This message are wrote by Sista Irie -Rapture –
On versionist because I post a message called “for all nya man” sorry for the mystake
Thanks you sista to share this knowledge with I’n’I

Part I…

The binghi drums in Jamaica are most often made of coconut tree wood.

Did you know the first Nyabinghi drummers were women and the movement began in Uganda? I sometimes wonder why rasta and reggae stay so ‘man’ centered as this is a beautiful part of the history. The groundations in Jamaica are magical, however, women must cover their heads, arms, and legs fully and often have their own drumming circle. I have always been welcome but only when acccompanied by an accepted escort:

The term “nyahbinghi” is said to have come from a religious, spiritual, and political movement in East Africa beginning in the 1850’s until the 1950 led by a series of spiritually influential women and focused on military actions against white imperialists and colonialists. It is thought that the term was a women-centered popular movement in Uganda that led the resistance against European settlers who were attempting to overrule Africans. The Nyabinghi movement was centered around a woman healer, Muhumusa, who was possessed by the spirit of Nyabinghi, a legendary ‘Amazon Queen.’ Muhumusa organized armed resistance against German colonialists and was detained in Uganda in 1913 by the British. The spirit of Nyabinghi possessed mostly women, but also men who led uprisings against the British in later years. British effort to destroy the Nyabinghi movement was through their criminalizing it as witchcraft through Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912, which promoted Christianity and encouraged other indigenous anti-Nyabinghi cults. The British used the witch burning procedure of 1500 to 1600 that were central in the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist relations in Europe (Turner 23).

Robert I. Rotberg, in his book Rebellion in Black Africa (London: Oxford University Press, 1971) suggests that the word nyabinghi means “she who possesses many things.” However, in Jamaica, the term means “death to the Black and White oppressors.” (Barrett 121). To dance nyabinghi against an identified oppressor was, Rasta believed, to invoke in a sure way the power of Jah to destroy him. During the Dreadlocks era, Rastafarians would dance nyabinghi to bring death to oppressors, and today, these dances are purely ceremonial celebrations which last several days. Nyabinghi today, sometimes referred to as “binghi,” is the dance on special occasions to commemorate events sacred to Rastafarians. Some of the holy days celebrated are the coronation of his Imperial majesty (November 2), his majesty’s ceremonial birthday (January 6), his visit to Jamaica (April 25, 1966), his majesty’s personal birthday (July 23, 1892), Emancipation from slavery (August 1), and Marcus Garvey’s birthday (August 17).

This ritual of Rastafari, also known as a grounation, first took place in Jamaica in March of 1958. This was the first nationwide Rasta convention in the home of Rastafari. “Grounation” means the affirmation of life through earth (Nicholas 68). Grounations occur around the twenty-first of April each year and last several days and are the only organized worship of Rastafari. The first site of the first nationwide Rasta grounation in March of 1958, located in Back O’ Wall, Kingston, is named Coptic Theocratic Temple (Mulvaney 19). Rastas gather in a place in the countryside and spend the daytime cooking, smoking ganja, praising Jah, resting and reasoning with fellow Rasta bredren and sisters, gathering firewood, and preparing camp. Only “ital,” or unprocessed, vegetarian, salt free food is eaten at the gathering and is a way of life for the Rastaman. Greeting such as “Irie, bredren,” peace and love, Rasta,” “Dread Rasta,” and “praises due Selassie I” can be heard throughout the gathering.
In this newly created Rasta community, children are perfectly free. They can wander and run around and if they ever begin to feel anxious or scared or need anything at all, they will receive the same love from any Rasta nearby as they would from their parents. This form of family is “overstood” at grounation. When the sun sets later in the day, camping preparations are concluded and the newly created Rasta village moves up to the top of a hill and forms a congregation in which they “praise their own divinity in devotion to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie” (Nicholas 70). Some of the sisters remain in the campsites to watch the babies and children who are asleep. In Tracy Nicholas and Bill Sparrow’s book Rastafari, they illustrate the scene from a grounation at twilight.

The bonfire burns huge and hot on the slope of the hill. At its crest, the hill boasts to the sky a circular palm-covered shelter. The smoke from the fire is thick but wafts incandescent as incense. The fire pops and crackles and small flecks of flame spark upward to the shelter in drifts of smoke.

The Nyabinghi is heard here, raising the power of Earth to the sky. Through rhythmic beats on the heavy bass drum, you can feel the earth’s very center- and the rhythms forming above the bass, from smaller drums, carry the Rasta cry of freedom and dignity into sky above, lit with stars so bright they seem to point the way to eternity.
Here the bredren, the sons, the sisters and daughters of Rastafari have come to relax and share their innate power in nature. Some play the drums. Others dance in an unfrenzied, flowing motion. Each has his own, but all emanate from, and return to, the essential rhythm. Nyabinghi.

Two young men, tall and lean, stand in subdued conversation, their dreadlocks casting shadows on their features so they appear as some holy apparition in the reflection of the firelight. The smoke drifts between them. This may be some reasoning on the nature of man. Or it may relate that the woman has come fruitful and will soon bear child. Or it may be that the kali grew high this year on the earth one cultivates. Whichever and whenever, it is free, You are free. A tall, dark Rasta, with red fabric fashioned to flow cape-like from his weary, young shoulders, stomps the outskirts of the fire, chanting, bringing the Masia from Africa to life in the Jamaican darkness.

The Nyabinghi plays on into the night. And the night is deeper, darker, than has ever been seen. The Nyabinghi is deep with the night. The chanting in the circle plays in and out, through the toning of the drums. Each sings his own song, all sing the same song, “Carry Rastafari home.” There is love, there is anguish, there is sorrow, there is pleasure, there is laughter and anger. Through everything, there is devotion, a certainty that this is a holy way of life, a certainty of manifesting divine principles (Nicholas 70).

In this dynamic tradition, there is an atmosphere of peace and contentment- which all stems from Dreads living in the light of Jah. In the strictest Rastafarian sect out of half a dozen, which is called Nyabinghi, Rastas take an oath pledging “death to black and white oppressors.” Yet they refuse to carry weapons: “Violence,” a Rasta explains, “is left to Jah. God alone has the right to destroy.” Nyabinghi Rastafarians cite Genesis, saying that God made the earth with words- ‘”Let there be light,’ Jah said, and there was light.'” They believe that when all Jah’s children are united in one cry of ‘death to black and white oppressors,’ destruction will surely come to the exploiters (Potash 53).

Rastas refer to themselves as “I and I.” They speak always of themselves in the plural because they believe God is living inside them. Dreads also believe that drums are the voice of God. It is believed that the spirit of God is manifestly present in the drum and every sound it produces and, therefore, directly links the visible and invisible worlds. The drum holds an extremely spiritual place in a Rasta’s heart because of its roots in Africa and as John Storm Roberts states in his book Black Music of Two Worlds, – “No drums, no spirits- and no ritual” (Roberts xxiv). Traditional African music is the “phonic expression of psychic experiences generated within the spiritual framework of traditional institutions which, in turn, constitute the basis of society” (Jackson 37).
There is a great diversity of music in Africa and at least 2,000 different tribes hold their own customs. The huge continent can be divided, obviously, into East, West, Central, and Southern Africa, and then into sub-divisions. Each tribe within each region has its own musical styles, but certain basic musical elements transcend local differences. (Roberts xxii). The great majority of slaves were from three main cultural regions: the coastal rainforest area of West Africa, which includes the Yoruba, Ewe, Ashanti, Fon, Ibo; the savanna belt, which lies from the coast at Guinea to the north of the Sudanese rainforest area; and the Congo-Angolan area, populated largely by the Bantu (Roberts 2).

At times, the slaving ships would collect and bring with them African instruments to both the West Indies and the United States. Planters encouraged music making among new arrivals on the basis that people in deep depression do not work very well and that familiar music would help newcomers adjust. Work songs of the New World preserved a large degree of Africanism. Although the permitting of the slaves to make music and dance was purely self-interest of the slave drivers, it allowed for African music to survive for at least the first generation and then later transform into neo-African music in some circumstances (Roberts 3).

Part II

The British brought thousands of West Africans, mostly from the Gold Coast and Nigeria, to Jamaica. The Ashanti, from Western Africa, have had the greatest influence on Jamaican culture. The Ashanti tongue, Twi, still carries on to this day throughout the island. The folk religion, Kumina, which comes from two Twi words: Akom- “to be possessed,” and Ana- “by an ancestor,” was the area most dominated by Ashanti. “This ancestor-possession cult became the medium of religious expression for all Africans during the slave period” (Barrett 17). The reason so much of the Kumina ritual has survived seems to be that it was not only a legacy of slavery, but of contract workers from the Congo who arrived in Jamaica in the mid-nineteenth century (Roberts 34).
A Kumina ritual always involves drumming and dancing. In African culture, the drum is recognized as an instrument of communication (Potash 4). Special occasions, including ceremonies for the rites of passage, and even illness would call for a Kumina. A sacrifice is always made and the dancing continues until possession of the spirit of the ancestors of either the dancer or of the person who calls the Kumina is achieved. Under Kumina possession, a revelation that is considered sacred is given by the ancestors concerning the occasion for which the ritual is called (Barrett 19). Kumina’s distinctive drumming moved to Kingston in the 1930’s and became one of the roots of Rastafarian drumming.

Burru drumming is also a root of Rastafarian music. It was first played on the island in the 1903’s in the Parish of Clarendon and later in West Kingston. When the destruction of the pinnacle forced many Rastas into Kingston, the Rastas learned burru drumming. It is believed burru refers to a dance from Ghana (Mulvaney 14).

The burru people were a diminishing group of mostly criminals who were known for their virtuoso African drumming of the traditional African instruments, dating back to the time of slavery, such as the akete drum. Musically, the Rastas followed in the burru’s application of something in pure African form untouched by Western influences (Potash 9).

The drum plays an extremely important role in Jamaica’s folk and traditional music, especially for the Rastaman. This idea behind the beauty and soul of the drum in Africa was brought to Jamaica not only through slavery, religion, and cults, but also through the “flight” of slaves. This was an incidence in which a significant minority of Africans escaped slavery by flight into the interior, when the interior was a condition that would allow for this. The most well known of these groups are the Saramaka, Boni, the Maroons of the Guianas, who were protected by the dense jungle, and the Maroons of Jamaica, who protected themselves and their independence with the use of weaponry. These so-called Bush Negros were the repositories of neo-African music.

In his book African Civilization of the New World, Roger Bastide draws a similar conclusion.
There can be no doubt that marronage was most often practiced by recently disembarked immigrants from Africa, who would certainly not have forgotten their own ancestral customs·. This we see that it is only the marronage of the Bossales, or newly imported slaves, which can be regarded as responsible for the preservation of African customs (Barrett 15).

There is no doubt that the preservation of African customs and music has been incredible. The drum is the heart of Africa and the heartbeat of the African. The white man may have thought that he could control an entire race of people by destroying their lives for his selfish purpose, but he cannot stop the voice or the heartbeat of Africa. Music, whether communal or private, is interwoven with every aspect of African life, and this custom has not faded. The drum is still beating and growing stronger, and the Rastafarians are some of the great messengers.

The drum is not only the primary instrument that provides a rich “polyridimic” (in Jamaican music, “ridim” refers to the drum and percussion patterns and tempo) base for voice instruments, but it also is the spirit of God. Because of the crucial role that the drums plays in the history of African custom, it is not surprising that there is an affluence of drums, each with a different vibration, tone, symbolism, and significance.
Three kinds of drums that are played in nyabinghi are bass, funde, and akete. The bass drum is struck on the first of the four beats and muffled on the third. This traditional African drum has been used in burru and Kumina drumming. The funde plays a steady one-two beat, and the high pitched akete drum (the repeater) plays the improvised syncopation. The origin of the drums of nyabinghi is traced as a complex interpenetration of Buru, Kumina, and Revival styles of drumming in West Kingston.
One of the first to record nyabinghi and one of the earliest Rastafarian drummers was Oswald Williams, known as “Count Ossie.” The legendary nyabinghi drummer also worked to establish and maintain African and Rasta culture in Jamaica. “Rastafarian religious music is still nyabinghi, which emerged from the African burru drumming taught to Count Ossie in his youth” Barrett 245).

In the later 1950’s, Back o’ Wall and West Kingston were the melting pot of African and indigenous Afro-European forms of music such as Kumina, burru, myal, Revivalism, Pocomania and other church variations. At this time, Count Ossie was making regular trips to “reason” with other Rasta brethren on Garveyism, Rastafarianism, black culture, and blackman redemption. It was there that Count Ossie learned to play the burru drums. As the late Ossie told it, he first learned to play the funde, and then went on to master the akete (Potash 9). Ossie’s teacher was a burru man called “Brother Job” (Chang 27).

Until 1953, only a rumba box was used and drums were totally absent from Rastafarian meetings in West Kingston. Ossie ordered a set of akete drums made to his specification and created drumming stylings based on the burru patterns. Over time he gave Rasta a music.

Rastafarian music reflects the cultists’ perception of the society. The downbeat of the drummer symbolizes the death of the oppressive society but it is answered by the akete drummers with a lighter upbeat, a resurrection of the society through the power of Ras Tafari (Barrett 193).

Part III

Ossie developed a notable reputation and eventually Prince Buster, then a singer-set deejay, decided to try some of Ossie’s rhythms in the studio. With the “Fokes Brothers” on vocals, Ossie and his drummers providing African cross-rhythmic accompaniment and background harmonies, and Owen Gray playing contrasting American styled piano, Buster produced arguably the most famous, influential and important of early Jamaican records, “Oh Carolina’. This legendary session produced two other popular ska hits, ‘They Got To Go’ and ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’, also known as ‘Judas Charmer’ (Chang 27).
‘Oh Carolina’ was Count Ossie’s biggest hit, although the 1974 ‘Grounation’ album gained a large following. This album was to be the beginning of what has become Jamaican musical industry, which has now become widespread internationally. Ossie and his group, The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, recorded the triple LP set in 1973. This album includes Rasta chants, drumming, and jazz-based instrumental expositions. It portrays a sound of Jamaican culture, percussion, and the roots of roots music (Barrow 163).

‘Tales of Mozambique’ was the next album created by Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. It was released in 1975, one year before Ossie’s death. This album holds a mixture of Rasta chants, nyabinghi drumming, jazz-based horns work, and ‘Oh Carolina’ was released on this album. There is definite controversy over who was the original creator of the tune, ‘Oh Carolna.’ John Folkes, who did the song’s vocals, says he wrote it and the British High Court supported his claims in November of 1994. Prince Buster does not agree that Folkes was the originator. The famous ‘drop down’ opening of the song is definitely copied note for note from the Carla and Rufus Thomas R&B hit ‘Cause I Love You’, released by Stax Records in August of 1960 (Chang 28).

Whatever the origin of ‘Oh Carolina’, Prince Buster, the Folkes Brothers, and Count Ossie changed the sound of Jamaican music. If one song can be singled out as signifying the birth of reggae, ‘Oh Carolina is it’. Chris Blackwell makes this interesting comment, Count Ossie was a Rastafarian: and the main thing the Rastafarian element brought to Jamaica and to Jamaican music was a real recognition and honour of Africa. In American black music there was nothing at that time that was embracing the African heritage, there was very little notion then in the America of Afrocentricity. In Jamaica, though, there was a section of the population that was looking to the west and listening to Miami and New Orleans radio, but also there existed the Rastafarian element which was saying that Jamaicans should hang on to our cultural roots. This has been a key dynamic in Jamaican music (Chang 28).

‘Oh Carolina’, however, was an anomaly because it was a song ahead of its time. Most local songs of those years sounded like poor R&B imitations or Gospel music. Nyabinghi music was heard too sporadically to be considered a commercial trend in Jamaica. In the computerized 1990’s, when hardcore ragga deejays including Caplton, Buju Banton, and Shabba Ranks electronically vocalized social and cultural concerns over rhythms that included traditional Rastafarian drumming (Barrow 162).
Robert Nesta Marley, the king of reggae music and thought by some to be a prophet of Jah RasTafarI, incorporated nyabinghi drumming and chants into his music. In Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom, Adrien Boot describes a burru drummer, Alvin ‘Franseeco’ Patterson’s influence on Bob Marley through his lessons in rhythm.

An accomplished hand drummer, [Franseeco] had worked with a number of Jamaica’s calypso groups. The burru style of drumming he played was an African Rhythm of liberation welcoming the return of released prisoners of war; it had been co-opted into Rastafari’s Nyabinghi rhythms. And it was this blend of devotion and rebellious fervour that formed the basis of Nesta’s understanding of rhythm (Boot 61).

The rhythms of reggae are based on nyabinghi, and the lyrics are social commentary.

His music, performance, and his appearance instantly gave him and his movement publicity. Later, Bob Marley recorded ‘Rastaman Chant’ on the album ‘Burnin’ in 1973. Accompanying the beat of nyabinghi, the lyrics of the traditional Rastafarian chant are as follows,

I hear the words of the Rasta man say
Babylon your throne gone down, gone down
Babylon your throne gone down
Said, I hear the words of the higher man say
Babylon your throne gone down, gone down
Babylon your thrown gone down
And I hear the angel with the seven seals
Babylon your throne gone down, gone down
Babylon your throne gone down
I say fly away home to Zion, fly away home
I say fly away to Zion, fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
I say fly away home to Zion, fly away home
I say fly away to Zion, fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home.

At a Bob Marley and the Wailers concert in Philadelphia in April of 1976, Marley played the drum toward the conclusion of the show. This ritual invocation by Bob Marley was a solemn Nyabinghi chant depicting a traditional Rastafarian meeting. The music in this ritual performance was slow and included such lyrics as:
I’ll wipe my weary eyes,
I’ll wipe my weary eyes,
Dry up you’ tears to meet Ras Tafari,
Dry up you’ tears and come.

The tempo built with the Jamaican favorite: “I’ll Fly Away,” and concluded with the chant “One Lord, and One God, in Mount Zion” (Barrett 195). Ras Michael and his various and many drummers are the most well known musicians playing and recording Rasta or nyabinghi music. Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus also brought the nyabinghi music of Rastafarian meetings closer to the commercial reggae mainstream. For many years, the group has offered distinctive, inspired hand drumming, chants, and roots jazz fusion music. Using the burru rhythms as their foundation, and electric instruments and modern reggae perceptiveness, they were able to build a hybrid of old and new. At one time they seemed like the Grateful Dead of Reggae, but they also provided music to stir up good feelings in children (Davis 142). The group created nearly twenty albums including ‘Nyabinghi’ in 1974 to ‘Rastafari’ in 1975 to ‘Lion Country’ in 1998.

The Tommy Cowan-producaed hit single, “None A Jah Jah Children Cry” was released on the album ‘Rastafari’. In the album ‘Dadawah Peace and Love’, released in 1975, Ras Michael’s group were joined by some of Kingston’s top studio musicians and used traditional Rasta chants as its fundamental material, but subjects it to elements from the reggae mainstream, and U.S. funk and rock. Arguably, the single most outstanding track of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus may be “Numbered Days” on the album ‘Movements’. This tune borrows a motif from Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver” and the whole album mixes nyabinghi drumming with sorts of more commercial elements (Barrow 163). Other groups who recorded original Rasta music were The Light of Saba, Churchical Chants of Nyabinghi, and Rastafari Elders.

Reggae is not authentic Rasta music — nyabinghi drumming is (Potash 254). Dub poet, Oku Onuoro speaks of the influences on, and the transformations of, reggae music. Because of the richness of reggae, because of the heritage of reggae in that where it’s coming from, and the influences like, like African derived rhythms like mento, poco, kumina, which gave rise to Rastafarian chants, drummin’, which gave rise to ska and then to rock steady. Because of this rich cultural heritage of the music, it is able to shift- the colorin’, we are able to vary the color (Jahn 91).

Indeed every phase Jamaican music has gone through, from ska to reggae, is complete with examples of continued borrowing from folk or traditional sources, of which Rastafarian nyabinghi music is but one. And the source of Rastafarian nyabinghi is vastly elaborate and proves the power and struggle of the African culture to remain strong and ever-developing. The music of Africa can be described as infinite. This is also true then of African societies in which music, an omnipresent symbol, enters practically every aspect of life. Rastafarians convey this infinite legacy through their faith and music and are in constant loving praise of the One Divine Creator and Supreme Being. Drums have been considered the voice of the almighty throughout history in Africa and this belief has remained strong through the days of slavery. The Rastaman holds Africa in his soul with his constant love of, and devotion to Jah Ras TafarI.

Holy Grounation
The old woman,
Weathered black skin taut against her bones of agony,
Jumped the very earth, screaming blood and desolation.
She of the veiled eyes
That ended nowhere, in their depth,
And the haunted body that housed no ghost,
No memory within,
she. Only with soul, that told her
her father’s blood,
her son’s blood,
the very energy that ran through
her family,
lay desecrated, wasted
seeping through in to the ground’s harsh thirst.
The drums beat on, the cadence rose,
That chant presumed to swallow reality itself.
And she jumped the very earth screaming
Blood, blood, blood. My mother and my father, my blood,
My sisters and my children, my blood.
Feet down stomping,
She jarred her own
bones. The sound of them as thunder, iunder,
more dread by imagination, as it lingers,
a mind-echo.
She, jumping the very ground,
Atrance with vengeance,
Screaming blood for the
The pollution,
The desecration. Of her mother earth,
her blood


So Sources for the article above:

* Barrett, Leonard. The Sun and the Drum. Heinemann Educational Books: London, 1976.
* Barret Sr., Leonard E. The Rastafarians. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
* Barrow, Steve and Peter Dalton. Reggae: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides Ltd., 1997.
* Boot, Adrien and Chris Salewicz. Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.
* Chang, Kevin O’brien and Wayne Chen. Reggae Routes. Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1998.
* Davis, Stephen and Peter Simon. Reggae Bloodlines. New York: DaCapo Press, 1992.
* Jackson, Irene. More Than Drumming. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985.
* Jahn, Brian. Reggae Island. Jamaica: Kingston Publishers Limited, 1992.
* Marley, Robert. Rastaman Chant.…/RastamanChant
* Mulvaney, Rebekah Michele. Rastafari and Reggae. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1990.
* Nicholas, Tracy and Bill Sparrow. Rastafari. Chicago: Research Associates Publications, 1996
* Potash, Chris. Reggae, Rasta, Revolution. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.
* Roberts, John Storm. Black Music of Two Worlds. London: Prentice Hall International, 1998.
* Turner, Teresa E. The New Society. Call # XB 917




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