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)

Dub Disinfo Department, Higher Learning, Kaneh Bosm


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)