Overstanding the Revolution of Rastafari an Invitation to a Nyahbinghi

On the 1st of March 2020, the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) will be hosting a Nyahbinghi Ises in commemoration of the battle of Adowa.

The AHF is inviting you to come out and commemorate this important battle in recognition and respect for our African history. If you do not know about the battle of Adowa please click this link and read the article http://www.afrikanheritage.com/the-battle-of-adwa-african-victory-in-the-age-of-empire/


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“The Battle” the name given to this particular activity, is a perfect opportunity to experience a Nyahbinghi Ises and ask elders present all you would like to know about the movement of Rastafari.

Before reading take a couple minutes to view Nyahbinghi in action with popular reggae entertainer Sizzla.



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This article serves as a further introduction to the Rastafari movement.

Amharic One of the many languages of Ethiopia; the language of the royal Ethiopian dynasty since the 13th century.

Babylon From a Rastafari perspective, Babylon is the historically white-European colonial and imperialist power structure which has oppressed Blacks and other peoples of color. Institutions such as the Royal Barbados Police Force, public schools and politicians that knowingly and unknowingly uphold a colonial power structure are know to be Babylonian within the overstanding (understanding) of Rastafari.

Diaspora (dispersion; a migration; the dispersion of an originally homogeneous people). The mass dispersion of peoples of a common culture or national origin is commonly referred to as a diaspora. Historically, these movements tend to be forced or involuntary. They may be the result military occupation, systematic persecution, servitude, enslavement, or laws by which the dominant society defines an ethnic group as marginal, undesireable, or subordinate. These movements also tend to reflect pervasive regional or global forces that separate peoples of common origin form their homeland (real or imagined), leaving them to think of themselves as exiles. Such is the case of the African diaspora which began in the early 16th century and displaced tens of millions of Africans from their ancestral continent to various sites in the New World.

East Indian (Indo-Jamaican, Indo-Trinidadian, etc.): In the Caribbean context, this term is used to refer to individuals who came to the Caribbean (mostly Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana) during the late 19th century as indentured laborers. It is widely agreed that the use of cannabis was introduced to African slaves in the Caribbean by the East Indian community.

Elders The term given to individuals of longstanding commitment in the Rasta Movement. In everyday speech, the status of male individuals as elders is often acknowledged by use of the term “Bongo” as an honorific (e.g., addressing someone as “Bongo Hill” or “Bongo Ketu”).Likewise Elder Rastafari women are called “Mother” or  “Mama”.

Ital The Rastafari term for a saltless and meatless/fleshless diet. It must be noted that vegetarian foods suck as Big Franks and Veggie Chunks are not Ital foods. Although not all Rastafari adhere strictly to such a diet, it serves as a model for idealized life-ways of practitioners. During Nyabinghi ceremonies, an Ital diet is part of the ritual protocol observed by communicants.

Jah In Rasta speech, this term is used as a synonym for Emperor Haile Selassie as the manifestation of the Godhead. The term derives from the Old Testament where it appears as an archaic form of “Jehovah” (see Psalm 68:4).

Maroons A term derived from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning wild or unruly, used to refer to runaway slaves in various parts of the Caribbean. In Jamaica, Maroon settlements formed in the island’s mountainous interior as early as the mid-16th century. While small in number compared to the overall population in Jamaica, Maroons retained strong African-derived traditions and remained proud of their cultural heritage. In the 20th century, Rastafari culture has continued to carry forward this African pride in Jamaica and other parts of the Black Diaspora.

Nyabinghi (Ni-uh-bin-gee) This term has a series of overlapping meanings within the contemporary Rastafari Movement. It refers variously to the island-wide religious gatherings of Rasta brethren and sistren at which communicants “praise Jah” and “chant down Babylon,” to the three-part drum ensemble on which chants are composed, to the African-derived dance-drumming style performed at these events, and to the corpus of chants themselves. It also refers to the most orthodox organization within the broader Rasta movement variously known as the House of Nyabinghi or the Theocratic Government of Emperor Haile Selassie I. The term Nyabinghi entered the movement in late 1935 during the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and is actually derived from an African secret society which operated in the Congo and Ruwanda during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Ras Tafari the pre-coronation name of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Ras is an Amharic term equivalent to duke or lord. And Tafari Makonnen was the family name of Emperor Selassie. Rastafari is the same name taken by members of the Rastafari movement who regard the Ethiopian Emperor as the reincarnation of Christ as well as the embodiment of the Godhead.

Reggae Sometimes called “the King’s music” or “roots music”, reggae is the Rasta-inspired music of black protest which emerged in Jamaica during the late 1960s. Reggae reflects the basic rhythmic influences of Nyabinghi drumming as well as that of other African Jamaican musical traditions. During the 1970s, Rastafari-inspired reggae themes became central to the emergent national consciousness of Jamaicans, both Rastafari and non-Rastafari alike. During this same period, the music developed an international following in Europe, the United States, and on the African continent.

Zion From a Rasta perspective, Zion refers broadly to Africa and more specifically to Ethiopia as the ancestral homeland of all black peoples. The symbols of Rastafari culture identify with this domain in its various spiritual, cultural, and political connotations.


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The history of Rastafari begins with the colonization of Africa, or ‘Ethiopia’ as it is known to believers, by Europeans.

The European powers took many Africans as slaves. The people of Africa were divided up and sent into exile as captives throughout the world. The areas of captivity became known as ‘Babylon’.

For Africans this exile marked the suppression of their culture by whites. However, Rastafarians believe that the suppression of blacks in Babylon is ending and that soon they will all return to ‘Ethiopia’.


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The Rastafari movement began in Jamaica during the 1930’s following a prophecy made by Marcus Garvey, a black political leader. Garvey led an organisation known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association, whose intention was to unify blacks with their land of origin.

Garvey preached “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your Redeemer.” This statement became the foundation of the Rastafari movement.

The prophecy was rapidly followed by the crowning of Emperor Haile Selassie I in Ethiopia. Rastafarians see this as the fulfillment of Garvey’s prophecy. Their way of life is taken from Haile Selassie’s original name.

Haile Selassie is therefore regarded by Rastafarians as the Black Messiah, Jah Rastafari. He is a figure of salvation and it’s believed he will redeem blacks from white suppressors, reuniting them with their homeland, Africa. Although the thought on the method in which Haile Selassie I will effect repatriation varies within the Rastafari movement, all are agreed that it is through H.I.M it will happen.


The first branch of Rastafari is believed to have been established in Jamaica in 1935 by Leonard P. Howell. Howell preached the divinity of Haile Selassie. He explained that all blacks would gain the superiority over whites that had always been intended for them.

Howell’s action encouraged others to help develop and spread the message of Rasta theology, and as E.E. Cashmore explains: All, in their own ways, added pieces to the jigsaw, and the whole picture came together in the mid 1950’s when a series of congregations of rastas appeared at various departure points on Jamaica’s shores, awaiting ships bound for Africa.

This marked the first uniting of Rastafarians and it paved the way for the future of the movement, bringing hope of repatriation with Africa and freedom for the black race.

1960’s and 70’s

In 1966 Haile Selassie visited Jamaica, where he was greeted with vast enthusiasm. At that time he also traveled to Trinidad and Barbados.

The development of Reggae music during this period made Rastafari audible and visible to an international audience. The work of Bob Marley (one of the most important figures in Rastafari) and Island Records was popular with a much wider group than the working class Jamaican culture from which it sprang.

As the rock critics Stephen Davis and Peter Simon said, reggae propelled “the Rasta cosmology into the middle of the planet’s cultural arenas, and suddenly people want to know what all the chanting and praying and obsessive smoking of herb [marijuana] are all about” (Reggae Bloodlines).

Some traditional Rastafarians were disturbed by the popularity of reggae, fearing that the faith would be commercialized or taken up as a cultural fad, rather than a redemptive way of life.

There are stories of the forgotten founders of the religion, Alexander Bedward, Leonard Howell, Robert Hinds and Prince Emmanel Edwards and their battles with the British authorities; how Rasta became a movement of resistance in the 1960’s both in the Caribbean and amongst Britain’s black community, and how even white people have taken up Rastafarianism – including a New Zealand Rasta MP and a Japanese Rasta in Tokyo.

Remember to mark the date …. March 1st … Venue – African Heritage Foundation …. Starting time 5pm …. No admission or sale of food and drinks. Refreshments are free and you are asked to bring fruit, nuts, brink or Vegetarian/Ital foods to be shared.

For more information call 260-4795 or email info@afrikanheritage.com


Research sources: BBC and Smithsonian Education

African Heritage Foundation

Author: Admin

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