CHAPTER 7

When Music is the Message

How Reggae Built Understanding for Rastafarianism

Enchanting Calypso melodies can instantly transport a listener to the palm-lined shores of a Caribbean island. But reggae is so much more than just a beat, or a bass line. It is about a socio-religious movement known as Rastafarianism, founded some 80 years ago in the slums of Jamaica and made famous by performers like Bob Marley and Matisyahu. It is also a culture, a way of life, that—with its dreadlocks, cannabis, and bright colored clothing—is both mystical and a mystery to those in Western culture.

Instead of using mass media, the Rastafarians have primarily spread their messages through music. Reggae has not only become its medium for communicating; it ...

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