If you've ever listened to reggae, you've probably heard a reference or two to Jah, Ethiopia or Emperor Haile Selassie. You may have wondered what exactly this had to do with reggae; fair question. After all, it plays a big part of the spirituality the Rasta movement brings to reggae as a whole.
Ethiopia it should be noted is one of the more ancient homes of Christianity, a Christian nation since at least the 5th century. It should also be known that Ethiopia is also home to the 12th Tribe of Israel and continues to be a home for African Jews. Rastafari is a reflection of these old origins and the spiritual home of Rastas despite being born in Jamaica.
Jah, is the short form of Jahovah, and means God. Rastafari is the way of life that reflects a communion with Jah. It is also a word that translates literally to mean Ras Tafari, the given name of of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (1930-1974), whom Rastas believe to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. So it should come as no surprise that Selassie, Jah, Ethiopia and Ras Tafari are a big part of reggae music.
What is a bit of a surprise is that Ethiopian music, which for a long time had no reggae tradition, has become a hotbed of reggae over the past few years. Bands like Dub Colossus have started something truly unique, as if recognising their special place and simply completing the circle of respect Jamaica has shared with Ethiopia since Selassie's visit to the island in 1966.
In the very near future, another circle will find its completion as Israel's hottest reggae band, Zvuloon Dub System, is set to release its second full-length Anbessa Dub. Zvuloon Dub System is a unique band blending Amharic vocals and reggae in sublime new ways and connecting reggae to its Judaic roots. And you can help them get closer by funding their headstarter campaign (think kickstarter). Here's what they have to say about it…
When Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, the man known as Ras Tafari, visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, more than one hundred thousand Rastafarians were waiting at Kingston Airport to see the man they revered as the Messiah. For a brief moment, still celebrated by the faithful as Grounation Day, the two countries came together. 18 years later, in 1984, an Ethiopian Jewish family, members of the lost tribe of Israel, walked across the desert, making the long track to their homeland. And now those three cultures – Jamica, Ethiopia, and Israel – merge on the new album by Tel Aviv-based Zvuloon Dub System, called Anbessa Dub…
. The project features several artists from the ‘Beta Israel’ community (the Jewish Ethiopian community that immigrated to Israel during the 80’s and the 90’s) playing the music they grew up with, in their mother tongue. The collaboration of these artists with the members of Zvuloon Dub System creates a new style of music which is neither “Ethiopian music” nor “Jamaican Roots Reggae”, but rather a new sonic manifestation that crosses borders and cultural boundaries. The aural signature of the group is an elegant synthesis of the pentatonic scales typical of Ethiopian music with the characteristic drum and bass heavy sounds of reggae dub rounded out by jazzy free-form lines of the brass section filling the spaces. Electric guitars with sounds characteristic of funk and soul music are augmented by the traditional Ethiopian instruments and African drums. The lyrics of the songs talk about the longing and nostalgia for the forgotten and beloved land.The new Zvuloon Dub System project blends roots reggae within the context of the unique vibration of Ethiopian culture. The project offers fresh versions of famous songs from the golden age of modern Ethiopian music together with original songs written by the members of the band