How has the Rastafarian influence contributed to the cultural significance of reggae music?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Bob Marley came to identify himself as a Rastafarian, the cultural significance of reggae music rose.  The music moved further away from the relatively light themes of ska lyrics and towards themes that were more socially relevant.  The music has also come to be strongly identified with African nationalism and the plight of the poor in Jamaica.  In contemporary times, some artists like Shabba Ranks have moved away from these themes in their “dancehall” version of reggae, but others like Sizzla still have strong Rasta and other social content in their music.

Rastafarianism is a religion that is tied strongly to ideas of African nationalism and resistance to authority.  It sees the modern Western society that dominates the world as “Babylon,” a force that is opposed to the will of God.  This makes for a very clear social message in reggae music that is connected to Rastafarianism.  This can be seen in Bob Marley songs such as “Babylon System” and in more recent songs such as “Life and Debt” by Buju Banton. 

The anti-establishment and African nationalist message of Rastafarianism gave reggae a more prominent social and cultural significance.  Association with Rastafarianism makes reggae more than just a Jamaican kind of dance music by making themes of social justice prominent in reggae lyrics.

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