Soul Jazz Records new album Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 charts the many links between reggae music and the Rastafarian religion.
Spanning nearly 30 years of revolutionary music and featuring the music of Count Ossie, Johnny Clarke, The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Ras Michael and The Sons of Negus, Bongo Herman, Roy Ashanti (The Congos), Earth & Stone, Mutabaruka and many more, this is an in-depth look at some of the most unique and righteous music ever made and comes complete with a 40+ page outsize booklet, containing exclusive photography and extensive historical and contextual sleevenotes.
The new religion of Rastafari emerged in Jamaica during a time of intense political and social change in the 1930s. The first stirrings of anti-colonialism and workers’ rights were in motion, while Marcus Garvey’s Back-to-Africa movement was beginning to wane. But the pivotal catalyst to the birth of the Rastafari faith was the crowning of a black king in Africa in 1930.
One of the earliest mentions of Ethiopia in Jamaican music can be found on mento singer Lord Lebby and the Jamaican Calpysonians’ 1955 recording ‘Etheopia’. In the song Noel Williams, aka Lord Lebby, discusses Ethiopianism, the political movement that calls for a return to Africa for black people.
The 1960s saw the emergence of the first Rastafarian music on record with Count Ossie’s Rastafarian drummers. The visit of Haile Selassie to Kingston in 1966 was like an electric current throughout Kingston’s music scene – many of who had become adherents to the Rastafari faith. By the 1970s Rastafarianism become practically synonymous with reggae, as many roots reggae artists became known throughout the world, led by the success of Bob Marley and The Wailers.
At the source of the music of Rastafari is the figurehead master drummer and leader Count Ossie, who first bought the deeply spiritual nyabinghi and burro rhythms heard and played at sacred Rastafarian grounation (reasoning) sessions into popular Jamaican music through his many collaborations and performances with artists – from The Skatalites to The Folks Brothers - and producers – including Clement Dodd, Prince Buster and Harry Mudie.
At the start of the 1970s Count Ossie formed the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari with saxophonist Cedric Brooks, which immediately became the most significant group of the Rastafari faith, bringing together authentic rasta nyabinghi drumming together with spiritual and avant-garde jazz influences of Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler into a truly unique and groundbreaking sound.
As ‘roots reggae’ artists in the 1970s continued to spread the word of Jah (God) in their music, Rastafari reggae became the ultimate rebel sound throughout the world.
This album comes in three separate formats: Deluxe CD with slipcase and 40-page outsize booklet featuring stunning photography plus text, deluxe limited-edition heavyweight gatefold-vinyl edition + free download code (w/full sleeve notes etc) and as a worldwide digital release.
"This may be the most righteous compilation to come from the Soul Jazz stable to date, as they focus on links between the Rastafarian religion and reggae music." IRISH TIMES
"Soul Jazz's most recent in a line of high-quality compilations" PITCHFORK
"Ambitious but incredibly informative compendium from Soul Jazz Records" BLEEP
"Outstanding compilation from the masters, Soul Jazz" HOT SALVATION
"Fascinating compilation of deep Rastafari themed music" DUB VENDOR
Read full Pitchfork feature here