Africa and Black Consciousness

The music of Rastafarian drummer Count Ossie with the group The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari connects reggae to traditional African traditional ethos, “The Count” created a distinctive Rastafarian music called Nyabinghi, a style of drumming he developed through study with buro musicians, descendants of rhythmic timekeepers on plantation. From that time until the international acceptance of reggae music, Rastafarians and their drumming were considered subversive and threatening to the well being of uptown Jamaican society.

Although they practised their rituals in the hills and shanty towns, Rastas remained the target of police raids. The suppression of Rastafarian culture to suit the Jamaican social elites parallels the restriction on drumming during the era of slavery. Drums gave slave's power and enabled communication that eluded the planter class. In post-Independence Jamaica those dynamics remain.

Album covers depicting Africa and African themes teem with Afro-Diasporic imagery. Count Ossie's Tales of Mozambique and the Revolutionaries' Jankonoo Dub are samples of covers that display an African consciousness. Others include the likeness of 20th century figures like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Haile Selassie and Nelson Mandela, all of whom advocated social change and the embrace of an African identity and black consciousness.

Inspired by the political ideas of the developing world, that economic advancement was not synonymous with national resources, the self-contained band. Third World established an identity developed through their music. Their music was easily identified by its jazz- rock influence mixed with pan-Diasporic rhythms and by their Haitian-African inspired artwork. Artist Tony Wright created the covers for the four albums the group produced for Island Records during their most creative period, which provided an ongoing dialogue between the aural and visual dimensions.

The Afro-Diasporic appeal Third World's music received was complemented by the depictions of new-world and old-world black activities that the songs proclaimed. Not only did their music's narrative convey landmark evens in black culture; it was helped along by the art. Images provoked memories, which allowed an engagement with the slave past in songs such as “Slavery Days” and “Human Market Place”, and drew attention to present conditions in “Brand New Beggar” and “Third 'World Man”. Other songs anticipated future conditions and possibilities, a time when displaced Africans could “Journey to Adults”, experience the “Dreamland in Africa” and sing “Freedom Song(s)”.