Dread History:
The African Diaspora,
Ethiopianism, and Rastafari

Doorway with Marley poster
Bull Bay, Jamaica

Today, it is probably fair to say that when most people hear the word "Rastafari"they think of Bob Marley, the "king of reggae." Through his inspirational music, Marley did more to popularize and spread the Rasta message worldwide than any other single individual. But neither Marley nor reggae are at the actual root of the Rastafari experience. Reggae, as a music of populist black protest and experience that has had a formative effect on Jamaican nationalism, emerged in Jamaica only during the early 1970s. As early as the 1940s, an African-oriented lifestyle and ritual known as Nyabinghi (see terminology) emerged among Jamaican Rastafari. Nyabinghi gatherings in Jamaica involve African-derived dancing and drumming as a central part of the worship of Emperor Selassie and foster a spiritual vision of repatriation to Ethiopia.

photograph by Jake Homiak, Smithsonian Institution