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Examine the impact of Rastafarian culture on the metropolitan societies of

North America and Europe (Q. 5 2010, 2013)

The Rastafarian movement, speaking of imminent escape from harsh realities of life in
Jamaica, to a better life in Ethiopia, Africa, arising in the 1930s from protests in Jamaica, has
become nowadays, a spiritual way of life and cultural expression, spreading worldwide to all
who appreciate it. This syncretic religion has roots in Christianity, integrated with African culture
and beliefs, Pan Africanism and Afrocentrism. Syncretism can be defined as the combining of
different beliefs. Through icons who promoted Rastafarianism, the culture witnessed global
appeal, with even metropolitan societies in North America and Europe embracing
Rastafarianism.

Although migration of Globalization has caused this integration of Rastafarian culture into the
lives of those who are not fully fledged rastas. Through reggae music, the cultural values and
lifestyle of the Rastafarians were expressed for the world to hear. Evolving out of earlier genres
of ska and rocksteady, reggae was used as a form of passive revolt, formed in Jamaica, so that
their voices could be heard. One of the most popular of these reggae artistes was of course, Bob
Marley. Many synonymously associate the word reggae, with Bob Marley, who spoke to the
world through his music of peace and equality, promoting the Rastafarian movement and Pan
Africanism. Some of his most popular songs such as One Love and Redemption Song spread
this ideology of Rastafarianism to unimaginable heights, selling over 25 million copies
worldwide.

Through reggae music, led by the reggae superstar Bob Marley, listeners of their music
developed a tolerance and appreciation toward Rastafarians and their culture. Americans and
Europeans understood better racial and social discrimination, in the blacks fight for equality.
Reggae music and by extension Rastafarianism, had a great part to play in the fight for equality
of blacks in countries such as the USA and European nations. The impact on popular modern
music is significant in terms of the genre of arrangement or beat as well as the emergence of
conscious music.

Additionally, apart from their music, symbols of the Rastafarian protest against European
dominance, such as dreadlocks and the distinctive colours of the Ethiopian flag (red, green and
gold) are now adopted by many without their symbols being recognised fully. Through the
advent of globalization, these items became popularized as part of reggae music and many
adopted dreadlock hairstyles and clothes and other items with the colours of the Ethiopian flag.
Even nowadays, the dreadlock hairstyle and Ethiopian flag colours can just be seen as vogue
for some. It is important to note that Rastas are regarded as an ethnic group which affords them
certain rights such as the wearing of their dreadlocks in some US prisons.
Furthermore, it can be seen that to many, unaware of this culture, Rastafarianism and reggae
music was associated mainly with the SMOKING OF MARIJUANA. Rastafarians referred to
MARIJUANA as the SACRED HERB used in rituals to get closer to God. However the
Rastafarian movement, through reggae music, popularized the SMOKING OF MARIJUANA for
recreational use through their song lyrics. The movement revolutionised what was considered
low culture to being popular culture. From viewing all Rastas with suspicion to the present now
many respectable people from all walks of life and ethnicities have embraced dreadlocks,
forcing it to be accepted everywhere.

This movement brought attention to human rights abuses on the African continent in countries
such as Angola and South Africa and raised the consciousness of the world to its moral
responsibility to ensure equality for all humankind. In his song War he immortalized the
passionate speech given by Haile Selassie I in a 1963 speech to the United Nations speaking on
this world consciousness of human equality being the precursor to world peace. Many
metropolitan cities have been forced to review laws and practices which have long been unjust to
non-whites due to international pressure and outcry. The wave of interest has forced a revision of
white-dominated accounts of African history, of colonization, of oppression and genocide. Spin-
offs such as the Black Power movement which was more militant have changed these societies
forever.

In conclusion, the impacts of the Rastafarian movement have been far reaching even though it
may not have revolutionized the world. It may even be argued by some writers that non-Africans
in countries such as USA and Great Britain were more embracing of the tenets of this cult than
its intended African Diaspora. However the message was always a universal one, which among
other things forced a re-writing of history, inspired a generation of music, created new norms,
values and culture to the Western world and raised awareness about universal human rights
which inevitably translated into at least greater tolerance towards all things Africans.