Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control

Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control

Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control

Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control

Synopsis

Stephen A. King is associate professor of speech communication at Delta State University.

Excerpt

Rastafarianism is the first mass movement among West Indians preoccupied with the task of looking into themselves and asking the fundamental question, Who Am I? or What Am I?

—Dennis Forsythe

From the shantytowns of Kingston, Jamaica, to the cobblestone streets of Great Britain, reggae music has been a powerful and liberating voice for the poor and oppressed. In the last thirty years, reggae stars Bob Marley, Burning Spear, and Alpha Blondy have sung “redemption” songs—messages of human rights and universal love—in a “Babylonian” world of civil unrest, political instability, and economic collapse. Bob Marley and the Wailers' 1979 single, “Zimbabwe, ” was a national anthem for the Pan-African freedom fighters during the Rhodesian civil war (Fergusson 56). Marley's influence was so great that Zimbabwe's national flag is now based on Rastafarian colors which, in turn, are based on Ethiopia's flag (Kerridge 343). According to Kevin O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen, authors of the acclaimed Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music, reggae music served as protest music during Nicaragua's civil war, China's Tienanmen Square . . .

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