"Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him."
This is taken literally by the followers of Ras Tafari Makonnen ("Ras" is Amharic for "Lord", "Tafari" means "Head Creator" who was known after his coronation as, His Imperial Majesty Hailé Selassié I, Emperor of Ethiopia) to mean that "JAH" is God's name, albeit, an older form of "Jehovah."
Where "God" is generic, "JAH" is specific. This is rather like if I were to call out, "Hey you!" to you in a crowd of people I Might get your attention whereas if I were to use your name... "Hey YourName!" I would logically stand a better chance.
"Amid barbaric splendor and lavish pageantry, the 39-year-old
Emperor Haile Selassie I, who claims descent from King
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and bears the title of Lord
of Lords and King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of
the Tribe of Judah, the Elect of God, and the Light of the
World, was crowned at dawn today."
(Associated Press, New York Times, Monday November 3, 1930)
Ras Tafari is seen as the manifestation of a prophesied messiah come to unite the peoples of Africa and the diaspora.
There are biblical references that are taken to support and substatiate this viewpoint of Ras Tafari as the messiah.
"Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O Children
of Israel saith the Lord."
"For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy
Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for
"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the
Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed
to open the book, and to loose the seven seals."
"And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name
written,KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
"The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with
this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the
uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and behold, a greater then Solomon is here."
"...with Ethiopia this man was born there."
"And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their
"That of the fruits according to the flesh, He would rise up
Christ to sit on His (David's) Throne."
"And the House of David shall be as God, as the angel of the
Lord before them."
It is interesting to note that to my knowledge, H.I.M. Hailé Selassié I (His name means Might of the Trinity), never claimed to be anything more than the Emperor of Ethiopia, in fact he denied being an avatar of JAH. It was the folks in the diaspora of JA, Jamaica, West Indies, interested in repatriation ala Marcus Mosiah Garvey in Jamaica that took heart at the independance of an African nation headed by an African King of Kings, Lord of Lords, as their basis for the folk faith of Rastafari.
Some see Rasta as "
a syncretistic faith including elements from the Western esoteric and occult tradition [Rosicrucian and Freemasonry], Christianity, and Jamaican and Caribbean lore (including the trademark Rastafari dreadlocks, and the use of ganja).
For a nice overview from the Smithsonian Institution on migrations and another from I'n'I the Babe and Suckling
That I believe answers the question of "Who is JAH?" pretty well. So now how all this relates to drummming and music.
In JA prior to the 1950's there was an early drumming form called "Burru" the drums of which there are three: the Bass, the Funde, and the Keite/Repeater to see what the "trinity" look like you may visit a commercial supplier: Congo Creations or Eric Stuer's nice 'binghi page on his RhythmWeb website. Burru evolved and became the churchical chanting known as Nyahbinghi.
Today in JA these drums may be heard at the Nyahbinghi Meetings, churchical
events that consist of "chanting down Babylon (Babble On)."
" The Nyahbinghi is the most important meeting of the Rastafarians, involving members from all over the island. It is comparable to the movement's convention and may last from one or three days to even a week." Barrett relates in his book how he attended one such Nyahbinghi meeting at which "the air was thick with smoke from the holy herb (marijuana) and the drums kept a haunting beat.... One tune continued as long as an hour and without a break before another was started and continued on and on throughout the evening until the drummer was exhausted and his place was taken by another drummer.... "
The form the drumming takes is with the Bass holding down a fundamental pulse at the tempo of the human heart at rest. Roughly at 60 beats per minute. The Funde supports and auguments this while the Repeater plays a syncopated lead up over the top of this "groundation."
Reggae rose up out of this tradition and influence, with many of the songs consisting of Praise and ThanksGiving to JAH.
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