Rastafarianism is a religion from Jamaica that has since spread throughout the world. Music has long played an integral role in the religion, and the connection between the religion and various kinds of music has become well-known due to the international fame of musicians like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
Nyabinghi music is the most integral form of Rastafarian music. It is played at worship ceremonies called grounations, which including drumming, chanting and dancing along with prayer and smoking of ritual ganja. Nyabinghi probably comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by women 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 later led efforts against nyabinghi, classifying it as witchcraft through the Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912. In Jamaica, nyabinghi was appropriated for similar anti-colonial efforts, and is often danced to invoke the power of Jah against an oppressor.
The drum is a symbol of the Africanness of Rastafarianism, and some sects of the religion believe that Jah's spirit or 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 form of Rastafarian music is called burru drumming, which was 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 founders of Rastafarianism.
Popularization and recording
The first recording of Rastafarian music was perhaps Count Ossie, followed by the 1950s recording of various forms of burru, Pocomania and other Jamaican religions. 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, which featured roots percussion and musical styles.
The 70s also saw the international popularization of reggae through Bob Marley, who incorporated nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting into his music. Songs like "Rastaman Chant" led to the religion 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 Ras Michael, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Bunny Wailer Prince Far I, Israel Vibration and literally hundreds more.