Rastaman live up
Let's Talk ReggaeSunday, August 08, 2021
EVEROL “STINGWRAY” WRAY
Despite gaining Independence in 1962, our country still has not been fully decolonised. Instead, we have kept in place the same system of governance that we inherited from the British, one which continues the same oppressive treatment of our citizens, except this time it's through the agents of our self-governing State.
Over the years the music of artistes from the Rastafari community has articulated strong resistance to this colonial system in a post-colonial age and gained traction with Bob Marley, whose international prominence took the message of Rastafari and the importance of “emancipating ourselves from mental slavery” around the world.
This development of the music continued, even as our education system has maintained the foundation that we inherited from the colonisers and which we have not really advanced to meet the needs of the majority black population of disenfranchised Jamaicans. The youth of today, many of whom are lost and unproductive, have an urgent need to be exposed to and shown achievements of black people and positive role models who look like them and who share their history and culture. It is hurtful to me that, even today, the teachings of our first National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey is not included in our schools in a way that would inculcate his message of positive self-regard, self-reliance, and pride in the history to the youth. I believe that this has limited the ability of the average young Jamaican to fully develop to their fullest potential.
Reggae cultural artistes have kept the African consciousness from the earliest days, and since the 1970's have taken that message to markets around the world through the music. It is interesting that, although the music articulates a strong message of resistance and rejection of the oppression of the European colonisers, the audiences overseas have accepted the lyrics and the message and can be seen at concerts singing along and repeating every word of the most condemning tune by heart. It, oftentimes, seems that here in Jamaica the local audience is not as convinced about the negative impact of enslavement and colonisation and how that legacy continues to affect the society and our values and attitudes.
The recent case of the young Rasta woman, Nzinga King, who alleges that her locks were trimmed while she was taken into custody by the State is troubling and highlights this lack of regard for the African descendant citizen in Jamaica and a lack of respect for the unique cultural and religious expression of all citizens. As Jamaicans, we need to embrace and love our own image and likeness and see the beauty and 'livity' in ourselves and in each other.
I believe that going forward, it is not enough for the Rastafari artistes to remain on the sidelines and continue to sing about oppression and truth and rights, while at the same time discourage their community from getting involved in the political arena. The Rastafari community, for the most part, is still repeating a statement made by Bob Marley many years ago when he said, “Rastaman don't vote”. We need representation and a seat at the table to change those archaic laws that continue to disenfranchise our people and the youth, whether they are 'Rasta or bald head'. The Rastafari community cannot afford to sit around and wait for the laws to be changed by those in Parliament who do not represent their values. It goes without saying that being Rastafari is much more than having locks.
The Rastafari community continues to be in danger from the blatant disregard of the general society and the archaic laws, practices, and attitudes such as the Coral Gardens incident back in 1963, where Rastas were rounded up by the State and abused and trimmed for their beliefs and their presentation of their African identity. Over the years, there have been countless instances of the humiliation and violation of Rastafari youth by the trimming of their locks, refusing them attendance at school unless they are trimmed, violation of their families dietary laws, and countless other discrimination and denial of the basic human rights of self-determination and self-identification that is due all Jamaicans.
I believe it is time for Rastafari to embrace the political process to gain true representation. We have a choice, embrace the UNIA or start a new political party that represents our values. At the very least, we should put forth and support independent candidates who really represent us. It is not enough to sing songs and criticise the system as we can see that doing so without activism has not advanced our cause. The incident involving the daughter of Rasta Dale Virgo's daughter was just a year ago, and these repeated incidents simply mean that the colonial wheel is still turning.
On a final note, I wonder if the recent appointment of our prime minister to the Privy Council is aimed at derailing our demands for the payment of reparation from our former colonial ruler?
Everol Wray, or Stingwray as he prefers to be called, is a brass player and past student of Alpha School of Music, formerly Alpha Boys' School. He plays the trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, euphonium, French horn, cornet and tuba.
Stingwray has played with various local and international acts, including Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, Jimmy Cliff, Junior Gong, Cuba Gooding Sr of the Main Ingredient, The Temptations Review, Blue Magic and The O'Jays.
His album credits include performing on the recently elevated to diamond status album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, specifically on the number one song Doo Wop (that thing) and Forgive Them Father. He is currently a member of the following bands – Lloyd Parks and We the People Band, IN2NATION and Skalareg.
Stingwray has been on the board of Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) since 2013 as the musician's representative. He was recently elected chairman of the Constitution Advocacy Lobbying and Membership (CALM) committee, as well as vice-chairman for the term 2021-2023.