Happy Birthday to the inspiration of tens of thousands of Roots Reggae songs. Born July 23, 1892
I work in an Academic Library (The Marriott Library at the University of Utah). Part of my duties is to assist patrons at the Help Desk on Level 2.
It is really quiet in the Summer. I thought I would work up a little birthday posting on account of His Imperial Majesty.
I went to the Marriott’s webpage and found a copy of the above photo: Drawn by Alvin Gittens. Hanging on the fifth floor of the Marriott Library.*
*Alvin’s son Chris trained me at KRCL 90.9FM. His father was flown in to Addis Ababa to paint an impatient Emperor. HIM was only willing to sit for about the half the time Gittens’ usually devoted to his portraits. Chris passed away about a decade ago of cancer.
As I was finishing the caption above, a dapper black gentlemen approached my desk. This is a case of serendipity or synchronicity or kismet. The patron wanted to know, in a crisp African accent, where the Library kept its History books on Ethiopia. The Zion of Rastafari. The Kingdom of His Imperial Majesty. Goosebumps!
The Library of Congress Classification for Ethiopian History (or its former name Abyssinia) is in the DT 371-390 shelves.
While I walked this gentleman and his wife to the section, I asked him if he knew today (July 23) was Haile Selassie’s Birthday. His eyes lit up. “How did you know that!”. I told him about Smile Jamaica and my 26 years of devotion to Ethiopian-esque and especially paying tribute and respect to His Imperial Majesty.
He was amazed. I recommended several books I had read. This man is a Physician who was writing a novel set in his home country. We chatted about our mutual admiration for Selassie. He was proud that his country had come out of 25 years of Civil War and repression to be the fastest growing economy in Africa.
It was really nice to know that my admiration of Selassie could be of use in my professional job. And even better: I recruited another soldier of Jah’s Army by virtue of the Rastafari Gospel that I “preach” for 26 years doing Reggae Radio. I let the music function as hymns to HIM.
A suggestion: It is preferred to call believers in HIM: Rastafari. Singular and plural. As Bob Marley said, “Don’t bother me with your isms and schisms”
<Carlene Davis – Isms and Schisms; 4 min>
That said there are two important caveats: The Rastafarians – the Reggae group out of Rasta Cruz, Collie-fornya. And Leonard E. Barrett’s crucial academic book The Rastafarians
Barrett’s book was a huge influence on me. Some of the lessons learned were how important Hinduism was to early Rastas. When Jamaicans threw off the yoke of slavery, British plantation owners imported Hindu laborers from Britain’s India Colony. Blacks and Indians worked side by side.
Hindu influences include:
- Reincarnation: Some sects of Rastafari believe that HIM is the embodiment of Christ returning to Earth.
- Ganja – Hindus brought Cannabis from India to Jamaica where blacks partook of the Seven Leaf as well
- Kali – The Hindu Goddess of destruction where the ritual consumption of cannabis was part of worship. Rastas also ritually smoke cannabis or Collie. “Collie gives you wisdom.”
- Dreadlocks – Hindu Sadhus flashed dreads as a physical manifestation of belief. Rastas adopted the practice and modified it with the Old Testament Nazarite Vow
<Invoking Amharic; 45 sec.>
From the line of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia)
- Ras Tafari Makonnen – He Who inspires Awe, The Angel
- Jah Rastafari
- His Imperial Majesty
- Light of the World
- Negusa Negast (King of Kings)
- Lord of Lords
- Power of the Trinity
- Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah
- Elect of God, Everliving God
- Earth’s Rightful Ruler
- Iyesos Christos (Jesus Christ)
- Gedamawi – First among the Holy
- Kibir Am Lak – The Great God
- Igzaibeher Yimmasgan – Let Jah Be Praised
- Ababa Janhoi – Father Majesty