News / Arts & Entertainment

Drumming Recalls Centuries-old Link Between Caribbean, Africa

Vivien Jones stands behind the drummers waving the Jamaican flag at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival. (Courtesy Hanan Bar Assulin/Jerusalem Season of Culture)
Vivien Jones stands behind the drummers waving the Jamaican flag at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival. (Courtesy Hanan Bar Assulin/Jerusalem Season of Culture)
Gail Wein
Throughout the ages and around the globe, drumming has been used for communication, entertainment, and prayer. That is especially true for the Rastafarians who performed at this year's Sacred Music Festival in Jerusalem.

If you haven’t heard of Nyabinghi drumming, you are not alone. It is sacred music, played as a communal meditative practice in the Rastafarian religion of Jamaica, and rarely performed in public.

As Jamaican reggae star Vivien Jones explains, it is a centuries-old link between the Caribbean and Africa.

“That's been in Jamaica since we were taken there as slaves," Jones said. "Slave master used to bang the drums. So the drums were there from the time we landed on that island, the drums were being played. So it was African drumming … all the way from ancient Ethiopia. All it did was it traveled in a slave ship to Jamaica and then it bloomed and blossomed again in Jamaica.”

LISTEN: Drumming Recalls Centuries-old Link between Carribean, Africa
Drumming Recalls Centuries-old Link between Carribean, Africai
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

It is a form of music passed down from generation to generation. Drummer Bonjo Iyapingi Noah started early.

"I grew up playing within the church," he said. "Before the elders would come up and play, we the children we have to play. We learn this all from the elders. The elders sit us down and they teach us what to sing.”

Bonjo plays with Drums of Defiance, a band of Jamaican musicians based in London. He says that although this is sacred music, the band is now beginning to perform it in public to spread the teachings of the Rastafarians.
Vivien Jones and Drums of Defiance perform at the medieval fortress, the Tower of David, in the heart of Old Jerusalem. (Courtesy Noam Chojnowski/Jerusalem Season of Culture)Vivien Jones and Drums of Defiance perform at the medieval fortress, the Tower of David, in the heart of Old Jerusalem. (Courtesy Noam Chojnowski/Jerusalem Season of Culture)

“I was even thinking it was wrong for me to even record it. I’m going to make a Nyabinghi album because, the way I was seeing it is from the church, but now, as I said before, the teachings have to go everywhere," Bonjo said. "Everyone has to know what Rastafari is. Show the power of nyabinghi.”  

For their performance at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival, the band members are seated on stage. Some are dressed in white, and some are clad in vivid reds, yellows and greens, with long flowing robes and colorful headgear.

The musicians’ chanting often follows the “call and response” pattern that is typical of gospel and other genres of music whose roots are in Africa.

Biblical Israel is a core topic in much of gospel and reggae music. So when Vivien Jones had the chance to perform at the annual festival in Jerusalem, he didn’t hesitate. He invited the Drums of Defiance to join him.

"The importance of this place, Israel, from all our background, growing up as children, reading the Bible and things like this," Jones said. "Our parents are Christians, so it’s very special for me, because you feel a presence of a higher level of blessing and grace. You feel a presence of that. You can definitely feel it here.”

Nyabinghi drumming is ceremonial music for Rastafarians.  But, it is also universal.

“This music that we play, this music is music of love and upliftment," Jones said. "This music is for the whole world. It’s for all nations. It’s for us to get together. This music will draw everyone together, all nations together. We’re not singing of war, we’re singing of peace, we’re singing of love, we’re singing of caring for one another, your family. This is what we're singing about.”

Jones and the Drums of Defiance plan to take performances of Nyabinghi music around the world.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.