Rastafari

 
 
ROCK TO ART AND RASTAFARI
 
The musical world of Rastafari has become renowned with Robert Nesta Marley who was inspired by his faith and his Rastafarian beliefs and lifestyle, and went on to produce prophetic songs of peace, love and liberation.  There are many misconceptions about the Rastafarian lifestyle, and what many people fail to realise, unlike many other religions, self-study and contemplation are essential in the spiritual development of the individual.  To live life according to true Rastafari principles, one must study the doctrine, the diet, the laws and the strict codes that adhere to the faith, and change your life to assert your personal relationship with God, which rather than associating with physical places of worship, spiritual communion with God is a personal journey involving great meditation and contemplation. 
 

For Rastafarians, worship goes beyond the spirit of man, and incorporates the spirit of all living things. Creation is seen as the epitome of Jah (the Supreme Being).  Jah never dies.  He only expresses and manifests himself in different carnations. Therefore, the divinity of life in man is not seen merely in his earthly existence, but while he exists on earth, he must adhere to the laws of the earth, be at one with the earth and live in harmony with others. When these things are done, his life has gained purpose, and he has thus created a harmony within himself uniting his divine self with his lower self, and can do work in the mystics, in the arts, in the sciences to further humanity.

King Haile Selassie I of Ethopia, is central to Rastafarian faith.  Tafari Makonnen or Ras (meaning “King”) Tafari took the coronation name King Negus Negusta in 1930, and when he took the throne as king he became Emperor Haile Selassie I, as well as the traditional titles “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”

At the time of his coronation, Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican statesman, whose stature, position and organization appealed to the masses, talked about the coming of a black king, and many Biblical references took on a greater meaning of the liberation struggle, including: Revelations 19:16, “he has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”, Rev. 5:2-5, “And I saw an angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book and loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much…. and one of the elders said unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David had prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof.”

Whereas colonialism and post-slavery era Christianity featured a blue eyed, white skinned, blond headed deity which one had to worship to free them from all of their sins, His Majesty Selassie I offered a meaningful alternative which gave African people much-needed refuge from the mental, psychological and spiritual  very had pervaded many generations, a sense of identity. For many Jamaicans it was impossible to trace where exactly they had come from, but by uniting all peoples whose heritage was from all across Africa to a single spiritual tribe who were forced under brutal conditions to a new land, a new unifying perspective became a radical new system of belief that adopted the role of Selassie as a prophet of the faith.  

Ras (which means head) and Tafari means peace.  Ethiopia was the oldest documented African nation, and only country in Africa that had crushed a colonial-fascist empire (Italy), and remained un-colonised. Ethiopia is Zion, and is associated with the search for justice for the Lost Tribe of Judah against the backdrop of the poverty of neo-colonialism and generations of racism and intollerance.  For that reason, Rastafarians, use the flag colors of Ethiopia as a symbol of their alignment, red for the blood, gold for the minerals & resources and green for the land. 

Africans who know nothing about Ethiopia, their first introduction and history of the country tends to come from Rastafarians, who reference the country, Haile Selassie, and the Solomonic dynasty as the throne of their redemption.

King Solomon and Queen Sheba are highly respected figures in Rastafarian doctrine, whose son Menelik received the spiritual incarnation to carry the Ark of the Covenant back to Ethiopia, the most revered and divine institution of Christianity. King Solomon comes from the lineage of King David, and Jesus the Nazarene, who is also said to be a descendant of King David. Haile Selassie was born into this bloodline, and fulfilled spiritual prophecy when crowned King in 1930. 

During Jamaican independence in 1966, King Selassie I’s visit to the island marked another prophetic milestone for the Rastafarian movement, and people turned up in great crowds to catch a glimpse of their savior.  Many Rasta people spoke of being filled with miraculous energy when they had a chance to meet him personally after he had met heads of State.  Selassie's influence upon the Rastafari ideology will forever remain paramount, and central to the tenets of the faith. 

Marcus Garvey, who called for Africans to look toward Africa, and build upon their own unique and evolving culture, was deported from America, and died obscurely in London in 1940, but he left a legacy that began the Rastafari movement of Jamaica and later the black power movements of the US. His writings and teachings are highly revered in Rastafari and he is looked upon by many as the "John the Baptist" of Rastafari philosophy.

Like the basis of Rastafarian ideology is rooted in African tradition, so is the hairstyle known as “dreadlocks.” Originating in eastern Africa, the hairstyle was worn by warriors and different tribes in Kenya, and a hairstyle of ancient Kemet and Nubia.  However in Jamaica, in a post slavery society and Eurocentric culture, the dreadlock hairstyle was looked down upon by society, and those people who identified with this new and radical hairstyle, their hair grown without being unadulterated by chemicals or sharp objects, often became a statement of social and political protest born out by the situation at the time. 

Upon accepting the Nazerite Vow, one becomes a Nazarene and is separated from the “world” but lives closer to God. The vow consists of not cutting the hair, whilst adhering to a range of fundamental dietary and lifestyle laws to maintain a healthy state of body and mind, and reflect a more realistic image of Yeshua the Christ.

Dreadlocks in the early years of the 1940s through the 1970s, were widely associated with rebellion against the oppressive system that opposed their philosophy and lifestyle, the ultimate expression of Rastafari via the true self, a mirror image of the symbolic Lion of Judah. The lion is a humble animal, yet the most feared in the animal kingdom, which is why this particular glorified member of the animal kingdom was given universal royal status as king, signifying strength, power and peace. 

In the early days, Rastafari people were persecuted for their looks and beliefs in Jamaica, often
brutalised, mistreated and detained by the police, and having their locks forcibly cut off in-front of others to make an example out of them.  Dreadlocks were worn not as a "fashion statement" but as a political and religious statement against the establishment, and moving to live in the remote upland areas of the island allowed their traditions and lifestyle to happen with less state interference. 

Nyabinghi was a Ugandan liberation movement named after a Ugandan queen in the 19th Century of the same name, Queen Nyavingi, who fought against the colonialists who had taken control of her ancestral lands.  The word was transferred by slave ships to the colonies of the Caribbean and became a concept within Rastafarian beliefs.  There became the the Theocratic Priesthood and Livity Order of Nyabinghi, a sect or order of Rastafari. 

Nyabinghi also became the name for Rastafari communal gatherings held as they are called by the Theocratic Order where deep Nyabinghi bass drums are played (the origin of dub beats).  The major tenets of Rastafari culture are concerned with being close to nature, which is reflected in both shamanic nyabinghi rituals, and the spiritualism of everyday life.  Marijuana is used in some rituals to explore spirituality, but Jamaica's rural Rastafarians are farmers, and agriculturalists and maintain a wide variety of herbs and plants and have great knowledge of their many uses.  Binghis are held at the discretion of the members who feel the need to become a spiritual force and evoke the presence of righteousness and justice on the Earth, including annual celebrations of Haile Selassie’s birth and his coronation as crowned King of Ethiopia.

Rastafarians combined Patois and English and formed radical new translations, meanings and words which focused upon the positive, the uplifting, and the liberational, rather than the control of the Babylonian oppressors.  A brand-new, inclusive, socially, politically and spiritual awareness evolved which turned pessimistic, negative and controlling words of the English language, phrases and concepts into language which offered freedom from oppressive control.  Words that are living entities and can reshape the way people view, see, think, and interact with the world.  Words of spiritual enlightenment which have power to change the world. 

Instead of saying we, our, mine, you and I, Rasta affirms I’n'I, leaving no separation in the identity of things between the first and third person, a statement of oneness and equality, for instance.  Instead of “understand,” it's “overstand,” as to not be held under other people's fixed definitions of concepts.  Replacing “dedicated,” Rastafarians say “livicated,” (the prefix live instead of dead/die).  Instead of saying “manifested,” it's “I-nifested,” incarnating the divine all-seeing "I" into everything. 

Foods are also given new meaning, as “ital,” for “vital,” means a strictly vegetarian diet, “Inana,” is banana, and “I-go” is a mango. The I is the spirit of Jah and the spirit of man, and the unification of the divinity, a language called the Kings Lyriac to differentiation from the traditional English language with its colonial origins and universal global usage. 

The Rastafarian diet pays heed to biblical references to stay clean, healthy and unpolluted, whilst herbs are used to strengthen, heal and cleanse the body.  Adherents to the Rastafari lifestyle
maintain a strict vegan diet, refraining from eating red meat, pork, chicken, fish (for some), eggs, cheese, white flour products and processed foods, whilst using herbs for medicinal purposes, maintaining a diet that is more in harmony with the Earth than most other diets.  Spiritually, by refraining from digesting any part of an animal's flesh, mankind is freed from negative actions driven by the flesh, allowing innate human qualities to succeed over disposable western culture. 

Ultimately, the Rastafarian culture goes far, far beyond dress and appearance. The essence of Rastarfari is evident in the hearts of the people we meet, regardless of how they look.  Music is the most successful vehicle of passing on thoughts and concepts of peace and love to other people, as exemplified by decades of reggae artists who combine uplifting vibes and infectious tunes with a positive narrative.  Whether spreading the message of fun and joy, or sharing meaningful thoughts and opinions upon life, artists from Bob Marley onwards, including Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus, Yabby You & the Prophets, Michael Rose, Junior Byles, Big Youth, The Abyssinians, The Ethiopians, The Pioneers, Augustus Pablo, The Congos, Lee Scratch Perry, The Mighty Diamonds, Horace Andy, Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, Prince Far I, U Roy, I Roy, David Jahson, Johnny Clarke, and many, many more exemplified authentic Rastafarian values in their music. 

Rock To Art, through their vast range of experimentalistic works and time-honoured musicality, continue on in the footsteps of this fine and proud Lion of Judah tradition.  Bringing people together, entertaining and educating through danceable positive and uplifting vibes, sharing happiness, consciousness and mutual respect through a twentyfirst century canvas, Rastafari positivity transcends to a whole new level through an exciting array of infectious new creations. 

Blessings to all our fans!!!