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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Babylon Report, Dub Disinfo Department, Higher Learning

On sexism in Rasta

There are some serious ideological problems in Rasta women confronting the sexism within society and within Rasta itself. Any criticism regarding the status of Rasta women within the movement has been discarded as a white construction of reality unsuitable to Black cultures and any mention of gender liberation berated as western, feminist ideology. While a feminist ideology may not provide all the ingredients for a holistic African liberation, for too long has there been little real strategic change for women in Rastafari. In the same way Black men, in negotiating their freedom, have rejected the patronising efforts of white liberals in favour of an innate desire to chart their own liberation, so too must women design their own path to empowerment. The fundamental hurdle to the solution is that racial oppression is more readily understood and addressed than gender oppression.

Black women’s liberation is already stilted by the time they realise that their oppression is tied to their relations with their own brethren. In my experience, Black men support women’s protests as long as they are aimed at the white middle classes. However, when the subject of gender oppression is revealed and the Black man himself is implicated in this oppression, their tones become hushed.

Found in: The movement of Jah people!

from

Great Black Warrior Queens: An examination of the gender currents within Rastafari thought and the adoption of a feminist agenda in the Rasta women’s movement

by LISA-ANNE JULIEN (2003) Agenda.

Image source: Meet the Most Feared Women in History

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Babylon Report, Dub Disinfo Department, Higher Learning

On Haile Selassie as God and King

“I know that the Jamaicans are here because of our king,” Daniel Wogu, an eighteen-year-old student and Shashemene inhabitant working toward acceptance in a medical program, told me. “They believe that he is sent from God to save them or make the black people free from slavery. They have their own history,” he continued. “As I have learned
from Ethiopian history, they say that our king went to their country to visit and there were some unexpected happenings. There was rainfall or something. They say then that this proves that Haile Selassie is not actually a man, but is God.”

Henock Mahari, an Ethiopian reggae musician born and raised in Addis Ababa, the city where he still lives and works, said something similar: “He was once in Jamaica and it hadn’t rained, and then it did rain. They accepted him as a God because of this miracle. They see him as a messiah and call Ethiopia their Promised Land and leave their home to come here and finish their life here.”

In a general discussion with my hundred-strong English language class at the Afrika Beza College, a female student told me that “Jamaican people live in Shashemene and they like Ethiopian people very much because Haile Selassie went to their town and at that time there is no rain. When Haile Selassie got there, there was rain. So, after that day, Jamaican people like Ethiopia very much.”

Shemelis Safa, a high school teacher in the town, had a similar explanation for why Rastafari move to Shashemene:
As I know, Haile Selassie went to Jamaica. It was very dry and they needed rain. Unfortunately, when this king arrived in Jamaica, the rain came. There started a superstition, a belief—“oh this is a good person,” they said. Their famous singer Bob Marley and other leaders told the people that the King is a very nice king and Ethiopia is very nice, so they associate the king with their religion. . . . Haile Selassie is from the Solomonic dynasty and they consider Haile Selassie God, so they respect him more than the people in Ethiopia.
We Ethiopians saw Haile Selassie as a king—a man who made many mistakes and did some good things.

Found in The Miracle Story, from Chapter:
Christianity and the King, Marriage and Marijuana.
Book Title: Visions of Zion: Ethiopians and Rastafari in the Search for the Promised Land
by Erin C. MacLeod. NYU Press. (2014)
Image source: African Kings and Queens and world Kings and Queens in forum Deshret at EgyptSearch Forums.

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Higher Learning

Emperor wept

rasta

Found in chapter Visit by Emperor, from:
Protest and Mysticisim: The Rastafari Cult of Jamaica
Author: Sheila Kitzinger
Source: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Autumn, 1969)

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dUb

Terrence & Phillip – Rasta Roller

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Higher Learning

ON RASTA ART

” “Art.” By “art” is meant the ability to perceive the things of God and to be sensitively aware of the sacred in life; it is a man’s inherent ability to see through the apparent to the real, to separate the false from the true, and to discern the good; but not only this. It is also, and essentially, the power of communicating knowledge, and a knowledge which is basically neither the learning from books nor sheer doctrine, but a mystical experience. Elders of the movement say that they will only accept a man with this “art.” “Not every man with a beard is a Rasta- man-We take a man with art. ” In a sense, also, “art” means the art of understanding the minds of other men. This is something inborn, which cannot be acquired by study and good works if it is not already there, but which can be sharpened by discussion with right- minded people and by ritual observance. A man may discover it in himself after living the major part of his life in dis- solute unawareness. It was there all the time, but he did not know it. The more men can learn about themselves and their natures the more they can draw out this skill and develop it. When a man is expounding doctrine movingly, or praising God in powerful fashion, his listeners call out “Art I Art I Mighty art I Ja Rastafari I” Nothing can make up for the absence of art. In the words of one Rasta informant, “Some have all the zeal of God, but not the knowledge.”

Found in Doctrine,  from: Protest and Mysticisim: The Rastafari Cult of Jamaica

Author: Sheila Kitzinger
Source: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Autumn, 1969)

Image source: http://www.islandoutpost.com

 

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dUb, Higher Learning

ON PSALMS AND REGGAE

So tuned to the beat of Burru drums, the early Rasta lamentations, comprised of mournful dirges of Christian songs, hymns, and psalms from the Psalter, were social, political, and religious commentary on the unfavorable condition of the black Jamaican masses, and of the Rastafarians in particular. As the movement responded to harassment and persecution from the Jamaican public and the “Babylon police” in the 1950s, these lamentations became increasingly militant with a strong revolution and liberation motif. By the 1960s, Rastas had developed an impressive repertoire of musical lamentations adopted to their peculiar method of black revolutionary protest and call for political, social, and economic change in Jamaica. In 1969, The Melodians, comprising Brent Dowe, Tony Brevette, and Trevor McNaughton, sang Psalm 137 in new Rasta voices under the title “Rivers of Babylon.” The song remained local until “Bonnie Em,” singing under the influence of reggae star Bob Marley and the Wailers, did a Cover Disco Version in 1975, which became an immediate hit internationally.

Found in Why the Hebrew Psalms? from Tuning Hebrew Psalms to Reggae Rhythms: Rastas’ Revolutionary Lamentations for Social Change

Author: NATHANIEL SAMUEL MURRELL.
Source: CrossCurrents, Vol. 50, No. 4, Jewish–Christian Relations (WINTER 2000/2001)

Image source: The Melodians – Rivers of Babylon 7″

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Babylon Report, Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm

ON GANJA BOMBING

Despite the initiative by the Rastas those forces which harangued Bishop on the question of elections but turned a blind eye to the elections in Guyana still hoped to foment discontent from within. The elementary initiatives towards solving the needs of the working people were affected by the deteriorating security situation as the incidents of bombings and shootings increased, culminating in the June 19, 1980 bombing attack at Queens Park, St George. The Prime Ministers and the officials of the State had gathered to celebrate Labour Day when the bomb exploded. But no one on the platform was hurt; the force of the bomb killed three children and injured others. Some of the elements involved in this bombing campaign were involved in the large scale planting of ganja. This ganja was not for local consumption but for the international capitalist market and the big planters attempted to use the centrality of the weed in the lives of many youths as a leverage to move the Rastas after the previous attempt at demonstrations had failed. Ganja and its use pose a serious problem throughout the Caribbean for the way in which the trade is now linked to international gangsterism. Those imported psychologists and doctors who describe ganja as a dangerous narcotic forget that the British State imported ganja into the Caribbean up until 1907 to sell to the Indian indentured workers. The use of ganja by youths in the sixties and seventies was a principal method of social control and as soon as a youth was perceived by the state as rebellious the charge of – possession of ganja was always a useful weapon in the hands of the coercive apparatus of the state.

Found in Rasta, Ganja and Capitalism, from: THE RASTAFARIANS IN THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN by HORACE CAMPBELL. Source: Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4, RASTAFARI (December 1980)

Image source: AP Photo/David McFadden

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Dub Disinfo Department, Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm

ON GANJA MUSIC

As the central sacrament to Rastafarians, the importance of ganja (marijuana) has been well documented and this importance extends into the sphere of Rasta-influenced Jamaican music. Rasta-influenced musicians were often outspoken advocates of ganja smoking, with songs full of exhortations to “smoke the herb”: Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It,” Bob Marley’s “Kaya” and “Easy Skanking,” Culture’s “International Herb,” Horace Andy’s “Better Collie,” Lee Perry’s “Free Up the Weed” and “Roast Fish, Cornbread and Collie Weed,” and Leroy Horsemouth Wallace’s “Herb Vendor” are a mere few of hundreds of such songs. Yet while it would probably be difficult to find a Jamaican musician of the roots era who was avowedly anti-ganja, some Jamaican musicians nevertheless felt that the prominence of this theme led to a distorted view of reggae in the world at large, as musicians played to the expectations of their international audiences. Paul Henton voiced a sentiment common among some Jamaican musicians, who felt that their colleagues sung about ganja at least in part “just because they know that the white people love it. If tomorrow morning the people or the fans say ‘Okay, we don’t want to hear anymore of this ganja stuff,’ they’ll stop singing about it and stop promoting it!”
Inside Jamaica, where ganja songs have flourished within several genres of Jamaican popular music (such as roots reggae and ragga), the situation has been more complex. Ganja was declared illegal in Jamaica in 1913 and for the decades since, its illegality has been a primary tool used by the ruling class in the social control of working-class Jamaicans. Correspondingly, it became a combustible element in the constellation of factors (including music, Rastafari, class conflict) that factor into Jamaica’s social tensions. As such, it is not surprising that ganja played a central role in the blended class, cultural, and political content that exploded in Jamaica in the 1970s and that arguably found its most powerful and passionate articulation in roots reggae. This centrality can be felt in the comments of legendary drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace: “The people respect you in Jamaica when you can put forty and fifty bag a ganja on a plane! We don’t call that drugs. That is ganja business. . . . We do those things like we are revolutionary. We put forty bag on a plane and feel good. . . . We send those so people in America could smoke the good ganja, not just for money alone.”

 

Found in: The Ganja Factor,  from:  DUB Soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae by Michael E. Veal.  Wesleyan University Press 2007.

Image source: Peter Tosh

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