The Changing Face of Reggae & Rastafari


Most folk music styles never have to worry about becoming so popular they change the culture they represent with their music. However, Reggae’s rise from ambiguity to dominate global music markets in the late 1960’s did just that. The folk music of the Rastafarian people of Jamaica, Reggae emerged (creolized) out of the fusion of African-rooted Calypso rhythms and the slower influences of established European styles such as Soul and Jazz in the poor districts of Kingston, Jamaica. Coming from similar backgrounds in Afro-Caribbean tradition, the Rastafarian faith quickly embraced reggae as a platform through which to spread their religious beliefs to the masses. Within a few years, Reggae had become indistinguishable from Rastafarianism as an expression of their religious and cultural beliefs- due largely to the influence of a young Rastafarian gospel singer, Bob Marley. However, Marley’s explosion as a national icon would have a much larger impact than anyone could realize at the time. After Marley’s death, Reggae began fusing with the new Western styles of hip-hop and rap, increasing in popularity over the years to dominate world charts as classic Reggae slowly fell out of the social consciousness.  In the face of these changing patterns, has Reggae remained the voice for an oppressed religious group or has its explosion in popularity caused it to abandon its cultural roots?

Bob Marley- Buffalo Soldier