Where we come from

Reggae music had a very close link to the Rasta Far-I religion in its early days. Many reggae musicians identified with the religion, hence the African connection. It would have been very unusual to go to watch even a local reggae band without at least one if not all of its members sporting dread locks. We “raved” to the sounds of Africa. The rub-a-dub dance was perfected during the pioneering days of reggae music.   “Until the color of a man’s skin is no more significant than the color of his eyes”, words from Hail Selassie-I’s speech at the League of nation convention in 1936. These words were later immortalized by Bob Marley in his song “War”. Marley was renowned for his powerful lyrics that proclaimed his majesty, Selassie-I “Jah Rasta-Far-I. He was somewhat prophetic in his approach to his art, preaching, teaching and singing words that tell us to look to Africa. The connection to Selassie-I or Ethiopia was very strong in his music. “For the wicked carried us away… captivity… and required from us a song”, by the rivers of Babylon, another memorable song that reminds us of where we come from. The song tells the stories of the young warriors sitting together at the water’s edge, singing songs of the Africa they miss so much. These young warriors were uprooted from Africa and were now sitting by the rivers of Babylon reminiscing of that far away land. They left whole villages full of family and friends and wonder if they will ever see them. “Everybody scatter… East, West, North, and South”, lyrics from a song by Tony Mahoney, a Jamaican British reggae singer. The Africans were taken to very faraway lands like the Caribbean, north and south America, Panama, Columbia, Brazil just to name a few. We were scattered, east, west, north and south.

Our ancestors made an amazing journey from Africa to the Americas and by the grace of Jah, some of them survived. I am one of their decedents so I have some old African slave to thank for who I am today because they survived that horrific journey. Most of the Caribbean people came from what was known as the Gold Coast at the time, now called Ghana. We are a mixture of several Akan people which include Akyem, Ashanti, Fanti and few more tribes from the Gold Coast. The Akan tribes were fighters and after arriving in Caribbean, they had a hard time adjusting to life in captivity. In Jamaica and all over the Americas many of the slaves would run away to the hills and hide. In Jamaica the runaway slaves would come back at nights and raid the Spanish settlements. These runaway slaves were given the name Maroons which is a name taken from a Spanish word Cimarrones. The word basically means unruly-fugitive. The name Maroons were given to runaway slaves all over the Americas. These Akyem fighters ended up all over the Caribbean and South America in countries like Panama Columbia etc. The Jamaican Maroons were reportedly the first set of slaves to successfully fight their slave masters to the point where after the British pushed the Spanish out of Jamaica, they were forced into signing a treaty with the Maroons in order to continue with their plantations in peace on the island. The Jamaican Maroons today can say “They were brought here but were never enslaved here”.

The strings that binds us is culture – Anansi Stories – Culture more than anything else is really what binds a people and that has been proven over and over. The Africans from the Gold Coast grew up on Anansi stories just like the Jamaicans. Jamaicans grew up on Anansi stories and brother little man, brother bald head and many more characters. Those mischievous spider and pranksters that made us laugh as kids while growing up also made our sisters and brothers in Ghana laugh. Those stories were our way of teaching the children how to love and how to live a moral life. So if someone ask the question where we come from, just say Africa.