REGGAE NEWS - NOVEMBER 2008
Rastafari 78th anniversary and its impact on reggae
Posted by November 02 2008 at 09:21
Category : Others
Today marks the 78th anniversary of the divine concept Rastafari. It was on Sunday, November 2, 1930, His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, was crowned King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Elect of God, alongside his wife, Empress Menen. The unique coronation was the first time in history a king and his wife were crowned at the same time, and it gave birth to the Rastafari Movement.
The movement came to light in the community of Pinnacle on the outskirts of Spanish Town, St Catherine, home of the first Rastafarian Leonard Howell who was originally from Redland, Clarendon. The Rastafari worldview, despite being rejected and scorned by mainstream Jamaican society at that time, rapidly impacted on the downtrodden, spreading to the slums of Kingston and neighbouring parish of St Thomas, where Howell, aka The Gong (Bob Marley adaptation for his record company and studio), once lived.
The relationship between Rastafari and reggae is a special one indeed. Both feed from each other, to the point where there was a time when people abroad thought that every reggae artiste was a ganja-smoking, dreadlock-wearing rasta, particularly because members of the Rastafari faith do not evangelise in the way conventional religions do.
Reggae music was the main vehicle to express the Rastafari way of life, and the stage was the pulpit. So the shows became pseudocrusades, and artistes such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Culture, Black Uhuru, Big Youth, Abyssinians, Fredlocks, Israel Vibration, Jacob Miller, Augustos Pablo, Dennis Brown, I Kong (remember him?), Keith Hudson, Willie Williams, Ijahman Levi, Hugh Mandell, Junior Reid, Freddie McGregor were some of the original crusaders.
Among a later breed of roots rock reggae stalwarts were Garnett Silk, Luciano, Tony Rebel, Capleton, Buju Banton, Sizzla Kalonjie and Spragga Benz, and of more recent vintage are I-Wayne, Queen Ifrica, Etana, Tarrus Riley, Warrior King, and Chuck Fenda, among others.
But the Rastafari contribution to music in Jamaica did not start with reggae. It began with the Nyahbinghi elders, with their style of drumming and chanting and from that emerged the Folks Brothers who gave us Oh Carolina, which in time provided Shaggy with his first international hit.
As far as Jamaican music goes, in all phases of the Rastafari involvement one thing remains constant - the message. The message of a holistic way of life, of mental, physical and spiritual upliftment. A message of equal rights and justice. A message of one love. This message has resonated with people of all races, around the world.
Both Rastafari and reggae were once frowned upon by the wider society. But as the greatest reggae artiste of all time, Bob Marley, told us "Reggae music will rise and rise until it finds it rightful place."
Today, as the Rastafari Community celebrates its 78th anniversary (on a Sunday, as it was in the beginning), all that is left to say is, Jah Lives.
source : jamaicaobserver.com
LKJ analyses 'Writing Reggae'
Posted by November 02 2008 at 09:16
Category : Artists
Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson's journey started in Jamaica and he found inspiration in the Caribbean Artist Movement (1966-1972) in Britain, while the British Black Panther Movement (1970-1973) ignited his passion.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Johnson shared his thoughts on 'Writing Reggae - Politics, Poetry and Popular Culture', with a modest audience at the 3rd Annual Distinguished Lecture Series, inside Toronto's St Lawrence Hall in celebration of National Heritage Week 2008 recently.
Back then, he recalled, growing up in the islands meant reading Psalms, Proverbs, Songs of Solomon and listening to Anancy and duppy stories, riddles, playing ring and word games, as well as 'fire deh a muss muss tail him tink a cool breeze' from your grandmother. This was his first introduction to the power of words and the power of music.
Father of dub poetry
Little did he realise he would later fuse the two and be titled the 'Father of Dub Poetry' - performance poetry spoken word over reggae rhythms. It is what Linton describes as reggae stripped down and recreated, a new movement of orality in Jamaican poetry in the 1980s.
"My first language is Jamaican Creole," said Johnson, who strives to write word music with lines that sound like a bassline. In dub poetry the emphasis is on the drum and the bassline.
During the social and political movements of the '60s and '70s in the United Kingdom, Johnson was introduced to New Beacon Books, the source of most black-authored books. The works of poets John LaRose (Trinidad), Andrew Salkey (Panama), Claude McKay (Jamaica) and WEB DuBois (African American) changed Johnson's life.
"You cannot call yourself a poet and not read poetry," said Johnson. "It is important for young writers to read and experiment." He said, though, that this is habit that no longer exists in Jamaica. "Technology has changed rap and dance-hall music, genres whose roots originate with reggae, ska and rocksteady," he said.
When Johnson arrived in London in 1963, just 11 years old, to join his mother, he found the country was not the multicultural place of the Tony Blair times.
Johnson's most celebrated poems were written during the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
These poems told of regular racist police brutality occurrences - "African/Asian/West Indian/ an' Black British/stan firm inna Englan/inna disya time yah/far noh mattah wat dey sey/come what may/we de here to stay/inna Inglan".
Though Johnson can write the Standard English lyrical poetry, he chooses to stick to his love for Creole.
"The memories hearts are keeping/Will soon slide down in dreams/When no one sleeps/But close their eyes and weeps," he writes in 'Jamaica Lullaby'.
"I came to poetry through politics," said Johnson. He said that he uses poetry as a cultural weapon.
Johnson has published four books so far and his works are now taught in schools and universities. "All of this I achieved on my own terms," said Johnson, who owns his own record label, LKJ Records.
His second book, Dread Beat an' Blood (1975), includes poems that were later released as a record in 1978. Johnson's Mi Revalueshanary Fren was published in 2002 as a Penguin Classic edition. Most of Johnson's poetry is political, expressing his experiences of being a black man of Caribbean descent living in Britain.
In 2005, Johnson was awarded a Musgrave medal by the Institute of Jamaica for his work in the field of poetry.
source : jamaica-gleaner.com