Reggae musician Bob Marley became famous for songs like “No Woman No Cry”, “Get Up, Stand Up” and “One Love”, spreading Jamaican music and culture around the world, as well as global awareness about the Rastafari movement.
Marley introduced Rastafari musical meditation to his global community – incorporating chanting into his music, seen as a prophet or messiah by some fans – singing about love and redemption and natural beauty, even negotiating a ceasefire between two warring political parties!
Reggae and its message of faith, struggle and redemption has always been linked to the Rastafari faith, both lyrically and musically, with its spiritual drumming and socially conscious lyrics.
The philosophy of Rastafari, travels side by side with Reggae and remains an important cultural and social movement in Jamaica and many other parts of the world.
From the start, Reggae music has always been important to the Rastafari faith, where culture and beliefs are shared and expressed through songs and chants.
The spread of Rastafari faith and followers in urban Kingston during the 1960’s changed Jamaican music, which soon began incorporating Nyahbinghi drumming techniques, a style very similar to the human heartbeat – “thump-thump, pause, thump-thump“.
The lament-like Nyahbinghi meditative chanting is practiced at Rastafari worship ceremonies called Groundations that include drumming and dancing along with prayer and the sacramental smoking of cannabis.
Another style of Rastafari music is Burru drumming focused on three drums —later copied by hip hop DJs – was introduced to Kingston’s growing Rasta community by a Jamaican musician named Count Ossie.
Count Ossie, who coached many Jamaican ska, rock steady, and reggae musicians on his Burru drumming technique, already had his own ska and reggae albums about Rasta history, doctrine, and culture.
Ossie would comment that both Reggae and Rasta were “fighting colonialism and oppression but not with guns and bayonet, but wordically, culturally”.
In 1968, the Toots and the Maytal’s hit record “Do The Reggay” finally gave the new Jamaican music a name, and by 1969 Jimmy Cliff’s “Wonderful World Beautiful People” was permanently bonding Reggae with the “peace and love” hippie movement forever.
The growing faith was further spread by musicians with strong Rastafarian themes to their music like Peter Tosh, Freddie McGregor, Toots & the Maytal’s, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Third World, Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, Dennis Brown and hundreds more!
Today, Rastafari beliefs are spread through Roots Reggae and Dancehall, with many major artists professing the Rastafari religion, like Sizzla, Capleton , Anthony B, Jah Cure and Richie Spice, with many appearing on pop music charts.
Reggae continues to develop in the twenty-first century – with reggae bands in Africa, Europe, and Latin America – as some blend hip-hop with reggae in a contemporary style, and others go back to Rasta foundations for Roots Reggae and its message of rebellion against social injustice.
Jamaican music’s has spread all over the globe, deeply entrenched in the musical culture of the world, regularly featured in international hit charts as more and more aspects of Reggae are incorporated into pop music.
Rastafari ideas have continued to travel with Reggae – to countries like Russia where artists write songs about Jah, and South Africa where Reggae is hugely popular and Lucky Dube heard his 1st Peter Tosh records.
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