It has been four years since I came to Ethiopia and converted to Christianity


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Interview with  Janeal. It has been four years since I came to Ethiopia and converted to Christianity. Drive 155 miles south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, and you’ll find yourself in a little patch of Jamaica, where dreadlocked Rasta settlers, many born in the Caribbean, have now made their home. 

 

Welcome to the community of Shashemane—Ethiopia’s version of “Amish country.” You do not have to look far in Africa to see the influence of reggae music. Once I met a Tuareg tribesman in the Sahara Desert who proudly played me a Bob Marley ringtone on his cell phone. 

 

Reggae music swept ’round the world in the 1970s, then receded a bit in most places. It still lives large in Africa. There is great reverence for the Jamaican classics, but there are also many lively local scenes. Reggae is music for the dispossessed, and Africa itself plays a leading role in reggae’s narrative. 

 

In reggae mythology, Africa is the Promised Land, the destined homeland where the African diaspora will someday be repatriated. Africa—and Ethiopia in particular—is the “Land of Zion” sung about in so many reggae songs.

 

Reggae has its code and language, infused largely with the ideology of the Rastafarians—followers of a spiritual system that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica. A big influence on the Rastafarians was Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political leader in the 1920s who led a Back to Africa movement among descendants of slaves throughout the Americas. 

 

Rastafarians regard Garvey as a prophet who predicted that one day a black man would be crowned king in Africa and would bring deliverance to dark-skinned people everywhere.

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