What is Rasta?

You’ve heard: “underneath our skin, we all bleed the same red” (or words to that effect). How about the song: “Don’t have to be Dread to be Rasta.” Some would vehemently object to that idea, or the possibility of being Rasta if you’re not of explicitly African origin (ie. sub-Saharan).

...one of the band Culture's lesser known album covers

Scientifically (if you go in for that sort of thing), it’s been verified that we all hail from Africa – genetically – and geographically. But does this mean the later, disparate traditions of Europe and Asia – the native Americas (or Australia) – have nothing to contribute to our overstanding? Or that non-Africans have no worth as human beings? I think not (and I hope nobody would be so racist as to assert so).

In fact, many non-Afro traditions (and individuals) have both contributed to, and played an important role in magnifying the reach of Reggae and Rasta philosophies. “One Love, One Heart” is not (nor should it be) exclusive. To make it so would be like tying the legs of race horse before the gate opens. We have enough to fight down as it is.

When will we (as Rasta/Reggae lovers – and human beings) realize that we have more in common than separating us (especially in our so-called “community”)? Don’t we know that “until that day…everywhere is War!” (as His Majesty said).

Bob Marley's Exodus album cover: although a reference to the flight from Egypt, the Exodus theme is integral to Rasta philosophy

“Burn Down Babylon” – the philosophy of fire (or destroying one’s enemies) – is that Rasta? Happens a lot in the Bible, and dominates current events. The sentiment has been around from early on in the Reggae tradition (including in Bob’s lyrics). Did you know the whole Babylon theme originates in the Jews’ conquering and forced migration to Babylonia (now Iraq)? “Their” fight was the same as “ours” – to resist and/or make a separate peace – to survive in spite of the odds, create our own homeland, or reality, that works better for us than the prevailing “system” of the time.

Ital (vital, earth-based, natural) eating and living (to the extent that it’s possible, given our living situation and will-power), as well as the treatment (and respect) of our own body as our temple is (I believe) integral to Rasta.

Righteousness is key, but there is a fine line between it and “self-righteousness” – which is actually vanity. Humility is the foundation, fear of (or respect for) G*d is prerequisite. That means YOU (alone) are not G*d. As Bob said: “leave all judgment unto Him.”

the Itals' album: Rasta Philosophy

Much as I appreciate the homage and respect due each of us, recent years’ address of men and women as King and Queen (to my mind) detracts from the fact that there is but ONE King (and His Queen is THE Queen). “Ras” or prince feels more appropriate, as we are all servants (or ought to be), seeking to manifest His will (to the best of our ability and opportunity).

Still, any philosophy and overstanding has a right to evolve. No religion can survive being static, without allowing new generations to make and espouse their own interpretations of faith.

One of the things about Rasta that makes it unique is that it’s fiercely individual – ask any avowed Rasta “what is Rasta?” – and you can be sure to get as many answers. Lack of any central organization or authority has been a relative constant.

Burning Spear's "Hail H.I.M." album cover

Is Rasta the abiding acknowledgement that Jah Ras Tafari (Emperor Haile Selassie I the 1st) is G*d, or at the very least is the face and personal embodiment of G*d? These are two very different, though related concepts. However you slice it, I think the answer is YES.

How can you call yourself Rasta unless Rastafari is somehow front and center in your life?

Many so-called Rastas “deh pon” some other trip (“fashion dreads” not withstanding).

Holy image of Jah

Often Jesus is given the throne foremost. Even Jah himself – while holding all the titles befitting The Lord – was humble and did not boast of his deity. He, as others, put Christianity first. Ethiopians (and Jah) trace their prime lineage to Sheba and Solomon, and incorporate the “Old Testament” or Torah into their holy scriptures (as do the Muslims, consider themselves part of the Abrahamic tradition). Others may be Jews for Jah, so to speak, sidestepping the Christian piece, and awarding H.I.M. status as personal representative and human  incarnation of Adonai.

Truly – and to be fair – the oral gospel that is Reggae, and all the best that being Rasta has to offer, must be laid at His Majesty’s feet, as an offering: “so that the words of our mouth, and the meditation of our heart, be acceptable in thy sight, over I” (from the popular song & Psalm 137).


About KRucialReggae

KRucial Reggae (aka KRP) is all about Production, Promotion, and Performance! Long time industry pro, founder Kyle Russell has been a fan since 1980 and in the biz since 1990. Russell's worn many hats in the business: PUBLISHER (and creator of Rhythm Music Magazine); PROMOTER (regionally & globally); PRODUCER (of various albums) and PERFORMER (with the award-winning Dub Station band). Russell's been the Executive Director of Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide; Director of Marketing at BigUp Radio; and adviser to many Artists. This Blog's been created as a sort of streaming editorial, different from his other project-specific outreach (including his regional and global Newsletters and website Reggae4i.com, aka KRucialReggae.com). Our goal here is to go from monologue to dialog in developing and sharing our community overstanding (as opposed to standing under), and wise-speak (the opposite of wiz-dumb). Our hope is to provide inspiration, thought provoking encouragement, and invite new folks into the fray of advancing Reggae Music.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical References, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Jah, Music, Old Testament, One Love, Philosophy, Rasta, Rastafari, Rastafarian, Reggae, Religion, Roots Reggae, the band: Culture, the Itals, The System, Torah and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is Rasta?

  1. Ras James Frazier says:

    Respect! I recently had a heart attack, (2 days after my 64th birthday), as I was getting ready to go surfing with my grandchildren. Standing on the beach, watching them paddle out, and BOOM! I fell over onto the sand. Fortunately, I was blessed to have my daughter son-in-law beside me, they started CPR, the lifeguards came quickly, hooked me up to a defibrillator, zapped me back to life, and here I am 5 months later. I have been ‘rasta’ for many years, have ‘dreads’ almost to me waist (still, they did not cut them when I was in hospital), strive to live ‘ital’, eat ital food, listen to reggae and read my bible every day. Walk my dogs twice a day every day, am not overweight, don’t drink or smoke. But you can’t stop hereditary, my father and mother both had heart problems (father died of it), sister had heart attack, 13 years before me, even though she is 4 years younger. So I was ‘doomed’ from birth, but, because I have lived RASTA, I survived and will continue to survive. Thanks and Blessings for the wonderful words of enlightenment on RASTA. I once told my black friends, a wise man knows that a white man is just a bleached-out black man, too long gone from momma Africa, they laughed loud & long, mostly because I am a white man.

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