Burning Spear: Rastafari and the Originator

Once again I find myself with two days of freedom. My wife drops me off at the hotel where I work, and I grab my check. I take a bus to the bank to deposit and snag some lunch. My $40 Bluetooth headphones are gripped to my ears and I’m blasting reggae music. Not just any reggae music though–I’m listening to the classics. The music that created the common sentiment that’s deeply rooted even in the music that’s created in Jamaica now. We’ll come back to this in a second, but first I wanna share some results from my small research into one of the artists I was listening too.

Haile Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael in 1892. Long story short, this man later became Emperor of Ethiopia, after serving time as it’s regent. Some other accomplishments? He was the first chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity and a member of the Solomonic Dynasty. A very influential man indeed when it came to the affairs of blacks,

but he’s most definitely known around this side of the world for the religion and life style that he maintained.

What I found most interesting about this man, however, is that many believed him to be God-incarnate. His life bore a religion, Rastafari, and those who believe have adapted a specific lifestyle to lineup with their beliefs. Before my study into the religion and lifestyle of Rastafari, I always believed it to be another Christian religion, and while they also study the bible as the world of God; they believed Selassie to be an incarnate of God. So in a similar vein to the way Western Christianity worships Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; the Rastafari religion holds Haile Selassie in a similar position. Much like Christianity however, their are some who uphold the Rastafari lifestyle, but do not fully believe Haile Selassie to be God-incarnate. And interestingly enough in a 1967-recorded interview, Selassie himself had this to say in regards to those who considered him a God:

“I have heard of that idea. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity.”

Many of the devout Rastafari people do not consider others true followers unless they truly believe in Selassie as God-incarnate. Much like any religion, the utmost respect should always be given to those who believe as well as those who don’t. I personally have a small issue with those who have taken on the lifestyle of a Rastafari but don’t really believe in the religion as a whole.


With that out of the way, I want to get back to my original subject of this post, whose music has really mellowed me out, and made my first of two days off very relaxing.

For the record, I’m not talking about Bob Marley. Nor am I referring to any of his children.

I’m talking about another musician, a man who was truly a Rastafari and a proud Jamaican. I’m talking about the man they call: Burning Spear. Burning Spear, whose birth name is Winston Rodney, was born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. His Western musical influences were James Brown and Curtis May field. The reason I found him so interesting was because of his Rastafari believes and the music he created to promote that lifestyle. This man has won 2 Grammy’s for his albums in Reggae music, and has been nominated 12 times as well. His most recent album, Jah Is Real won a Grammy in 2009 for the category mentioned, and many other artists have spoken of his strong influence on them.

This study has already gotten off to a fantastic start, as I’ve been able to get a little insight and understanding toward the man that was the catalyst for a religion as well as a musician who is living as a devout member of that same religion. They’ve both had a tremendous impact on their culture. I’m hoping to be able to learn even more about some of the other heroes of Jamaica, especially the ones who many of us have overlooked for one reason or another! Unitl next time, one love–unconditional.

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