African/Caribbean Connection: Dreadlocks, Rebellion, and Reggae Music

Where is the Caribbean?

The Caribbean is a region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays.  These islands generally form island arcs that delineate the eastern and northern edges of the Caribbean Sea.

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Jamaica, a Caribbean island nation, has a lush topography of mountains, rainforests and reef-lined beaches. it is also the native land of Reggae, a style of popular music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly emerged as the country’s dominant music. By the 1970s it had become an international style that was particularly popular in Britain, the United States, and Africa.

What is Rastafarianism and where does it come from?


The connection that the music and the Rastafarian movement is undeniable. Rastafari, sometimes termed Rastafarianism, is an Abrahamic religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s. Scholars of religion and related fields have classified it as both a new religious movement and a social movement. There is no centralized authority in control of the movement and much heterogeneity exists among practitioners, who are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rastas.

In the Rastafari movement locks are symbolic of the Lion of Judah which is sometimes centered on the Ethiopian flag. Rastafari hold that Haile Selassie is a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, through their son Menelik I. Their dreadlocks were inspired by the Nazarites of the Bible.Image result for Rastafari

Much like the adoption of grandiose names by individuals and organisations, the cultivation of dreadlocks in the later Rastafari movement established a closer connection between the movement and the ideology it espoused. It also gave the appearance, if not the substance, of greater authority.

When reggae music gained popularity and mainstream acceptance in the 1970s thanks to Bob Marley’s music and cultural influence, the locks (often called “dreads”) became a notable fashion statement worldwide; they have been worn by prominent authors, actors, athletes and rappers.Related image

What  connection does the Mau Mau rebellion have in the reggae culture?

The Mau Mau movement of Kenya was a nationalist armed peasant revolt against the British colonial state, its policies, and its local supporters. The overwhelming majority of the Mau Mau fighters and of their supporters, who formed the “passive wing,” came from the Kikuyu ethnic group in Central Province. There was also representation in the movement from the Embu, Kamba, and Meru ethnic groups. In addition, available evidence shows that some individual members of the Luo, Luhyia, and even Maasai ethnic groups participated in the revolt as well.Image result for mau mau

Some researchers (Horace Campbell) associate the origin of the dreadlocks of the Rastafarian movement with those of the Kikuyu freedom fighters who were branded Mau Mau by the colonial authorities. Jamaican Rastafarian symbols such as the name Ras Tafari, the Lion of Judah and the green, yellow and red flag are derived from Ethiopia, which borders Kenya to the north. The Nyabinghi section of the Rastafarian movement derives its name from the Uganda and Rwandese regions west of Kenya.

Jamaican reggae groups and artists such as Black Uhuru and Ras Kenyatta derived their names from the Mau Mau related news that was flowing from Kenya in the 1950s. Rita Marley’s song, Harambee is derived from the slogan call introduced by the former and first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.Image result for jomo kenyatta and haile selassie

Reggae’s connection to rebellion is not just through the Mau Mau rebellion. Reggae is a style of music that was subversive, coming from a country in near destruction to hear music about love and healing was a call to peaceful rebellion that resonated among Africans world wide.


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