Is Reggae music gospel music? Yes and no. What attracted me to Reggae back in the mid 80s was certainly the Rastafari themed music from stalwarts (pronounced stal-a-watt in Jamaica) like Marley, Tosh and Spear.
Of course there is plenty of non-religious Reggae: love songs, pop and soul covers.
I doubt Reggae would have had such cultural saturation in the West on the backs of novelty hits like “Fattie Boom Boom” and “Israelites” or AM covers with a shuffle beat. Something about Reggae’s heavenly message attracted interested Westerners looking for something exotic and non-mainstream.
In the 70s lots of people in the West opted out of Christianity, (especially Catholicism and Judaism), and went for something new. Some went to cults. Others went for Reggae: Movement of Jah People while also protesting against the “system.” Or the corrupt and greedy “shit-stem” as Peter Tosh called it. Socialism with a small “s”.
You don’t have to be a Rasta to sing or enjoy Reggae. But the conventional wisdom is that Reggae is identified as a counter cultural exploration of worship of His Imperial Majesty as a Black Jesus. West Africans ripped from the continent, put down in Jamaica in bondage and expected to worship their master’s white god.
Rebelling against that physical and mental slavery, while still preserving Christian traditions, led to Rastafari in Jamaica: Look to a black king crowned in East Africa. The return of Jesus who will lead blacks out of “Babylon” (The West, Jamaica, UK, America, etc.) to “Zion” (Africa or better still Ethiopia.)
I’m not a Rasta. My roots are in Northern Europe and Iran. I consider myself a Rastafari empathizer. Someone who understands and appreciates the religion as a devoted observer. Not a devotee.
I grew up a twice a year Methodist: Christmas Eve and Easter. The only time the Nelson family really went to weekly Sunday service was the two years my Dad was on the City Council in Fort Benton Montana.
Not that I haven’t been trying to be a “missionary” for the secular consumption of Reggae music. I celebrate Jah for the inspiration in thousands of Reggae tunes that fill my soul with joy. But I am careful not to endorse HIM out of respect for true believers. I don’t want to be a part of what Jacob Miller complained about: Too much commercialization of Rastafari!
The reason I bring this up: I had an interview with Jamaican Reggae singer Etana. So I do what I normally do before a phone interview: go on Wikipedia and read up on the artist’s entry.
Her album I Rise starts off with a gospel cover of a brilliant Bob Marley cover tune: Selassie is the Chapel. Itself an update of an old American gospel tune. Covered by Elvis.
Etana’s entry mentioned her recording genres thusly: Reggae, Gospel.
While introducing her to the radio listeners, I casually mentioned Etana was a Reggae and Gospel artist coming to town. She interrupted me and corrected me. She was most certainly NOT a Gospel singer. Her music was not geared to religiosity.
No worries. I did political interviews for 9 years. You don’t have to agree with me to have a conversation.
But when you lead off your album with a Rasta cover of a full on gospel song you can see where I might have been mistaken!; 21 sec.
By the way, I am not religious either. What earthlings worshipped as Skygods were Ancient Aliens colonizing Earth to mine gold to take back to their homeworld, Nibiru, beyond our galaxy.
Set your I watch alarm to 2900AD. That’s when the Anunnaki return to Earth.
In fact Etana the Reggae Singer, meet Etana the Sumerian King
Etana was an ancient Sumerian king of the city of Kish. According to the Sumerian King List, he reigned after the deluge. The list also calls Etana “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries”, and states that he ruled 1560 years.
Ascended to Heaven in a Chariot of the Gods (Erich Von Daniken)
Here is what I have for you during the next 3 hours of Roots Reggae, Dubwize and Gospel; 18 sec.
Annotated Playlist (photos, captions, Reggae History Lessons, soundbytes)
Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives: May 30, 3015:
Wayne Jarrett – Saturday Night Jamboree; 12” (Dub Irator) ‘80
Bullwackies All Stars – Recording Connection; Black World (Wackies) ’79 Dub Album of the Week