All visitors to Jamaica will encounter some form of Rastafarian Jamaica, especially when enjoying the music of Bob Marley although it wasn't always this way. Originally the "Rasta" man was not accepted by the Jamaican population. This fine in-depth article by Evan Schmidt will provide an interesting background that all Caribbean travelers should have.
Haile Selassie was born Tafari Mekanon in the late 1800's in the African country of Ethiopia. He was crowned king, or "Ras" Tafari in the 1930's, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Jamaican, Marcus Garvey decades earlier when he proclaimed, "look to the east for the coming of a black king."
Marcus Garvey is looked at in the Rastafarian movement as the biblical Moses, since he was not only one of the greatest advocates for black repatriation in the Western World but also since he prophetically introduced and announced the coming of the "Messiah." When the early Rasta's heard of the crowning of King Haile Selassie - they knew that Marcus's prophecy was fulfilled.
Early Rastafarians were not accepted by the Jamaican population at large. They were looked at as dirty and grimy men that lived in the hills and used drugs, mainly Ganja, spoke against the government and believed in Jah Rastafari over Jesus.
Many early rastas where persecuted by their Jamaican countrymen for their religious believes. Rastas where also targeted by the police and government officials since they did not follow the "clean cut" majority and where known to use ganja.
Early accusations where made against the Rastafarian's in the 30's and 40's as criminals and many robberies, murders, rapes and other crimes where pinned on the early rastas without any proof.
Discrimination continued throughout the ensuing decades as families ties where broken when members joined the Rastafarian's and police where known to kidnap rastas, cut their dreadlocks off and return them to their homes with shaved heads.
The Rastas, though, where peace loving, and positive people, who practiced more moral good than many Jamaicans who discriminated against them.
Strict Rastafarian's do not use alcohol, and Jamaica is well known for its spicy rums. Strict Rastafarian's do not eat red meet either, and Jamaicans are also known for barbecued meats.
These rasta men practiced a lifestyle that is similar to the biblical tradition of the Nazarenes where they would take abstinence against many "pleasures".
As the 1950's approached Jamaica - Rastafarianism was becoming more and more popular and soon the nyabinghi warrior sounds that were being chanted in the hills of Jamaica by rastas was about to make an entry to the city and Jamaican pop culture and soon the world.
Jamaicans have always had an extreme love for music. Weather it be the rock and roll sounds that came from America or the tribal beats that many of the decedents of the African slaves have kept boiling in their blood, Jamaica united the musical traditions of many cultures.
From Rock-steady to Ska came Reggae music. The islands biggest claim to fame. And it was through the Reggae music of Jamaica that the Rastafari movement was to spread its message around the world in the form of a musical prophet the world knows as Robert Nesta Marley.
Bob Marley began his musical career before he converted to Rastafarian. But it was through his spiritual transformation that his music took a serious shift and headed to the direction of international stardom and associating Jamaica, a little known island in the Caribbean, as being the birthplace of reggae and the birthplace of Marley.
Marley's ability to sing and unite harmonious rhythms of voice, beats and instrument has had millions of people wondering if he was indeed sent by Jah to inform the people. Like a messenger from God, Marley would sing to his fellow man songs of joy, songs of love, songs of pain, and songs of freedom. And it was through this style and skill that dubbed him the "king of reggae" - a throne that will never be taken over.
Rasta music is roots music. Music that carries the nyabinghi beat of the warrior ancestors from Africa. Rasta music is Reggae music, and the spiritual guidance comes from Jah Rastafari.