In the 1960s and 1970s
music gained increased respectability within Jamaica and
abroad through the popularity of Rasta-inspired reggae
musicians like Bob Marley and his group “The Wailers" When I
was in Jamaica this music was called “Jamaican Ska”. In the
late ‘60s, it evolved into “rocksteady”, which was slower
and gave more emphasis on the bass. Rocksteady soon
developed into the more modern form called reggae, which
used more modern instruments and technology and became more
of Rastafarian content. The purpose of these music was to
generate and restore the black consciousness and a self
awareness of the worthiness of the black people. In order
to establish this the message of the superiority of the
black over the white was presented through all forms of Art
and through the religion. It is in this purpose the regae
was developed. The religous language of Christianity was
used whereby. the white were an oppressive evil force
representing the Babylon in fight with the Zion which is
identified with Ethiopia.
It was probably regge
that gave the maximum boost in the growth of the Rasta. It
was most notably, due to the Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob
Marley. By 2000, there were more than one million Rastafari
faithful worldwide. About five to ten percent of Jamaicans
identify themselves as Rastafari. The first reggae single
that sang about Rastafari and reached Number 1 in the
Jamaican charts was Bongo Man by Little Roy in 1969. Other
reggae musicians with strong Rastafarian elements in their
music include Peter Tosh, Toots and The Maytals, Burning
Spear, Black Uhuru, Midnite, Ras Michael, Prince Lincoln
Thompson, Bunny Wailer, Prince Far I, Israel Vibration, The
Congos, Mikey Dread, etc.
Bob Marley (1945 – 1981)
Yesehaq, head of the Kingston chapter of the Ethiopian
Orthodox Church in Jamaica, was initially sent to Jamaica by
Emperor Haile Selassie to establish the church and to dispel
the worship of Selassie. “Selassie felt that if he
personally commissioned someone to start a church that
worshipped Christ and not himself, the Rastafarians would
follow the true Christ.
interviewed by Barbara Blake Hannah for Gleaners Sunday
Magazine (November 25 1984), told how Bob Marley had come to
his church for some time. When he had expressed a desire to
be baptized, people close to him who controlled him and who
were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari prevented
him from going ahead. The Jamaicans.com website says that
Bob remained outside the church for several yearseven after
his wife Rita and their children joined the church in 1972.
It is said that Bob
Marley before he died of Cancer repudiated Ras faith and got
himself baptized.on 4 November 1980. Robert Nesta Marley
died on 11th May 1981 in a Miami hospital after an 8 month
battle with cancer. He was only 36. When he was buried
under Orthodox rites on 21st May 1981 it was with his Bible
and his Gibson guitar!
Garvey declared his
faith in 1928 at the Century Theater in London as follows::
(William David Spencer,
(London: SPCK, 1999), 134.)
believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
the Nicean Creed;
that Jesus died for me;
that God lives for me as for all men;
condition you can impose on me by deceiving me about
Christianity will cause me to doubt Jesus Christ and to
never hold Christ or God responsible for the
commercialization of Christianity by the heartless men who
adopt it as the easiest means of fooling and robbing other
people out of their land and country.”
pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We followed in this generation, triumphantly.
Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom?
Cause all I ever have: redemption songs,
These songs of freedom.
This was the last song on the last album Marley released
before his death.
It states clearly what Rasta really is: a strengthening
of the hands that earn and fights for freedom;
"..the dream and the hope of the negro slave.."
.Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics
stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!….x2
Preacher man, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. Come on!,,,,,,, Get up…
Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. Jah!
Get up, stand up! (jah, jah!)
Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo!)
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up!)
Don't give up the fight! (life is your right!)
Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight!)
Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord!)
Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on!)
Don't give up the fight! (yeah!)
We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty god is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah!)
So you better:
Get up, stand up! (in the morning! Git it up!)
Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights!)
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up!)
Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up!)
Get up, stand up! (...)
Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up!)
Get up, stand up! (...)
Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! /fadeout/
."The Crown Prince of Reggae", Dennis Brown.
"He is said to have made at least 78 albums for some 37
record labels, sometimes releasing six or even seven albums
in a single year" (London Times, 1999).
However the basic
worship music remains to be the Nyahbingi Music- not reggae-
with its power to call upon the forces of the cosmos to
fight against the evil following the Nyahbingi cult which we
have discussed earlier.
“…Storm, cyclone, tidal
wave and all tempestuous roaring elements from creation to
destroy the wicked nation and set Rastaman free…”
I hear the voice of the
Babylon your throne gone down, gone down
Babylon your throne gone down.
Fly away home to Zion
Fly away home.
One bright morning when my work is over
I will fly away home
The musical accompaniment consists of a heartbeat rhythm,
played in 4/4 time on a trinity of drums. Only Rastamen are
allowed to play drums at Nyahbingi. Anyone may play shaka,
There are membranophones
played at a groundation ceremony in rasta culture. Nyabinghi
music is played in 4/4 time on three drums:
Thunder: It is a double-headed bass drum, played with a
mallet. The strokes are an open tone on 1 and a dampened
stroke on 3. Occasionally, the thunder player will
syncopate the rhythm.
Funde: The funde is the middle drum. It maintains the
dominant heartbeat rhythm as the funde player makes
steady, dampened strokes on 1 and 3. it is thus dually
known as the heartbeat and has the least improvisational
Repeater: The repeater or kete, is the smallest and
highest pitched drum. It is somewhat of a single
elongated bongo. The drummer tends to play around 2 and
4, with a syncopated, rather than a backbeat feel. These
beats are important to the overall feel of the Nyahbingi
rhythm, but the repeater has a very improvisational role
in bingi because it is seen as the carrier of spirit.
Shaka: The shekere, which is commonly found throughout
Africa, the Caribbean Latin America, has a place in
Nyahbingi. The shekere player has a somewhat flexible
role: He/she has been known to play on “1”, “1&”, “1”
and “3” or “1&”…“3&” [The following should be noted
regarding the curious nomenclature of this
instrument—Perhaps the word is a simple corruption of
the proper pronunciation; and there is the possibility
that it is a more calculated allusion to the Zulu word
for fire, shaka.
Niyabinghi chanting typically includes recitation of
the Psalms, but may also include variations of well-known
Christian hymns and adopted by Rastafarians.