From the very start of it all; the beating drums and pulsating bass, reggae music has always revolved around the ideals and image of Rastafari. The very manifestation of the art form owes tremendous dues to the Rastas of Kingston in the 1950’s and 60’s.
The themes of historical, cultural and collective identity which Rastafari was preaching from the get go shined with astonishing light of the genre which was deemed as “inartistic” by the plantation mind frame of the Jamaican elite had found home in the hearts of the “ghetto people” of Kingston’s shanty towns.
Upon its arrival the message was clear and the imagery was vivid. The idea was the norms, customs and ideas which were taught to the ancestors of the Africans masses specifically designed to keep them down should be eradicated from the minds of there descendents.
These ideas were still being used by the ruling class of Jamaican to control and manipulate the people who saw themselves as worthless and unwanted, just as how they thought their parents and grandparents were unwanted and useless; these kind of thinking which many fail to acknowledge are very pervasive in Jamaica, even today and the Ras dem don’t support such thinking in any way shape or form.
They would soon began a campaign to reform the psyche of Jamaica’s poor and disenfranchised island wide. This came at a pivotal time in Jamaica where understanding of identity was beginning to be even more crucial thanks to “independence” from the British Empire. However these events in the “slums” did not sit well with the government and two important events took place as a result:
- The Coral Gardens Massacre where Jamaican armed forces killed numerous Rastafarians island wide and lead to many Rasta putting themselves into exile in their own country. Ducking and hiding in gullies out of fear of everyday Jamaicans, who would gang and beat them and use broken bottles to “trim” their DREAD-locks. (It wasn’t easy for the dread or “beardman” back in the day)
- The Rodney Riots – this was caused by the exile of Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney who was cited by the government as preaching black power and was a treat to the Jamaican society. The University students didn’t take this decision well at all.
These collective frustrations at the system helped to strengthen understanding between the Rasta and the average Jamaican man, reggae music served as the final factor in what would become a union between the Jamaican and the Rastaman/rastawoman.
The mutual understanding formed would result in arguably the best musical period in Jamaica’s history i.e 1960’s the to mid 1980’s. The music was so vibrant, diverse and original, from the Upsetters to the Weeping Wailers everyone played their part and the people of Jamaican began to see through the beat of Rastafari inspired Reggae.
Look at me, I ain’t your enemy
We walk on common ground
We don’t need to fight each other
What we need, what we need