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Understanding Reggae and Rastafari

"Rastafarians will stand on very shaky ground if the current gun running, cocaine selling and lyrically debased D-jays and singers, are allowed to infiltrate the noble ranks of Rastafari. These so-called dreadlocks imposters, could destroy years of hard earned credibility, and international acceptance of Rastafarians as a law abiding,peace loving and a reputable religious fraternity."

So said Ras Benedik a farmer in Portland, who voiced his concern at the number of "natty" -like assassins whose cold, callus and warped psyche negates them into Phycopaths, that can be hired to murder in cold blood, people they know nothing about."

Says Ras Benedik " Rastafarians have been to hell and back in terms of being victimized, denied our basic rights in the turbulent1960s, outright persecution by the Jamaican establishment in the form of 'de-locksing,' (forcibly having Rastas hair or "dreadlocks" cut off) denied employment in reputable establishments and imprisonment on the grounds of sheer contempt and scorn by some magistrates. Rastafarians were the most persecuted people and religion, since the abolition of slavery."

Sister Joy a Rastafarian and accountant from St. Catharine said " It has been exceptionally hard for Rastafarians in gaining the respect of Jamaicans at every imaginable level of the society. Thanks to the works of Bob Marley O.M. and other outstanding Rastafarians at home and abroad, whose determination not be discredited by a group of imposters, whose criminal motives and activities are mistakenly attributed to bonifide, and law abiding Rastafarians."

Ras Ivor a haulage contractor said, "Rastafarians have had to deal with issues in the past, that threatened the validity and the foundation on which the principles of Rastafari as a religion is based. One such occasion was the infamous "Bun Jesus, God and Lord" campaign that was initiated by a number of God "dissing," slogan shouters, who at the time were thought to be from a particular house, or ("Mansion Of Rastafari." as it is described by Rastafarian elders.

This resulted in the distancing of some members from what they perceived to be a hype driven, God dissing, anti -Christ and Rasta imposters". Ras Ivor pointed out that most of the blasphemous statements that angered the Christian fraternity of which Rastafarians are a part of, were made by hardcore dancehall artistes and their flag waving entourage. "These "wanna-bees" says Ras Ivor are simply ignorant of the true precepts of Rastafari, thus they are hell bent on reversing the principles on which Rastafari as a religion was established."

Both elderly and young Rastafarian progressives such as Ras Ben Guthrie, a political science student pointed out that most radical juveniles are in touch with what's happening politically. The protests songs comes screeming at you from within the numerous dancehalls right across Jamaica. He says they are inspired by the music and messages coming from Sizzla, Capleton, Beenie Man, Richie Spice, Jah Cure, Turbulence, I –Wayne and Gyptian. All profess to be Rastafarians with the exception of Elephant Man, who comes across as an energized entertainer, who is equally aware of the real issues, but chooses to dance for the time being.

Sizzla appears to have captured the full attention of most dancehall supporters, a natural thinker who is extremely versatile, thus he is able to control things on ether side of the fence. He has demonstrated on several occasions that he has the vision and the ability, to take both reggae and dancehall, in interesting directions at any given time. His uncompromising anti system and anti -Christ lyrics, have at times placed him in the cold, in relation to more rational thinking Rastafarians. He started out writing songs expressing the gut feeling, concerns and frustrations of the Inner City poor. Over the years he has consistently delivered a number of thought provoking songs, that have had Jamaicans singing at home and abroad. Songs such as " Black Woman and Child," Thank You Mama," and Dry Cry has made young Miguel Collins a household name internationally.

He is seen within his community as both sinner and a saint, the community although divided politically, recognizes Sizzla's leadership capabilities not only as an entertainer, but also as a person who has assisted scores of people, irrespective of their political affiliations.

Once seen as a minister of fire and 'brimstone, " due mainly to his "Bun Jesus, God and Lord" Campaign. A doctrine Sizzla is capable of revisiting musically, at any time for all it's controversial worth.

The question being asked is Sizzla just as relevant a spokesman for the so-called under-classes, as he was five years ago?

Miguel “Sizzla” Collins is undoubtedly an extremely gifted artiste; his ability to surpass the expectations of his peers is simply amazing. His fearless approach to life, and his never ending quest to establish new horizons musically, has made him exceptionally special, even among people who literally see hardcore dancehall as a deadly virus.

Musically there are several sides to Sizzla, the social commentator, Sizzla the lover, making impassioned pleas to his woman to give all her love unconditionally, and the controversial Sizzla whose biting social commentary is usually aimed at the church, regardless of denomination.

Subconsciously he is in constant search of a spiritual revolution, that at times crackles on the perimeters of blasphemy. What can not be explained is his ability to use controversy to his advantage, which places him light years ahead of the competition.

Sister Sherrie an event consultant said, "No artiste can ignore the right of others to their religious beliefs. However, the feeling among extremist that their ill conceived concept of Rastafari is both the beginning and the end, as far as religion is concerned, threatens the tried and proven concept of Rastafari as an internationally accepted religion and way of life.

We as Rastafarians have assimilated into every imaginable culture and race. We have been embraced by some, tolerated by others and looked at with suspicion by some of our own brothers and sisters. We have encountered these negative vibes even in Africa, which we as Jamaicans consider to be the motherland."

Pastor Alex made the point that "most of these young Rastas know nothing of the struggles, hardships and profound sacrifices that has been made by their elders over the years. They are indeed seeking, but going about it the wrong way he says. Some of our more militant artistes must realize that a greater social responsibility is crucial,when considering imparting messages that can divide people, and lead to unnecessary confrontations."

Pastor Alex said, "To declare one's allegiance to a particular figure, and to publicly declare that entity as being supreme over all others, is to denounce the beliefs and concepts of other religious groups. On the other hand, to attempt to indoctrinate and garner support through propaganda, and half truths is unforgivable, and equates to blasphemy."



Extract from forthcoming book by T."Boots" Harris. © 2006.

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