slaves” for nearly two centuries. It was only through later “nonconformist” denominations like Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians that black Jamaicans were introduced to Judeo-Christian religion and the King James Bible.
It is plainly the King James version that reggae psalmists take up and adapt to their own revolutionary purposes, as a number of characteristic examples will show. The language of the “Old Testament,” and especially of the Psalms, appears frequently in Bob Marley’s lyrics and in other reggae songs, notably the classic anthem “Rivers of Babylon,” which is an extended quotation of KJV Psalm 137 (and some of Psalm 19).
This song deserves close analysis, as it is emblematic of the Rastafari reggae tradition, and both song and psalm have been the subject of singular attention in the scholarship.
Rastafari identify especially with the ancient symbolism of “Zion”—under- stood not to be in contemporary Israel or the Middle East, but in Africa, and particularly Ethiopia—and they live in “Babylon,” which refers to realities of oppression far from Mesopotamia, which is (as Peter Tosh says) “everywhere”.
For Rastafari, “two systems exist: Zion and Babylon, the good and the evil.” Babylon is both “the embodiment of evil in biblical literature” and also “a symbol of bondage, not only for ancient Israelites but for all people held in slavery and oppression, especially black people”.

Bob Marley by Nick Twaalfhoven


Through an imaginative and highly subversive reinterpretation, Rastafari read themselves as portrayed in the texts and symbols of the Babylonian exile and the pre- and postexilic periods. In their “free-style approach” to the texts, making such an identification is not difficult:
Rastafari are said to “hijack biblical materials and concepts and relate them to any situation or problem when their language and imagery fit the categories and ideology of the interpreter or movement”.
Judaic biblical verses thus provide many lyrical and conceptual points of departure for religious reggae songs, just as they offer symbols (like the Lion of Judah) that become badges of Rastafari cultural and religious identity.
The core religious vocabulary of Rastafari reggae originates in the King James version, but nearly all the names, places, and words have undergone extensive and creative deformation of language into Jamaicans’ own distinctive idiom.
Key words and phrases are retained, but almost never strictly verbatim; reggae songs freely adapt and inflect the anglicized texts in a highly stylized vernacular that is unique to Jamaican and reggae culture.
“I-an-I,” for example, is a preferred pronominal form; according to Stefffens, the expression “means ‘you and I’ or ‘I and the Creator who lives within I,’ indicating that there is no separation, that disunity is an illusion” , and affirming Rastafari union and identity with “the Divine, who indwells ‘I-an-I’ ”.
These innovations notwithstanding, the overarching religious themes of Rastafari reggae are recognizably, indeed unmistakably Judaic: captivity, oppression, exile, diaspora, longing for freedom and return.
Rastafari reggae” thus designates a specific subset: reggae music is only one form of Rastafari religious expression—i.e. not all Rastafari is reggae— and certainly not all reggae is Rastafari.

Representing far more than mere entertainment, this now classic form of reggae is not, as it were, “just music”—any more than the original psalms were; whether at the First or Second Temple, or by the rivers of Babylon.
Insofar as they are derived from particular biblical verses set to music, many Rastafari songs—at least in what has been called reggae’s “churchical” mode —may be considered distant but direct descendants of the psalm form itself. Reggae songs and themes have resonated even with indigenous peoples who have been colonized on their own land (“Reggae on the Rez”) rather than being carried away into captivity or driven into exile.

Text from:

From Judah to Jamaica: The Psalms in Rastafari Reggae
Thompson, J. (2012).
Religion and the Arts

doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/156852912X651054


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dUb, Higher Learning

On Rastafari branch and roots

Peter Tosh – Live @ The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA, – August 23.1983


By 1960, several Jamaican institutions had begun to show an interest in the counterculture, and to contribute to the demarginalisation of the Rastafari movement which had previously been repressed.
One such institution was the University of the West Indies, which put the Rastafari on its agenda.
In the course of these trajectories, Jamaican public opinion, which had predominantly perceived the Rastafari movement to be a crowd of violent criminals, fools and outcasts, changed successfully.

Particularly, reggae music (as the emancipation of Jamaican popular music) was co-opted.
The result of the blending of Afro-Jamaican Burru and Kumina drum techniques and folk traditions with Afro-American musical styles (including jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, soul and swing) led to the creation of mento, ska, rocksteady and reggae styles like dancehall, dub, lovers, raggamuffin, rockers and roots, which ‘exerted a tremendous influence on the development of post- World War II popular music globally’.
The musical film The harder they come (1972), starring Jimmy Cliff, contributed enormously to the transnationalisation, popularisation and commercialisation of roots reggae. Not until this style developed, did reggae lyrics exhibit the spirituality and socio-political engagement that came to be seen as the hallmark of roots reggae. And, clearly no one represented the Rastafari rhetoric and feelings of this genre to the world more ably and persuasively than Bob Marley.

Augier urges Rastafari to accept Jamaica as home


In fact, conscious reggae music, with its recreational, critical and inspirational dimensions, would soon transcend the Rastafari milieu and succeed in conquering a global audience. Today, Rastafari not only has observer status in the United Nations, but even more importantly it has become part of everyday culture in Jamaica, and even abroad.
However, the various Rastafari mansions relate differently to reggae music: whereas Boboshanti reject reggae as part of their culture and only consider drumming and chanting as true Rastafari music, the Theocracy Reign Order of the Nyahbinghi describes its relationship to reggae through the metaphor:

‘Reggae is the branch, Nyahbinghi is the root.’



Text from:

The global–local nexus: popular music studies and the case of Rastafari culture in West Africa
Frank Wittmann, 2011.
Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies


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Babylon Report, Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm

On Rastafari bush doctor

Photo by Simon Lister Photography

The dynamics of herbal medicine are complex within the Western Cape and are typically sectored into different groupings based upon cultural background.
In contemporary Western Cape culture, particularly in urban Cape Town, a hybridization of cultures and healers has led to the development of neo–traditional healers, Rastafari bush doctors.

This group draws from the practices and herbal treatments used by other cultures including:
herbalists called inyanga (Zulu) and amaxwhele (Xhosa); spiritual diviners, who communicate largely with ancestral spirits, called izangoma (Zulu) and amagqirha (Xhosa); faith healers called umthandazi (Xhosa), Christians who heal through prayer; and traditional birth attendants.
In the Western Cape, bossiedokters (in English, bush doctors), healers with knowledge of bush herbs, are
recognized as the oldest healers in this area.

Rastafarian herbalists acknowledge their KhoiSan history as the basis for their botanical medical knowledge.
There is evidence that medicinal plant knowledge was shared between KhoiSan and Xhosa cultures from the 16th century onwards; where KhoiSan peoples used highly advanced nomenclature, distinguishing between species and sub–species levels, while Xhosa folk taxonomy discriminates typically to the family or genus level and include flora from a wider geographical range.

Investigations reveal that the growing subculture of Rastafarians promotes and trades medicinal species
in most towns, city centers, and rural areas in the Western Cape. Rastafari, a socio–political religion, has been a growing phenomenon in South Africa since its introduction in the 1970s. Its tenets promote racial equality, ecological sustainability and, for those in the Western Cape, availability of traditional medicines.
The most visible leaders of this group are their healers who have adopted the Afrikaans name:
bossiedokters.

Rastafarians march for access to cannabis industry

Contemporary Rasta bush doctors state that their mission is to reintroduce KhoiSan
healing traditions to the disadvantaged people living in townships, housing settlements
for people of color that were provided by the Apartheid government. Bush doctors are an
important element to revitalizing a culture of healing and preserving indigenous knowledge specifically
for urbanized Coloured communities, a mixed race group descendant from KhoiSan people
and other cultures.



Text from:
The Informal Trade of Medicinal Plants by Rastafari Bush Doctors in the Western Cape of South Africa
LISA E. ASTON PHILANDER, NOKWANDA P. MAKUNGA, AND KAREN J. ESLER
Economic Botany, 2014.

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Higher Learning

On Reggae as a part of the inner landscape


Reggae is a key expression of the Rastafarian inner landscape. As a product which stands on its own merit, reggae is often conceived as divorced from the core Rastafari space and purpose. However, Nettleford reminded us that reggae exists because of Rastafari. He stated:


I keep telling people that reggae or ska right through to dancehall appropriated the Rastafarian movement, not the other way around. People don’t understand this; that in fact reggae has taken to itself an ontology, a way of being, a cosmology, a way of thinking about the world, and an epistemology – a way of knowing, getting to know things – through the Rastafarian movement . . . Mr Marley . . . decided that he had to employ not only the outward signs but also the inward grace of the movement. The inner landscape is very much dependent on the belief, faith of the Rastafarian movement . . .

Reggae is therefore in and of itself a landscape dependent on the belief of the Rastafari. In reggae, the Rastafarian has a medium through which to represent the issues, identities and aesthetic of an experience which would otherwise be a subaltern voice. Planno, in support of the reggae medium, said, “We [Rastafari] take the V off ‘pope’ and create ‘pop’ music.” This medium, now world music, has become a quintessential Voice’ and Vision’ of the Rastafari’s landscape, as it seeks to proselytise, conscientise and, in the idiom of Rastafari, ‘chant down Babylon’.
The landscape that reggae provides as a national site for converging the experiences and aspirations of the Jamaican people significantly supports the thesis of Nettleford about the centrality of Rastafari as a cultural treasure for humanity. The potential in reggae is therefore not only in its manifested unification of the inner and outer landscapes of the Rastafari and the African Jamaican experience, but also in its humane qualities that provide an empathetic potential for all who hold the need for liberation, equity and dignity. To this extent the society has been typecast within the Rastafari scenery or landscape of reggae. It is this landscape that scholars such as Kwame Dawes identify not only as the spirit of Jamaica but also as the aesthetic of the Caribbean people and, I would add, perhaps even the African diaspora.

This idea of the reggae machinery as one of the chief expressions of the spirit of the Caribbean peoples links us back to Sir Arthur Lewis’s statement, “We are all Rastas”, as the music has been imbued and mandated to speak for us to break the silence. This, of course, brings into focus the social contradictions: reggae, a highly commercialised and successful music genre, has out-stripped in prominence its own inventors, the Rastafari. Additionally, reggae, which is a testimony of the Rastafari inner landscape, has increasingly been channelled away from its core producers’ ideological anxieties to represent seemingly the less germane aspects of the African experience. Nettleford realised this contradiction, and it was this that he identified as an appropriation of Rastafari by some reggae musicians who, he implied, are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, without a genuine appreciation for the inner grace.

Chapter from-

Nettleford and Rastafari’s Inner Landscape
by JAHLANI NIAAH
Source: Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 3/4, (December 2011)

Image source: Island Outpost

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dUb

King Shiloh Soundsystem – Healing of the Nations selections

Maestro Neil outta King Shiloh round sound from Netherlands running heartical selection series called Healing of the Nations.
Highest recommendations by Jah Billah!

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