African Music of the Rastafari, the Rasta Community, the Dreads
Nyabinghi music played at Rastafarian grounations, which includes drumming of at least three hand drums, chanting, dancing, spiritual use of the holy herb, and praise to Jah Rastafari, are considered the most important and inspirational meeting of Rastafari. The term "nyabinghi" is said to have come from a religious, spiritual, and political movement in East Africa beginning in the 1850’s until the 1950 led by a series of spiritually influential women and focused on military actions against white imperialists and colonialists.
It is thought that the term was a women-centered popular movement in Uganda that led the resistance against European settlers who were attempting to overrule Africans. The Nyabinghi movement was centered around a woman healer, Muhumusa, who was possessed by the spirit of Nyabinghi, a legendary ‘Amazon Queen.’ Muhumusa organized armed resistance against German colonialists and was detained in Uganda in 1913 by the British. The spirit of Nyabinghi possessed mostly women, but also men who led uprisings against the British in later years. British effort to destroy the Nyabinghi movement was through their criminalizing it as witchcraft through Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912, which promoted Christianity and encouraged other indigenous anti-Nyabinghi cults. The British used the witch burning procedure of 1500 to 1600 that were central in the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist relations in Europe (Turner 23).
Robert I. Rotberg, in his book Rebellion in Black Africa (London: Oxford University Press, 1971) suggests that the word nyabinghi means "she who possesses many things." However, in Jamaica, the term means "death to the Black and White oppressors." (Barrett 121). To dance nyabinghi against an identified oppressor was, Rasta believed, to invoke in a sure way the power of Jah to destroy him. During the Dreadlocks era, Rastafarians would dance nyabinghi to bring death to oppressors, and today, these dances are purely ceremonial celebrations which last several days. Nyabinghi today, sometimes referred to as "binghi," is the dance on special occasions to commemorate events sacred to Rastafarians. Some of the holy days celebrated are the coronation of his Imperial majesty (November 2), his majesty’s ceremonial birthday (January 6), his visit to Jamaica (April 25, 1966), his majesty’s personal birthday (July 23, 1892), Emancipation from slavery (August 1), and Marcus Garvey’s birthday (August 17).
This ritual of Rastafari, also known as a grounation, first took place in Jamaica in March of 1958. This was the first nationwide Rasta convention in the home of Rastafari. "Grounation" means the affirmation of life through earth (Nicholas 68).
Grounations occur around the twenty-first of April each year and last several days and are the only organized worship of Rastafari. The first site of the first nationwide Rasta grounation in March of 1958,...