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

 

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″

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