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
July 20, 1969. Mankind finally reached the boundaries of outerspace. The most amazing technological achievement of our species.
My Mesopotamian ancestors, the Anunnaki, must have been tremendously proud of us!
I was 4 years old and vaguely remember watching this with my family. My Assyrian grandparents were in Montana with us visiting from Turlock, Colly-fornya. I remember them chattering away in Syriac in amazement with my mom. While my Anglo dad probably sat on the couch nursing an Olympia. (Which we called Owl Piss in high school.)
Smile Jamaica Jah-neology: Assyrian, German, Norwegian. Thus, I am Half Assed
My Grandfather Jibrael was my hero before Bob Marley. I moved to Utah from Montana to study the Middle East. Picked up a couple of degrees in Arabic and Middle East History at the University of Utah. Wanted to devote my life to settling the tribal war of brother killing brother. Took the Foreign Service exam. I had one year to go: either work for the Government or go to Grad School in Collie-fornya.
I lost the plot during the first Gulf War. I did not want to be like James Bond and become a grungier version of a Neoliberal hitman. “Shaken not stirred?” More like, “bongrip not rolled.”
Decided to stick around and devote my attention to Roots Reggae instead on Smile Jamaica. Take some time to consider my options.
While I was in the Middle East program, I met a variety of Muslims from around the World: Palestinians, Syrians, Malaysians, Iranians, Turks. Went to lots of parties and settled the world’s problems via awesome food choices.
One of these discussions I remember having was the rumor in the Muslim world that Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the Moon, was a Muslim.
Here is the Urban Legend:
There is no sound in outerspace. While Neil Armstrong was doing the original Moonwalk, he heard something he could not explain in his space helmet. It wasn’t radio static from Mission Control. It wasn’t random noise or gibberish but a language of vocabulary and sentences.
When Armstrong, an International hero, visited Cairo, Egypt, he heard the Muezzin: The man who takes to the heights to call his fellow Muslims to prayer.
Neil was staggered. That is what he heard in space! He converted to Islam before he left Cairo.
He gave me the Hairy Eyeball. Never answered my query in his columns. Probably because I aced him out on a response on the Beatles’ “butcher block” cover of the albumYesterday and Today
BUTCHERED BEATLES ALBUMS
In your discussion of the controversy over the “butcher cover” of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” … and Today [January 9], you mentioned that the design showing the moptops draped in raw cuts of meat and holding decapitated dolls was an attempt to satirize the vapid cover art of the time. But this isn’t really what the bloody motif was meant to represent. It was a protest by the Beatles directed at Capitol, their American record label. Capitol was in the habit of shaving tracks from the British LPs and hoarding them for another full album of “new” songs for American consumption in between “official” releases. The butcher cover was a statement against the greed of the American record label who “butchered” the Beatles’ artistic integrity for the sake of commerce. –Robert Nelson, Salt Lake City, Utah
Some people claim to have heard this explanation from John Lennon himself. Maybe they did, but if so it’s an explanation Lennon cooked up after the fact. As I explained before, the idea for the cover came from photographer Bob Whitaker, and the Beatles eagerly agreed to it. At the time Lennon reportedly said, “I especially pushed for it … just to break the image.” That it did. To quote my assistant Jane, who has a “peeled” copy of the stereo version of the album–that is, with the bland replacement cover photo peeled off: “Eww.”
— Cecil Adams
Smile Jamaica 1; Straight Dope 0
When Neil applied to lead a Boy Scout troop there was a requirement that he describe his religious affiliation. He wrote deist. A true stoic hero of rare magnitude who eschewed political attempts to co-opt his celebrity and resented American Exceptionalism as the self appointed world’s policeman. He passed away in 2012.
On a more optimistic Middle Eastern/space exploration note:
Since America and Russia squandered our scientific resources on Mutual Assured Nucelar Destruction, we as a people haven’t budged on space travel. The way I see it, we should have been space hopping and making Extra Terrestrial contact with our planetary neighbors in the decades since Neil and his mates took that “giant leap for mankind.”
Praise Anu, that our Emirati peers are going to re-boot planetary travel
I moved to Utah to go to University Fall 1986. I had spent the previous 3 years in Bozeman, Jah-tana. Go Bobcats!
My last (and coldest) year at Montana State, I discovered their community/college radio station KGLT.
My musical tastes were sort of in limbo. I had just started subscribing to this new magazine, Spin.I was big into college rock: The Minutemen, (Double Nickels on the Dime,), The Replacements (Pleased to Meet Me) and Husker Du (New Day Rising).
When I wasn’t listening to the local radio, I was watching MTV when the station actually played music videos: The Cult, Big Audio Dynamite, Jesus and Mary Chain.
I was alienated from most contemporary Rock (too many synth drums, Neil Young as a Republican), Hair Metal balladry (Perfect for the culturally bereft Reagan “Just Say No” era). The Clash fell apart.
And the only King of Pop for me is the King of Kings: The Negus; Negusa Negast; Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Elect of God, ever-living Jah. Earth’s Rightful Ruler
<Smile Jamaica Reggae History Lesson: Definition of Negus. 17 sec.>
So when I got my Student Loan check from Uncle Ron, I had some easy cash for these new fangled things called the Compact Disk. Moving from 25,000 people in Bozeman to a couple hundred thousand in Salt Lake City gave me more musical choices.
I bought a little blues, I picked up some quality world music. Mostly in Salt Lake stores long gone: Smokey’s Records, Raspberry Records, The Mad Platter. The (real) Cosmic Aeroplane.
My first Reggae acquisitions: Jimmy Cliff Harder They Come soundtrack and Reggae Greats. Bob Marley’s whole catalog had just been reissued on CD for midline price. Bought them all. Sly and Robbie – Taxi Fare: The very first CD purchase. Steel Pulse – True Democracy. UB40 – Labour of Love
As usual my timing sucked. When I was scouting Utah as a move, I dialed in to their excellent Indie station: KCGL. Listened to it every day all day when I relocated. Alas, about six weeks into Fall of 1986, it was bought out and converted to a religious station. WTF?
As Bob Marley said, “When one door closes, another will open.” A friend I had met in the dorms turned me on to Salt Lake’s Community station, KRCL.
That’s how I learned about Reggae Radio: from their Saturday Afternoon program, Smile Jamaica (then heard 1-4pm.)
My friend was a Jewish kid from Baltimore, computer programming major who had a really great CD collection and the stereo setup to make it pop. The dorms at the University of Utah were glorified closets encased in brick. Excellent environment for sound ricochet.
I told my buddy Neal that I had been, sort of, gravitating towards Reggae out of these compelling sub genres thanks to my radio consumption of Smile Jamaica.
He went to his book shelf and grabbed Black Uhuru’s Anthem off a rack. Popped it into his Nakamichi super duper CD player. Bose 901 speakers. Itched up the volume for a Friday night. And KABOOM!!!
Sly & Robbie were in high demand during the midpoint of this decade of wretched excess wiring the groove of synthesized drum & bass. Perfect for Roots Reggae. Dylan, Springsteen, Clapton and The Stones? Meh, not so much.
Michael Rose’s Afro Arab singing was right in line with my understanding of African vocalists like King Sunny, Youssou N’Dour and Fela Kuti.
Female singer Puma Jones’ a-syncopated harmonies clashed with Ducky Simpson’s growl foreshadowed my complete and never ending immersion in Reggae ever since. 28 years of collecting it. 26 years of promoting it on the extra terrestrial Radio waves.
Black Uhuru – Anthem. More than any of the 70s Roots or UB40’s pop groove.
This was protest music for me. Anthems for the underdogs. I had found something to synchronize my politics, too, as a life long anti-authoritarian Progressive who has voted Third Party since 1984 when I became old enough to vote.
Pretty much all my expendable income was and is going to Roots Reggae from Fall of 1986 till I join Jah’s Heavenly Choir.
I tell you how I got on KRCL with this Anniversary Preview Post. This Ark-Ive Stream Edition Podcast celebrates that legacy with All Vinyl.
Hit the link above or below and feast your ears on these musical treats
Vinyl liberated from 112 degrees Las Vegas: Third World, Jimmy Riley, Josey Wales
Roots Dawtas. Hard hitting UK Dub poetesses
Seven Leaf and 420 Cannabis Service Announcement
<Seven Leaf Jah-sterity; 1 min 34 sec?>
Mutant Dubwize to end the program. Black Wax stylee
Heavy Roots & Culture stretched out with Extended Mix dubjams
Black Uhuru – What Is Life?; Anthem (Mango) ’84 US
The Scientist Meets Ted Sirota’s – Scientific Strut; Heavyweight Dub (Liberated Zone) 2013; Dub Album of the Week
Jimmy Riley – I Wish It Would Rain; Rydim Driven (Mango) ’81 US: Temptations soul cover
Misty in Roots – City Runnings; In Progess (People Unite) ’84 UK
Sister Netifa – Daughters of the Soil; Woman Determined (Aluta) ’88 UK female dub poet
John Holt – Police in Helicopter; 12” (Holt) ’83 4:20 Cannabis Service Announcement***End of Set 1
Third World – The Story’s Been Told; 12” (Island) ’79 German pressing
Mighty Diamonds – One Brother Short; Vital Selection (Virgin Front Line) ’81 UK best of
Jean Binta Breeze – Tracks + Nanny; Tracks (LKJ) ’91 UK dub poet. Nanny national hero of Jamaica***End of Set 2
Josey Wales – Who We Baby; 12” (Volcano) ‘83
The Selecter – Deep Water; Celebrate the Bullet (Chrysalis) ’81 2 Tone ska; Pauline Black vox
Niccodemus (sic) – Spar With Me; Dance Hall Style (Black Joy) ’82 UK***End of Set 3
10 Ft. Ganja Plant – Sing and Dance; Skycatcher (ROIR) 2013 Upstate Jah York
Sis Nya – Serious Time; Jah Music (Jah Shaka) ‘87 UK female vox
Michael Palmer – Ghetto Living; Ghetto Living (Bebo’s Music) ’85 Wheaton, Maryland
Barrington Spence – Jah Jah Train; Speak Softly (Trojan ‘76 UK***End of Set 4
Sister Carol – Liberation For the African; Liberation For Africa (Serious Gold) ’83 NYC Sevenleaf Vinyl set
Lovindeer – Free the Marijuana; De Blinkin’ Bus (TSOJ) ’82 JA
Lion Youth – Natty Bring de Couchi; Love Comes & Goes (Virgo Stomach) ‘81 UK clear vinyl
The Heptones – Sensemenia Collie; One Step Ahead (Sonic) JA***End of Set 5
Carlton Livingston – 100 Lbs. of Collie; 10” (Roots Injection) 2010 mutant dub herbal update of his classic 420
Capital Letters – Fire; Headline News (Greensleeves) ’79 UK youth group
Junior Ross and the Spears – You Can’t Run; Babylon Fall (Stars) ’76 JA
Jennifer Lara – Hand to Mouth; High Times All Star Explosion (Alligator) ’85 Jah-cago; blues label/reggae ***End of Set 6
Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus – Black Vibes; Revelation (Trojan) ’82 UK niyabinghi drums
New Age Steppers feat. Ari Up – Stormy Weather; Foundation Steppers (ON U Sound) ’82 UK Billie Holiday feat. Female vox
Singers and Players feat. Sister P. – Holy Scripture; Vacuum Pumping ’88 UK mutant dub set
Motion Detector – Dubtrain; 12” (LSF) 2002 US red vinyl
The Outsider – Rumours of War; The Outsider Meets the High-Tech Roots Dyanmics (Jah Works) ’93 UK melodica dubs