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Monday, November 28, 2005

Christafari: Cultural bandit or reinventor of the scope of reggae myoozik?

A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS

Christafari: Cultural bandit or reinventor of the scope of reggae myoozik?

Blurb: "You set me free from such bondage, released me from such carnage...emancipation, proclamation...you have set me free from sinful slavery; you have released me from what's entangled me. As I was in the darkness you gave my soul light, and now that I live in the daytime, I am haunted by the night. Father show us the way, guide and protect us I pray, a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day...spabadabadabadaba bop spidada spop spop spaba daba spop spoba doba spop spee da da da Christafari Jah Jah Jah Jah Jah Creator. Christafari Jehovah Messiah My Savior Jah Jah Jah Jah!"

My fancy for reggae myoozik stems from a desire for emancipation from mental, spiritual, political and economic slavery. Though I hate thought control imposed on me by institutions that spread the meme virus which destroyed the built-in program of "goodness" in my system - and that I must admit that I'm having a hard time in the debugging of such, I am already tied up to believing the diploma is a weapon against poverty, dragged into embracing a faith that exalts flagellation and martyrdom, taught that sex rightfully belongs in marriage, etcetera. I guess if I weren't schooled only to be instituted and canned and boxed, and if I had only a choice about religions, and left with how I would cherish virginal values, then I could have been a better person.

Today I feel that to crave for the universalization of religions and the intertwining of philosophies is but a far cry in some wilderness. And that my practice of freedom, at some points, has gone haywire, rocking the bed of democracy. Every man is entitled to have his own picture of his God whoever and however he conceives Him to be, I stand by on this conviction amid the scorns of the religious fundamentalists who throw their stares at me as if I'm dressed with dementia.

When the influence of reggae found a beat in my head, my worship also found form, substance, sensitivity and sensibility. Evangelization through music ministry proves to be life-changing because music touches souls and binds a culture, and that is a fact. And though I experimented on monotones with Gregorian Chant, the charismatic hymn in Don Moen's works, the melting of a heart that professed to be an ex-atheist in Steve Kuban's songs, the alternative sound of Jars of Clay to the cymbal-crashing, growling contemporary gospel music of POD, I developed a very strong liking for reggae.

Well, if you only have a journal of that careful study of music albums of reggae artists done to dissect their cerebellums, you would be able to take note that their works reveal striking qualities of good oratory on the deployment of both classical, traditional and innovative rhetorical skills to the cause of political independence, economic advancement, and the restoration of racial pride, not to mention the playup of musical instruments that gives heads reason to rock and fingers to thump and feet to stomp.

But lately I am saddened by the accusations hurled at my favorite Christian reggae artists who collectively call themselves Christafari (say Christ-a-far-eye) for allegedly stealing a culture that is that of Rastafarians. Oh my! Is the word stealing? Or merely borrowing?

Tansoback and Christafari

Mark Mohr aka Tansoback, an ordained minister who took on reggae myoozik to promote Christian evangelism leads the pack. The group professes to be counter-cult and is a drug aversion ministry using reggae myoozik and the spoken word to reach a wayward generation, with the desire to bring hope to the afflicted, edify the body of Christ, evangelize the lost, and ultimately see all of the listeners gravitate towards the Word of God.

The group took its name from Christ being the Greek word for "Messiah". Cristoforos or Christafaros means "the Christ bearer" in Greek, while Cristoforoi or Christafaroi is plural for "a group of people that collectively bears or represents Christ". Tafari is Amharic (an Ethiopian language) for "Creator, Almighty, Awesome, Father, and One who needs to be worshipped". Christafari was lifted off from John 1:1-3. Collectively in Greek, it stands for "soldiers for Christ" or "salvation army".

Mark Mohr (Tansoback) is on lead vocals (raggamuffin and singing), and percussion; Erik Sven Sundin (Earthman) also on lead vocals; James Pach (Jaibo Culture) lead vocals and keyboards; Lyndon Barrington Allen (Iron) plays bass, vocals and keyboards; Bill Kasper (Painta Man) plays guitar; Ken Yarnes (Mr. Mention) plays drums and does additional drum programming. Background vocals are provided by Mark Heimermann, Vicki Hampton and Donna McElroy; and additional musicians like Barry Green pipe up the trombone while Dennis Soley does it on flute.

I have two of Christafari's albums aside from "Gravity" released recently with reviews posted on their website. I have Soulfire and WordSoundPower of Gotee Records distributed by Praise Music. I would say that as a big, big fan the accusations hurled at Christafari for being "cultural bandits" gave me the hurts. They maybe are copycats in genre, in recording format, in style of oratory but I would want to defend them from being labelled thieves of a musical culture.

If the goal of reggaenism is to unite people everywhere in whom burns the unfulfilled wish for freedom, equality and dignity, can't Christian music ministry borrow such to uphold spiritual freedom, equality among sinners and saints and dignity of faith? If Jamaica reggae begun as a reaction to British colonial rule, why can't such style be propagated to emancipate people from thought control? from spiritual slavery? from the powers of darkness and or evil?

If the patterns of reggae music employed persuasive strategies coupled with the functionality of its aesthetics to serve as an effective device that a musician and orator uses in order to achieve intellectual and emotional effects on an audience, able to persuade them to accede to a point of view, then it might as well be employed in Christian evangelism to be able to reach out effectively to a group of people - count me in - who would prefer to listen to the appeal of gospel music written, arranged, and performed in this particular music genre.
It has been written that historical experiences and social struggles are reflected in the works of several reggae musicians who see their musical profession partly as the acceptance of a challenge to fulfill a duty which Bob Marley describes as: "We free our people with music." His music has remained highly popular, and for many it has continued to symbolize the hopes of the downtrodden for a better life outside urban slums. The clarity, conviction, and sincerity of Marley's performances, and his unique, melodic style of songwriting have influenced many pop-music artists.

I think that uncle Bob would want reggae to be shared among us who buy the message on emancipation, a cause meant to rub - not rob of any culture - but influence others through the marriage of oratory and aesthetics. Christafari is here to pave a way in the remapping of the scope of reggae myoozik so to touch people conscious of the possible unification of our faith in the one Jah - the Awesome, the Greatest Musician of All Time.

According to another successful reggae group Big Mountain, "make more fruitful days, that's what we are fighting for. It's about healing people". The healing of the scar of oppression, war and poverty is also the battlecry of Christianity. Can't we not borrow, musically, an already proven effective method to witness broken and contrite hearts bow down to the power of music?

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TEXTPRESS URSELF! 17-Oct-2005 17:13:45 "Great article 2day - fr fidel, don bosco; 17-Oct-2005 14:29:18 "Long ben lokng 2 cntac u bt got no cmputer. gud u giv ur cphn.ff always rd ur colum & njoyd nyoyng & wl njoy 8 always. mor powr. lyk ur style. gud work! - MJ, cebu city (Mobile phones withheld).

For your comments, reactions, suggestions, contributions on Jah, crank up my email addy:
pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com or text me at 09215323616. Grand eyeball up for all my "reactors" who would want to join our Adopt Streetkids Project on December 10. Jah rules!