Judaism, Christianism and Rastafarianism: The Essence of a Culture

by zachariecouture on November 5, 2015 - 11:41pm

Since as long as we can remember, people rely on religion to provide answer on what is still considered enigmas for the scientists. These religion may all differ from one another, but the big majority have one thing in common: “Give thanks and praise to the Lord and [we] will feel all right’’ (One Love - Bob Marley). In other words, believe in God and he will look after you. It is to say, Rastafarianism shared affinity with Judeo-Christianism.


To begin with, Joseph Thompson’s articles is separated in 6 distinct sections, only two which are truly interesting for my thesis: How does the Rastafarianism influence reggae music. Overall, the work presents the function of Rastafari reggae, the links between the movement and its ancestors, the pretended hijacking of Psalms and the main revendication of the Rastafarians.


In the first section, ‘‘Judah to Jamaica: ‘‘Babylon’’ and ‘’Zion’’’’ (331), the author explains how and where Rastafari movement took birth. Jamaican discovered the Judaic texts in its English translated version, which they then slightly reshaped. Also, when the English settlers arrived in Jamaica, they considered the religion ‘‘too sophisticated’’ (332) to be inculcated to African savages. They preferred simply developing slavery. Consequently, it took almost two hundred years before black Jamaicans were introduced to Judeo-Christianism (and still only from ‘‘non-conformist’’ cults). Later, Thompson defines Zion and Babylon, which are two more than common words in the Rastafari movement. They represent the two systems, the good one the the evil one. At the end, the subject of borrowing to the Judaic verses is approached and the author states: ‘’The core religious vocabulary of the Rastafari reggae originates in the King James version, but nearly all the names, places, and words have undergone extensive and creative deformation of language into Jamaicans’ own distinctive idiom’’ (333). The reggae music is a part of Rastafari religion and vice-versa. 


In the second part, we get informed of the Rastafarian ‘‘Jah’’ (God), Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian Emperor which is considered of all as the center of the movement. Then, it is explained that reggae music is, in a sens, essential to Rastafari belief. The boundaries of the expression have changed over time and some musics these days aren't as linked to the religious debate as the predecessor were. The article also cites Leonard Barrett, author of The Rastafarians: ‘‘Rastafarian religious music is still Nyabingi’’ and ‘‘most Rastafarians do not even listen to reggae’’ (338). Presented this way, it shocks but they are still very connected. Otherwise, do you think all Christians listen to gospel? Near the end, the Thompson says that reggae music never stopped evolving since Bob Marley and Peter Tosh’s generation. For exemple, some emerging artists direct themselves toward subgenres, like ‘‘ragamuffin’’, a more modernized approach to Jamaican urban culture.


To conclude, the article is very well-constructed and offers various information directly from the mouth of big Rastafarian authority figures (Nathaniel Samuel Murrel, for instance). However, I find the text hard to understand as it constantly makes allusion to religious works and I do not detain very expanded knowledge about it. Although I missed some parts of explanation, I could get a really good idea of the bases of the Rastafari movement and its closeness to the Judaism and Christianism. 





Thompson, Joseph. "From Judah To Jamaica: The Psalms In Rastafari Reggae." Religion & The Arts 16.4 (2012): 328-356. Academic Search Elite. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.