Nyabinghi, also Nyahbinghi, Niyabinghi, Niyahbinghi, is the gathering
of Rastas, known as Rastafarians to celebrate and commemorate key
dates significant to Rastafari throughout the year. It is essentially
an opportunity for Rastas to congregate and engage in praise and
worship. For example, on July 23rd of each year, a Nyabinghi is held
to celebrate the birth of His Majesty, Emperor Haille Selassi I. So
how is this done? During a Nyabinghi celebration men and women have
different roles and expectations. Men are expected to remove their
tams (Rasta hats) whilst women must keep their hair covered. A group
of men typically organise themselves in a line or semi-circle and are
assigned to beat the drums throughout. The remaining congregation
continue to sing well known songs or 'chants', some of which are
edited hymns that reflect the traditions of Rastafari. For example, 'I
have a little light in I and I'm going to make it shine, Rastafariiii,
shine' and 'Holy Mount Zion is a holy place and no sinners can enter
there, so let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart, be
acceptable in thy sight, of Rastafari'. Nyabinghi is a Rasta tradition
that promotes Rasta unity, strengthens the Rasta spirit with
fellowship and raises the conciousnes and presence of Rastafafari in
the heart of those in attendance. At some points passages of the bible
are read. Rasta recognise the significance of Jesus Christ, but as a
1 Nyabinghi music
2 See also
4 Further reading
5 External links
The Niyabinghi resistance inspired a number of Jamaican Rastafarians,
who incorporated what are known as niyabinghi chants (also binghi)
into their celebrations ("groundations"). The rhythms of these chants
were eventually an influence of popular ska, rocksteady and reggae
music. It is the traditional music of the Rastafarian practice and it
is used during "reasoning" sessions and consists of chanting and
drumming to reach states of heightened spirituality. Nyabingi music
consists of a blend of 19th century gospel music and African drumming.
Niyabinghi drumming is not exclusive to the Niyabinghi order, and is
common to all Rastafarians. Its rhythms are the basis of
through the influential ska band, the Skatalites. It is said that
their drummer revolutionized Jamaican music by combining the various
Niyabinghi parts into a 'complete' "drum kit," which combined with
jazz to create an entirely new form of music, known as ska. Niyabinghi
rhythms were largely a creation of Count Ossie, who incorporated
influences from traditional Jamaican Kumina drumming (especially the
form of the drums themselves) with songs and rhythms learned from the
recordings of Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji.
Though Niyabinghi music operates as a form of Rasta religious music
outside of Reggae, musicians such as
Bob Marley and even non-Rastas
such Prince Buster (Muslim) and
Jimmy Cliff used the idiom in some
songs. Recently, dancehall artist Sizzla, American roots-Reggae
artists such as
Groundation and Jah Levi, and Hip hop have used
Niyabinghi drums extensively in their recordings. Though sometimes
claimed to be a direct continuation of an African cultural form,
Niyabinghi drumming is best seen as the voice of a people
rediscovering their African roots.
Combining Jamaican traditions with newly acquired African ones, Count
Ossie and others synthesized his country's African traditions and
reinvigorated them with the influences of Nigerian master-drummer
Babatunde Olatunji, as a comparison of Count Ossie's Tales of
Mozambique and Olatunji's earlier
Drums of Passion
Drums of Passion will reveal.
Indeed, it is that combination of inherited traditions and conscious
rediscovery of lost African traditions that makes Niyabinghi
drumming—and Rasta—so powerful.
Three kinds of drums (called "harps") are used in niyabinghi: bass,
also known as the "Pope Smasher" or "Vatican Basher", reflecting a
Rasta association between Catholicism and Babylon, the middle-pitched
funde and akete. The akete (also known as the "repeater") plays an
improvised syncopation, the funde plays a regular one-two beat and the
bass drum strikes loudly on the first beat, and softly on the third
beat (of four). When groups of players get together, only one akete
player may play at any one time. The other drums keep regular rhythms
while the akete players solo in the form of a conversation. Count
Ossie was the first to record niyabinghi, and he helped to establish
and maintain Rastafari culture. Only Rastamen are allowed to play
drums at Nyahbingi. Anyone may play shaka, or shekere.
There are membranophones played at a groundation ceremony in rasta
culture. Nyabinghi music is played in 4/4 time on three drums:
Thunder: It is a double-headed bass drum, played with a mallet. The
strokes are an open tone on 1 and a dampened stroke on 3.
Occasionally, the thunder player will syncopate the rhythm.
Funde: The funde is the middle drum. It maintains the dominant
heartbeat rhythm as the funde player makes steady, dampened strokes on
1 and 3. it is thus dually known as the heartbeat and has the least
Repeater: The repeater or kete, is the smallest and highest pitched
drum. It is somewhat of a single elongated bongo. The drummer tends to
play around 2 and 4, with a syncopated, rather than a backbeat feel.
These beats are important to the overall feel of the Nyahbingi rhythm,
but the repeater has a very improvisational role in bingi because it
is seen as the carrier of spirit.
Shaka: The shekere, which is commonly found throughout Africa, the
Caribbean Latin America, has a place in Nyahbingi. The shekere player
has a somewhat flexible role: He/she has been known to play on
“1”, “1&”, “1” and “3” or
“1&”…“3&” [The following should be noted regarding
the curious nomenclature of this instrument—Perhaps the word is a
simple corruption of the proper pronunciation; and there is the
possibility that it is a more calculated allusion to the Zulu word for
Main article: Niyabinghi chants
Niyabinghi chanting typically includes recitation of the Psalms,
but may also include variations of well-known
Christian hymns and
adopted by Rastafarians. The rhythms of these chants were eventually
an influence of popular ska, rocksteady and reggae music. The chants
contain ideas of black redemption and repatriation. They help people
to participate and feel included in the Rastafarian community.
Nyabinghi chants include:
"Every time I chant Nyahbingi"
Psalms 137" aka "Down By The Rivers Of Babylon"
"400 Million Blackman"
"400 Years" (its lyrics influenced Peter Tosh's "400 Years")
Babylon In I Way"
Babylon Throne Gone Down" (arranged by
Bob Marley to "Rastaman Chant"
"Banks of the River"
"Behold Jah live"
"Blackman Get Up Stand Up" (its lyrics influenced Bob Marley's and
Peter Tosh's "Get Up, Stand Up" in 1973)
"Chant Zion Chant"
"Closer Than a Brother"
"Come sight up in Jah Army"
"Have a little light in I"
"I Am Getting Ready"
"I Must Trod Home"
"I Shall Not Remove" (its lyrics influenced Bob Marley's "Forever
"I Will Not Go With You"
"Jah Got the Whole World"
"Jah Wind Blow East"
Babylon Have To Move" / "Him Have To Move"
"Never Get Burn"
"No Night in Zion" (arranged and released by Culture in 1997, arranged
and released by Luciano in 2001)
"Nyahbinghi Voyage" (arranged and released by Steel Pulse)
"One Day Nearer Home"
"Over Hills and Valleys"
"Peace and Love"
"Promise to Hear I Chant"
"Rastafari Know What This Gathering For"
"Rivers of Babylon" (arranged and released by The Jamaicans, Boney M
arrangement became a world hit)
"Rock of Ises"
"Roll River Jordan"
"Run Come Rally"
"Send One Mighty Ingel"
"So Long Rastafari" (arranged by
Bob Marley in 1978; arranged and
Dennis Brown in 1979)
"Take a Sip"
"The Lion of Judah" / "The Conquering Lion" (arranged by
Bob Marley in
"The Things You Do" (arranged and released by
"What a Weeping"
"What a Woe"
"Will You Be Ready"
Mansions of Rastafari
^ a b Katz, David (2003).
Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music
and Culture of Jamaica. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80496-4.
Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "jhbradley7" defined
multiple times with different content (see the help page).
^ Bradley, John H. (June 2009). "House of Judah Nyabinghi Rastafarian
Grounation in Khayalethu South Township, South Africa". Cape Town to
Cairo Website. CapeTowntoCairo.com. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
Hopkins, Elizabeth. “The Nyabingi Cult of Southwestern Uganda.”
Protest and Power in Black Africa. Ed. Robert I. Rotberg and Ali A.
Mazrui. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. 258-336.
Kiyaga-Mulindwa, D. “Nyabingi Cult and Resistance.” Encyclopedia
of African History. Ed. Kevin Shillington. 3 vols. New York: Fitzroy
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