part 2

Part II

The British brought thousands of West Africans, mostly from the Gold Coast and Nigeria, to Jamaica. The Ashanti, from Western Africa, have had the greatest influence on Jamaican culture. The Ashanti tongue, Twi, still carries on to this day throughout the island. The folk religion, Kumina, which comes from two Twi words: Akom- "to be possessed," and Ana- "by an ancestor," was the area most dominated by Ashanti. "This ancestor-possession cult became the medium of religious expression for all Africans during the slave period" (Barrett 17). The reason so much of the Kumina ritual has survived seems to be that it was not only a legacy of slavery, but of contract workers from the Congo who arrived in Jamaica in the mid-nineteenth century (Roberts 34).
A Kumina ritual always involves drumming and dancing. In African culture, the drum is recognized as an instrument of communication (Potash 4). Special occasions, including ceremonies for the rites of passage, and even illness would call for a Kumina. A sacrifice is always made and the dancing continues until possession of the spirit of the ancestors of either the dancer or of the person who calls the Kumina is achieved. Under Kumina possession, a revelation that is considered sacred is given by the ancestors concerning the occasion for which the ritual is called (Barrett 19). Kumina's distinctive drumming moved to Kingston in the 1930's and became one of the roots of Rastafarian drumming.

Burru drumming is also a root of Rastafarian music. It was first played on the island in the 1903's in the Parish of Clarendon and later in West Kingston. When the destruction of the pinnacle forced many Rastas into Kingston, the Rastas learned burru drumming. It is believed burru refers to a dance from Ghana (Mulvaney 14).

The burru people were a diminishing group of mostly criminals who were known for their virtuoso African drumming of the traditional African instruments, dating back to the time of slavery, such as the akete drum. Musically, the Rastas followed in the burru's application of something in pure African form untouched by Western influences (Potash 9).

The drum plays an extremely important role in Jamaica's folk and traditional music, especially for the Rastaman. This idea behind the beauty and soul of the drum in Africa was brought to Jamaica not only through slavery, religion, and cults, but also through the "flight" of slaves. This was an incidence in which a significant minority of Africans escaped slavery by flight into the interior, when the interior was a condition that would allow for this. The most well known of these groups are the Saramaka, Boni, the Maroons of the Guianas, who were protected by the dense jungle, and the Maroons of Jamaica, who protected themselves and their independence with the use of weaponry. These so-called Bush Negros were the repositories of neo-African music.

In his book African Civilization of the New World, Roger Bastide draws a similar conclusion.
There can be no doubt that marronage was most often practiced by recently disembarked immigrants from Africa, who would certainly not have forgotten their own ancestral customs·. This we see that it is only the marronage of the Bossales, or newly imported slaves, which can be regarded as responsible for the preservation of African customs (Barrett 15).

There is no doubt that the preservation of African customs and music has been incredible. The drum is the heart of Africa and the heartbeat of the African. The white man may have thought that he could control an entire race of people by destroying their lives for his selfish purpose, but he cannot stop the voice or the heartbeat of Africa. Music, whether communal or private, is interwoven with every aspect of African life, and this custom has not faded. The drum is still beating and growing stronger, and the Rastafarians are some of the great messengers.

The drum is not only the primary instrument that provides a rich "polyridimic" (in Jamaican music, "ridim" refers to the drum and percussion patterns and tempo) base for voice instruments, but it also is the spirit of God. Because of the crucial role that the drums plays in the history of African custom, it is not surprising that there is an affluence of drums, each with a different vibration, tone, symbolism, and significance.
Three kinds of drums that are played in nyabinghi are bass, funde, and akete. The bass drum is struck on the first of the four beats and muffled on the third. This traditional African drum has been used in burru and Kumina drumming. The funde plays a steady one-two beat, and the high pitched akete drum (the repeater) plays the improvised syncopation. The origin of the drums of nyabinghi is traced as a complex interpenetration of Buru, Kumina, and Revival styles of drumming in West Kingston.
One of the first to record nyabinghi and one of the earliest Rastafarian drummers was Oswald Williams, known as "Count Ossie." The legendary nyabinghi drummer also worked to establish and maintain African and Rasta culture in Jamaica. "Rastafarian religious music is still nyabinghi, which emerged from the African burru drumming taught to Count Ossie in his youth" Barrett 245).

In the later 1950's, Back o' Wall and West Kingston were the melting pot of African and indigenous Afro-European forms of music such as Kumina, burru, myal, Revivalism, Pocomania and other church variations. At this time, Count Ossie was making regular trips to "reason" with other Rasta brethren on Garveyism, Rastafarianism, black culture, and blackman redemption. It was there that Count Ossie learned to play the burru drums. As the late Ossie told it, he first learned to play the funde, and then went on to master the akete (Potash 9). Ossie's teacher was a burru man called "Brother Job" (Chang 27).

Until 1953, only a rumba box was used and drums were totally absent from Rastafarian meetings in West Kingston. Ossie ordered a set of akete drums made to his specification and created drumming stylings based on the burru patterns. Over time he gave Rasta a music.

Rastafarian music reflects the cultists' perception of the society. The downbeat of the drummer symbolizes the death of the oppressive society but it is answered by the akete drummers with a lighter upbeat, a resurrection of the society through the power of Ras Tafari (Barrett 193).




Greetings to each and everyone who love and practice the heartbeat Nyabinghi movement. I'n'I binghi drums percussions.

 I live in south-west of France and build Nyabinghi drums since years 2005. Aketeh, repeater, fundeh and thunder Bassdrum.

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Bonjour et bienvenue à tous les passionnés des tambours Nyabinghi.

Je vis en france et construit des percussions keteh, repeater, fundeh, bassdrum depuis 2005.

Je vends et j'expedie mes tambours en france et en europe.

Pour toute demande veuillez me contacter par email.


Bertrand Palué

- La fontpeyre -


email: meekman [@] 

phone: +33 (0) 553 504 419