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Rastafari Music




Rastafari Music

Nyabinghi music is the most integral form of Rastafarian music. It is played at worship ceremonies called grounations, that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and smoking of ritual ganja.

Music has long played an integral role in Rastafari, and the connection between the movement and various kinds of music has become well known, due to the international fame of musicians like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

Nyabinghi Music

Nyabinghi music is the most integral form of Rastafarian music.

It is played at worship ceremonies called grounations, that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and smoking of ritual ganja. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism. This form of nyabinghi was centered around Muhumusa, a healing woman from Uganda who organized resistance against German colonialists. The British in Africa later led efforts against Nyabinghi, classifying it as witchcraft through the Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912. In Jamaica, the concepts of Nyabinghi were appropriated for similar anti-colonial efforts, and it is often danced to invoke the power of Jah against an oppressor.
The drum is a symbol of the Africanness of Rastafari, and some mansions assert that Jah's spirit of divine energy is present in the drum. African music survived slavery because many slaveowners encouraged it as a method of keeping morale high. Afro-Caribbean music arose with the influx of influences from the native peoples of Jamaica, as well as the European slaveowners.

Another style of Rastafarian music is called burru drumming, first played in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, and then in West Kingston. Burru was later introduced to the burgeoning Rasta community in Kingston.

Maroons, or communities of escaped slaves, kept purer African musical traditions alive in the interior of Jamaica, and were also contributing founders of Rastafari.

Popularization and recording

The first recording of Rastafarian music was perhaps made by Count Ossie. This was followed in the 1950s by various recordings of burru, as well as music of other Jamaican religions such as Pocomania. In 1953, Ossie introduced akete drums to Rastafarian communities in West Kingston, using styles and rhythms adapted from burru.

Ossie then recorded with the Fokes Brothers on "Oh Carolina", a song produced by Prince Buster. "Oh Carolina" was the first popular song from Jamaica, and the same recording session produced the ska hits "They Got to Go" and "Thirty Pieces of Silver". Ossie later became well known for other recordings (with his band, The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari) - especially 1974's Grounation, featuring roots percussion and musical styles. Ossie also recorded albums that fell solidly into the jazz category, incorporating roots percussion and traditional Rasta influences into avant-garde jazz along the lines of Sun Ra or Archie Shepp, prior to his death in 1976.

Reggae Music

Reggae was born amidst poor blacks in Trenchtown, the main ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica, who listened to radio stations from the United States. Jamaican musicians, many of them Rastas, soon blended traditional Jamaican folk music, American R&B, and jazz into ska, that later developed into reggae under the influence of soul.

Reggae began to enter international consciousness in the early 1970s, and Rastafari mushroomed in popularity internationally, largely due to the fame of Bob Marley, who incorporated nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting into his music. Songs like "Rastaman Chant" led to the movement and reggae music being seen as closely intertwined in the consciousness of audiences across the world (especially among oppressed and poor groups of African Americans and Native Americans, First Nations Canadians, Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maori, and throughout most of Africa). Other reggae musicians with strong Rastafarian elements in their music include Toots and The Maytals, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Ras Michael, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Bunny Wailer, Prince Far I, Israel Vibration, Bad Brains and literally hundreds more.

Some orthodox Rastas disdain reggae as a form of commercial music and "sell-out to Babylon." To others, it is "JAH Throne Music".

Reggae Music on the move

Reggae may be used in a broad sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, including ska, rocksteady, dub, dancehall and ragga. The term may also be used to distinguish a particular style that originated in the late 1960s. Reggae is founded upon a rhythm style which is characterized by regular chops on the back beat, known as the "bang", played by a rhythm guitarist, and a bass drum hitting on the third beat of each measure, known as "one drop." Characteristically, this beat is slower than in reggae's precursors, ska and rocksteady. Reggae is often associated with the Rastafari movement, which influenced many prominent reggae musicians in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the subject matter of reggae songs deals with many subjects other than Rastafari, with love songs, sexual themes and broad social commentary being particularly well-represented.

Roots Reggae

Roots is the name given to specifically Rastafarian reggae music. It is a spiritual type of music, whose lyrics are predominantly in praise of Jah (God).

Recurrent lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to government oppression. The creative pinnacle of roots reggae is arguably in the late 1970s, with singers such as Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy, Barrington Levy, and Lincoln Thompson teaming up with studio producers including Lee 'Scratch' Perry, King Tubby, and Coxsone Dodd. The experimental pioneering of such producers within often restricted technological parameters gave birth to dub music, and is seen by some music historians as one of the earliest (albeit analogue) contributions to the development of techno.

Roots reggae was an important part of Jamaican culture, and whilst other forms of reggae have replaced it in terms of popularity in Jamaica (Dancehall for instance), roots reggae has found a small, but growing, niche globally.

Reggae Music Fesitvals

Jamaican reggae music festivals
  • Reggae Sunsplash, Ocho Rios, Jamaica,
  • Sting reggae music festival, Kingston, Jamaica
  • Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, Jamaica
International reggae music festivals
  • Westchester Reggae Fest, White Plains, NY. United States
  • Austin Marley/Reggae Festival, Austin, TX. United States
  • Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Mendocino County, CA, United States
  • Reggae on the River, Humboldt County, CA, United States
  • two 77 splash, Amsterdam Netherlands
  • Reggae Sundance, Eindhoven Netherlands
  • LB27 Reggae Camp, Komarom, Hungary
  • Reggae on the Rocks, Morrison, CO, USA,
  • Rototom Sunsplash Festival, Osoppo, Udine, Italy, [1]
  • Soca Reggae Riversplash, Tolmin, Slovenia,
  • Chiemsee Reggae Summer, Übersee, Germany
  • Summerjam, Cologne, Germany
  • MIDEM Reggae Showcase, Cannes, France
  • Notting Hill Carnival, London, UK
  • Bob Marley Outernational Day, Perth, Western Australia
  • International Reggae Festivals at ReggaeSeen
  • Spanish Reggae Festivals at Reggae News
  • Uppsala Reggae Festival, Sweden
  • Seasplash Reggae Festival, Pula, Croatia
  • Ostróda Reggae Festival, Ostróda, Poland
  • One Love Sound Fest, Wroclaw, Poland
  • The Costarican Summerfest, be organized by exa fm, and exa reggae vibes and Chino Artavia.
  • Reggae Geel, Geel, Belgium
Click here for Reggae Music Festival Listings

Rasta Music

  • Bob Marley (1945–1981), musician and singer (converted to Ethiopian Orthodox Church before death)
  • Damian Marley (1978–), musician and singer
  • Ziggy Marley (born 1968), musician and singer
  • Peter Tosh (1944–1987)
  • Bunny Wailer, reggae singer (born April 10,1947)
  • Burning Spear (born 1948), musician and singer
  • Joseph Hill, musician and singer
  • Lincoln Thompson, (1949-1998), musician and composer
  • Prince Far I (1945-1983) Toaster
  • Cedric Myton, composer and musician
  • Buju Banton (born 1973), dancehall and ragga musician and singer
  • Ras Michael, musician and singer
  • Sizzla, musician and singer
  • Bad Brains (1977-), hardcore punk band
  • Wadada Leo Smith, jazz musician and composer
  • Jah-Cure, Reggae singer
  • Gentleman, German Reggae Singer
  • Everton Blender, Reggae Singer
  • Anthony B, Reggae Singer and DJ
  • Richie Spice, Reggae Singer
  • Mutabaraka, Poet and Reggae Musician
  • Augustus Pablo, Reggae Musician


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