Friday, May 26, 2006

RIP Desmond Dekker...

Sorry to hear of the passing of this great singer/songwriter today. He died of a heart attack in his home outside London at the age of 64.

It's true that Gazpachot is not much of a Reggae lover. On the other hand, Rock Steady (Jamaica's infinitely more musical pre-cursor to the ganja-fed mindless echoes and sloppy production of Dub and Reggae proper) is a musical genre to go down fighting for. Some truly great songs came out of this short-lived sound era including John Holt's "Ali Babba" and of course, Desmond Dekker's "Israelites." There is an unflinching optimism and playfulness to these well-crafted songs that stand the test of time. And the lyrics are insane to the point of being unintelligible. That said, the idea of a Jamaican singing about Israel should not come as a shock. Many Jamaican Rastafarians are of Ethiopian descent and consider themselves children of Israel. You want history? We got history...

In the 10th Century BC, The Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia was founded by Menelik I, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, who had visited Solomon in Israel. 1 Kings 10:13 claims "And King Solomon gave unto the Queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants." On the basis of the Ethiopian national epic, the Kebra Negast, Rastas interpret this as meaning she conceived his child, and from this, they concluded that the black people are the true children of Israel, or Jews. Beta Israel black Jews have lived in Ethiopia for centuries, disconnected from the rest of Judaism; their existence gave some credence and impetus to early Rastafarians, validating their belief that Ethiopia was Zion.

Strangely many Rastas also consider themselves Protestants or Orthodox Christians. Not sure how that works. But it's certainly a religion with deep musical ties. In terms of Reggae, I fault Bob Marley with taking the whole thing in a far too serious and musically dull direction. He was a great icon, but a boring musician.

OK, one last thing. Rastafarians believe that select members of their tribe have a chance at "everliving" (as opposed to an everlasting afterlife), here on Earth. For this reason, they do not use medicine or science to help them when they are sick, as it suggests the possibility of mortality and giving in to death. Good luck Desmond where ever you are...


Blogger pigatschmo said...

Mon, reggae just another stage of Jamaican music following Rock Steady and Rude Boy...

I tink most Jamaicans are of west African descent. The Rastas want to be Ethiopian but were initially considered quite silly and maybe a little confused by real Ethiopians... But then the Ethiopians recognized it as flattery, and things got more symbiotic.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous brian said...

Don't be dissing Bob Marley. Kaya is one of the most
superior reggae albums and the first of it's kind that
stressed joy, love, peace. Although Jimmy Cliff was a
visionary, Marley took reggae out of Shanty Town and busted it wide.
Bob Marley, Poet and a Prophet
Bob Marley, taught me how to off it.
Bob Marley walkin' like he talk it
Goodness me can't you see I'm gonna cough it!

9:39 PM  
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