Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who is Haille Selassie, Or Ras Tafari?

By Ron Givens

When I lived in San Diego, I was playing with a band called Ishmael and the Peacemakers. We were playing at gig at the World Beat Center in Balboa park. As was the norm, we waited backstage while the opening band played.

I was sitting next to our bass player, Preston. Preston was a very nice guy and always had a lot of information about "life stuff". I remember there was a huge portrait of an Egyptian or Absynnian looking guy that I had been seeing for months now. Ever since I started playing reggae, this guys mug was popping up everywhere.

"Hey Preston ...why do I see that guys face in every place we play a show?" I asked him. He then went on to explain who Haille Selassie was and when someone says "Rasta", they actually mean this guy. His name was Ras Tafari, and he was descendant of King Solomon of the Old Testament.

Up until that point I had no idea that this was who Bob Marley was referring to, and that Rastafarians worship him.

The key beliefs of rastafarians are:
  • Selassie is worshipped as divine
  • Rastafarians also honor Old Testament prophets like Moses and Elijah
  • Another central concept is Babylon, which refers to the power structure of Europe and the Americas
  • Marijuana is used primarily during the two main Rastafari rituals: reasonings and nyabingi
  • Dreadlocks have several purposes and layers of meaning for Rastafarians, including the biblical command not to cut one's hair (Leviticus 21:5)
  • The most observant Rastas follow a dietary law called Ital
  • Most Rastafarians are vegatarians or vegans
  • Rastafarians reject the use of alcohol, since it is a fermented chemical that does not belong in the temple of the body and it makes a person stupid
There are many others, but I think I got the key points. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life than a religion, that's why you will often meet people who love reggae so deeply they can be dubbed "rasta-(insert name here)", and still be respected by all those who love reggae music and culture. I know hundreds of Ras-Benjamins and Ras Ralphs and Ras Tony's and Ras-Cornelius ... you name it. I am not Rastafarian at all, however many of you do know me as...Rasta Ron:). Or Just call me Pasta.

Ron Givens has been playing reggae drums for over 10 years. You can check out his reggae website at

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