Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

of Haile Selassie--and as it spreads, via transnational popular culture, the mass media and the electronic communications industry beyond the confines of its original homeland, it faces the ongoing challenge of becoming a significant contributor to the rapidly expanding "global culture." But whether or not the movement will prove potent and flexible enough to meet such a challenge, one thing remains certain, the view beyond Jamaica is, to quote Derek Bishton ( 1986:2), "increasingly an international one."


Notes
1.
See, for example, Wallerstein 1979, Mattelart 1983, Schiller 1989, Hannerz 1992, and Wriston 1992.
2.
In 1988-89 I conducted field work on the spread of the Rastafarian movement in Ghana and Senegambia, and much of the material contained in this article is adapted from the dissertation that followed from this research (which included a lengthy chapter on the global diffusion of reggae and Rastafari) (see Savishinsky 1993).
3.
In recent years "dancehall music:" a subgenre of reggae with minimal connections to Rastafarianism, has become increasingly popular in Jamaica and among West Indians in Britain and North America. Similar in form to African-American rap and hip hop music, a typical dancehall tune is structured around a DJ "rapping" (often in a heavy Jamaican patois) over a computer generated reggae-based rhythm track, with little expression given in the song texts to either religious, social, or political themes (see the New York Times June 21, 1992, p. 23). And with the recent upsurge in popularity of dancehall and the subsequent decline of other forms of reggae, it appears as if the links that once bound Jamaican popular music to the culture of Rastafari have finally begun to erode (at least throughout much of the Caribbean and among West Indians in England, the United States, and Canada).
4.
While it may be true, as Hannerz ( 1987) suggests, that such modern developments have provided people the world over with access to a greater diversity of music than they ever had before (and in the process has led to the "creolization" of global pop music and the subsequent creation of new syncretic, indigenized forms of popular expression), some (cf. Hamelink 1983) voice fear that the longterm effects of transculturation may lead to the eventual formation of a homogenized global music culture and the loss of much of the world's stock of distinctive, local musical styles.
5.
Hannerz ( 1992:265) argues that the interplay between center and periphery which develops out of such "multidimensional cultural encounters" creates a greater affinity between the two, resulting in the heightened ability of the latter to "talk back" to the former. And as the periphery increasingly makes use of the same organizational forms and technology as the center, its new cultural products become more attractive to the global market--hence the popular music of the Third World becomes "World Music."
6.
In the 1950s and 1960s the playlists of Jamaica's single radio station were almost identical to those of pop music stations in major U.S. cities ( Clarke 1980:62). and even as recently as 1979, 80 percent of all the music played on Jamaican radio was foreign in origin ( Link 1979: 10). Consequently, reggae was influenced to a large extent by American rock, soul, rhythm & blues, and gospel music (for a detailed description and analysis of the origins and development of reggae in Jamaica see Clarke 1980 and Nagashima 1984).
7.
Campbell 1980:19-20, 1987:153-75: Forsythe 1980:62: Semaj 1980:22: Hamid 1981:6-7.

-362-

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