Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A bar in Shashamane

A bar in Shashamane, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Across the border to Ethiopia now to Shashamane, a town lying south of Addis Ababa, which we went through three times, twice in the rain and once to stop for refreshments.

It is in the Rift Valley Lakes region of Ethiopia on the road down south towards Awassa and thence Kenya. It is a quite unremarkable place except for one thing. In 1941, the Emperor of Ethiopia granted 500 acres of land there to the Black People of the West, and in the next thirty years about 22 families came to settle there. Most of these came from Jamaica from the Rastafarian community.

These Rastafarians see Africa as their ancestral home, rightly enough, and have centred their beliefs on Ethiopia, due to references to Ethiopia and Ethiopians in the Bible, where these are taken to mean black people. Haile Selassie crowned as Emperor in 1930, with a lineage claimed (falsely without doubt) to go back to the Queen of Sheba came to the throne as Ras Tafari, from which the organisation took its name.

From the early 1930s, Rastafari in Jamaica have developed a culture based on an Afrocentric reading of the Bible, on communal values, a strict vegetarian dietary code known as Ital, a distinctive dialect, and a ritual calendar devoted to, among other dates, the celebration of various Ethiopian holy days.

Later on Bob Marley would go to popularise Rastafarianism with his inspirational music, loved and played all over the world, even though ot start with reggae did not have any direct association with Rastafarianism.

During the early 1990's I was very keen on a band called African Head Charge, mostly because of their excellent, classic album Songs of Praise from 1989, which I have on LP, but not on CD. Looking for it in the excellent music shops of Amsterdam today, I could not lay my hands on a CD, and back here the only copies seemingly available are a very expensive Japanese edition. I am not even sure I can download the music off any site, which I suppose is the main way of getting one's hands on music nowadays.This connects with Shashamane in that their 1993 album was called In Pursuit of Shashamane Land. Also good, but not quite as good as Songs of Priase.

Shashamane as a town does not have a very good reputation in the guidebooks. As we drove through we saw plenty of posters referrring to Bob Marley and the Rastafarians, but it seems the Rastafarians tend to live outside town. We enjoyed a coffee at this bar above and had a few minutes to walk around before setting off to catch our rafts down the Omo River.

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