In 1920, Jamaican pan-African Nationalist Marcus Garvey issued a prophecy:
“Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand”. That was the signal to take the Black Star Liner* out of Babylon (the West, Jamaica) to return to Africa.
*(The White Starliner was the passenger ship company of Titanic notoriety.)
To dispossessed black Jamaicans living in the slums of Kingston, the alienation from a white God/Jesus and a longing to return to the glory of the Mother Continent was a catalyst moment in the development of what became Roots Reggae.
Slavery, poverty and the stigma of human bondage weighed heavy on the frustrated masses left behind after 19th century emancipation.
Four hundred years,
and it’s the same, the same philosophy
I’ve said it’s four hundred years – look, how long
And, the people, they still can’t see – Peter Tosh
Nov. 2, 1930 Garvey’s prophesy came to pass.
Ras Tafari Makonnen was a reforming governor serving the first African Empress, Zewditu. The East African nation of Ethiopia was trying to break free of the crushing poverty of a feudal society where dirt poor tenant farmers served a small, exploitative rentier class.
How to usher the nation, free from European colonial rule, into the modern era of science, medicine, education, trade.
Empress Zewditu had no surviving children. Ras Tafari* had a strong pedigree as a potential successor:
*Ras is the equivalent of Prince or Duke; Tafari is an honorific – “one who is respected”. To Rastas, those who worship Selassie as the living God, Ras Tafari means “Head Creator.”
- Descended from the Solomonic lineage of Makeda – the Queen of Sheba who married the Israelite King Solomon
- His maternal grandfather was the grandson of a previous Ethiopian King
- Ras Tafari‘s father was a general in the Ethiopian army who helped defeat the Italian invaders in 1896
Royal reactionaries tried to stop Ras Tafari from competing with Zewditu. She had proclaimed him King (Negus) but Ras Tafari declined the offer to leave the capital of Addis Ababa for one of the outer provinces, which was tradition for the heir apparent.
Only one person can sit upon the throne…
Near the end of the Empress’s life, she tried to have him deposed as regent – successor. These coup attempts to stop him failed.
Zewditu’s husband raised an army against Ras Tafari but he was killed fighting provincial troops loyal to the Negus/Ras . In early 1930 the Empress died from the “shock” of her husband’s defeat. (But many think she was poisoned.)
Ras Tafari proved the victor and consolidated his power. He went from King (Negus) to Emperor (Negusa Negast – King of Kings.)
Ras Tafari Makonnen became forever known as Haile Selassie I, first of his name – in Game of Thrones parlance. Power of the Trinity
Nov. 2, 1930 a royal coronation ceremony was held in Addis Ababa. It was a grand affair with many European, Middle Eastern and Asian dignitaries in attendance. I ‘n’ I have included the news reel footage below the text.
Jamaicans saw this five minute film clip played before the feature at the local Kingston movie theaters. Garvey’s prophecy writ large.
That event eventually sparked the rise of Rastafari worship in Jamaica expressed through the “gospel” music of the Wailers, Burning Spear, Culture and hundreds of others.
<Selassie’s coronation that rules the nation! 1 min. 22 sec.>
I ‘n’ I consider myself a Rastafari empathizer. Platonic love songs to a man who started out with noble ideas and eventually came to an ignoble demise: deposed by Communist revolutionaries in 1974.
Shortly thereafter, the captive Negusa Negast, was strangled in his bed and buried beneath the latrines in the Royal Palace.
In an ironic and tragic twist of events, the reforming governor Ras Tafari Makonnen was let down by his corrupt provincial governors as Emperor Selassie I.
The governors in the provinces reported that there were record harvests when in fact there was a horrible famine killing tens of thousands.
But in the immortal words of Bob Marley – Jah Live:
Fools say in their hearts
Rasta, your god is dead
But I and I know, Jah Jah
Dread it shall be dreaded and dread
Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives: Jah-vember 2, 2019 Annotated Playlist: 50 sec.
- African Princess – Jah Children Cry; Hits From the House of Shaka (Jah Shaka) ’85 UK vinyl
- Dillinger – Daylight Saving Time; Listen Up! Deejay Style (Kingston Sounds)
- Bim Sherman – Nightmare; Crucial Cuts vol. 1 (Century) ‘86
- Itals – Jah Glory; Calling Rastafari (Nighthawk) ‘82
- Cynthia Richards – Aily I; Reggae Classics (DCC) ’73 4:20 Cannabis Service Announcement
- Lee “Scratch” Perry & Full Experience w/ Prince Jazzbo – Disco Devil; 12” (Upsetter) ’77 UK
- Augustus Pablo – Thriller; Thriller (Echo) ’80 UK dub vinyl album of the hour
- Cymande – Rastafarian Folk Song; Cymande (Sequel) ’74 UK expat group: soul, jazz, reggae
- Hortense Ellis – Unexpected Places; Music Works vol. 2: Lovers Dancehall (Red Arrow) ‘76
- Junior Ross & the Spears – Judgement Time; I Can Hear the Children Singing (Blood and Fire) ‘76
- Lone Ranger – Barnabas Collins; 12” (GG’s Hit) ’78 JA; soap opera vampire
Set 3: Best of Smile Jamaica 30 Years
- Prince Buster – Ghost Dance; FABulous Greatest Hits (Melodisc) ’72
- The Ethiopians – Obeah Book; Slave Call (Heartbeat) ’75 obeah = Jamaican black magic
- Aisha – Evil Forces; High Priestess (Ariwa) ‘88
- Lucky Dube – Dracula; Prisoner (Shanachie) ‘90
<Lucky Dube’s Dracula in SLC and South Africa; 66 sec.>
- Aba Shanti – Joseph; Wrath of Jah: Verse 1 (Falasha) ’96 Dub Album of the Hour
- Yellowman – Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt; Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt (Shanachie) ‘84 Request
- Thievery Corporation feat. Emiliana Torrianni – Until the Morning; Babylon Rewound (ESL) 2004 DC dubbers rmx EP
- Mystic Bowie & the Pallbearers – Voodooman; Rebirth (Zimbra) 2001 Connecticut
- The Gladiators – Evil Doers; 12” (Virgin) ’81 UK
Set 5: Vinyl is Vital
- Kwame – Hellhound; Follow I (Polydor) ’83 US
- Bushman – Back Weh Vampire; 10” EP (Stingray) 2010 UK
- Inner Circle – Duppy or Gunman; Rock the Boat (Trojan) ’74 UK
- Icarus – Land of the Tarot; State of Mind (Russian Roulette) ’83 UK
- Nigger Kojak & Liza – Two Bad Duppy; Showcase (Nigger Kojak) ’80 UK
Set 6: Wailers Family Tree
- Bob Marley & the Wailers – I Want Somewhere; Marley, Tosh, Livingston & Associates (Studio One) ’66 JA vinyl
<I Want Somewhere song biography; 1 min. 15 sec.>
- Peter Tosh – Rastafari Is; Wanted (bootleg) Sept. 29, 1981 Live at the Ritz, NYC
- Bunny Wailer – Guiltiness; Hall of Fame (RAS) ’95 50 Bob covers for 50th Birthday
- Jonah Dan Meets Bush Chemists – Dangerous Dub; Dubs From Zion Valley (Conscious Sounds) ’94 Dub Album of the Hour
Set 7: Rockers do Reggae
- The Hooters – All You Zombies; Nervous Night (Columbia) ’85 Rockers do Reggae
- Garland Jeffreys feat. Big Youth – Graveyard Rock; Escape Artist (Epic) ‘81
- The Scorpions – Is There Anybody There; Lovedrive (Mercury) ‘79
Set 8: Mutant Dub
- Noiseshaper – Daemons; Rough Out There (Collision) 2005 Jah-stria
- The Gorillaz – Dracula; The Gorillaz (Virgin) 2000
- Dubblestandart feat. Gudrun & Lee “Scratch” Perry – Chase the Devil; Return From Planet Dub (Collision) 2009 Max Romeo cover w/ female vox
- Omar Perry – The Ghostmakers; Can’t Stop Us (Makasound) 2009
- Funky Porcini – Flesh Eater Boulevard; Zombie (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!) 2000 Germany
- Kode9 & the Spaceape – Ghost Town; 5 Years of Hyperdub (Hyperdub) 2009 dubstep Specials cover