A religious movement that accepts Haile Selassie I,
as King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the Lion of Judah as Jahy.



Lyaric or Vocabulary

A religious movement that emerged in Jamaica in the early 1930s,
arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy.

Rastafari Movement | Rastafari Religion | Rastafari History | Rastafari Today | Rastafari Vocabulary |
Music & Rastafari | Roots Reggae | Dancehall | Ragga Reggae

Rastafarian Vocabulary


The Rastafari movement vocabulary, or Iyaric, is part of an intentionally created dialect of English. The adherents of Rastafari teachings believe that their original African languages were stolen from them when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and that English is an imposed colonial language. Their remedy for this situation has been the creation of a modified vocabulary and dialect, reflecting their desire to take forward language and to confront what they see as the corrupt and decadent society they call Babylon.

This is accomplished by avoiding words and syllables seen as negative, such as “back”, and changing them to positive ones.

I words



replaces “me”, which is much more commonly used in Jamaican English than in the more conventional forms. Me is felt to turn the person into an object whereas I emphasises the subjectivity of an individual.

I and I

 is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. Rastafarian scholar E. E. Cashmore: “I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we’re one people in fact. I and I means that God is in all men. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.” The term is often used in place of “you and I” or “we” among Rastafarians, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.

(See also: mysticism.)


food has not touched modern chemicals and is served without preservatives, condiments or salts. Alcohol, coffee, milk, and flavored beverages are generally viewed as not I-tal. Most Rastas follow the I-tal proscriptions generally, and some are vegetarians. Even meat-eating Rastas abstain from eating pork, as pigs are scavengers of the dead, as are crabs, lobsters, and shrimp, though other kinds of seafood are a Rastafarian staple.

I man

 is the inner man within each Rastafari believer.


 refers to positive emotions or feelings, or anything that is good.

Specifically it refers to high emotions and peaceful vibrations. 


derived from English “heights”, means “joy” and also the color “red”.

It can also be short for “Israelites”.


replaces “earthquake”.


replaces “creator”.

Idren or Bredren and Sistren

refer to the oneness of Rastafarians and are used to describe one’s peers (male – “bredren”, female – “sistren”).


replaces continually. It has the everlasting/everliving sense of I existing continuously.

Other words



describes the locks they wear, now universally called dreadlocks in English. The word is related to the fear of the Lord, as well as the fear locksmen inspired in the early stages of the movement. 


 is an important Rastafarian term, referring to human government and institutions that are seen as in rebellion against the rule of JAH (Zion), beginning with the Tower of Babel. It is further used by some to mean specifically the white ‘polytricksters’ that have been oppressing the black race for centuries through economic and physical slavery. Rastafari is defiance of Babylon, sometimes also called Rome. 


 is a Rasta term replacing English “politics”, because so many politicians, etc. turn out, they say, to be more like tricksters.

Red literally means stoned, or under the influence of cannabis due to reddening of the eyes being a side effect of being under the influence. 


 replaces “everlasting”, particularly in the context of Life Everliving. The “last” in “everlasting” implies an end, while the life the Rastas have will never end according to them, they being immortalists.


(His Imperial Majesty), pronounced him, and referring to Haile Selassie I. 


 replaces “oppression”, because oppression holds man down instead of keeping him up (pronounced op in Jamaican patois.) Similarly “downgression” = “violence” (from aggression). 


 replaces “dedication”, to rid itself of a connotation of death.


 replaces “invention”, because mechanical devices are seen as outdated, and because it is the inner experience of being a Rastafarian that is invention.

Overstanding (also “innerstanding”)

replaces “understanding”, referring to enlightenment that raises one’s consciousness.


 is a Rasta theological concept meaning the general state the entire world is in now, and has been getting progressively deeper in since 1930, and especially since 1974. This is a slight mutation of “Armageddon”, a name appearing in Revelation.


 refers to either Ethiopia or the whole continent of Africa, after the Day of Judgment.


 replaces “believe”, as Bob Marley sang. Rastafarians do not believe Haile Selassie is God and that they the Rastas are the chosen people. They claim to know these things, and would never admit to believing them.

Whore of Babylon

 is the Revelation character sometimes considered to be Queen Elizabeth II, technically still the Head of State of Jamaica; and/or the papacy.

Popular impact


Several Rastafarian words have migrated into mainstream English usage, or even widespread global usage. The term dreadlocks, for example, is used worldwide to denote the unique hairstyle which was popularized by the Rastafari.

Rastafarian usage of words like Zion and Babylon has entered American hip hop culture through Caribbean-American rappers, such as The Fugees.


Roots Reggae



Bob Marley and the Waillers

Roots reggae is the name given to Rastafarian reggae music from Jamaica, which evolved from Ska and Rocksteady, and which was made famous outside the Caribbean by the legendary singer/songwriter Bob Marley. Roots reggae is an inherently spiritual type of reggae music, the lyrics of which are predominantly in praise of Jah Ras Tafari Makonnen — Haile Selassie (1892–1975) the Emperor of Ethiopia (1930–1974).

Recurrent lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to the oppression of government. The creative pinnacle of roots reggae is arguably in the late 1970s, with singers such as Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy, Barrington Levy, and Lincoln Thompson, teaming up with studio producers including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, and Coxsone Dodd. The experimental pioneering of such producers within often restricted technological parameters gave birth to dub, and is seen by some music historians as one of the earliest (albeit analogue) contributions to modern dance music production techniques.

Roots reggae was an important part of Jamaican culture, and whilst other forms of reggae have replaced it in terms of popularity in Jamaica (dancehall for instance), roots reggae has found a small, but growing, niche globally. 

Roots reggae artists


List of roots reggae artists 


Singers, bands, and producers:
  • ·         The Abyssinians
  • ·         Alpha & Omega
  • ·         Anthony ‘Sangie’ Davis
  • ·         Ashanti Waugh
  • ·         Augustus Pablo
  • ·         Barrington Levy
  • ·         Beres Hammond
  • ·         Big Youth
  • ·         Black Uhuru
  • ·         Bob Marley & the Wailers
  • ·         Burning Spear
  • ·         Carlene Davis
  • ·         Carlton Jackson
  • ·         Cedric Myton
  • ·         The Congos
  • ·         Cornell Cambell
  • ·         Coxsone Dodd
  • ·         Culture
  • ·         Delroy Wilson
  • ·         Dennis Brown
  • ·         Denroy Morgan
  • ·         Devon Irons
  • ·         Don Carlos
  • ·         Dub Judah
  • ·         Earl Sixteen
  • ·         The Ethiopians
  • ·         Freddie McGregor
  • ·         Garnett Silk
  • ·         George Boswell
  • ·         Gregory Isaacs
  • ·         Groundation
  • ·         The Heptones
  • ·         Horace Andy
  • ·         Ijahman Levi
  • ·         Israel Vibration
  • ·         The Itals
  • ·         Jacob Miller
  • ·         Jah Shaka
  • ·         Jennifer Lara
  • ·         Johnny Clarke
  • ·         Johnny Osbourne
  • ·         Judy Mowatt
  • ·         Junior Murvin
  • ·         Junior Reid
  • ·         Kaliroots
  • ·         King Tubby
  • ·         Lee Scratch Perry
  • ·         Laurel Aitken
  • ·         Lincoln Thompson
  • ·         Linval Thompson
  • ·         Luciano
  • ·         Macka B
  • ·         Michael Rose
  • ·         The Mighty Diamonds
  • ·         Mighty Three
  • ·         Misty in Roots
  • ·         Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus
  • ·         Roland Alphonso
  • ·         Pablo Moses
  • ·         Peter Broggs
  • ·         Peter Tosh
  • ·         Prince Far I
  • ·         Ras Sam Brown
  • ·         The Rastafarians
  • ·         Rhythm & Sound
  • ·         The Silvertones
  • ·         Sizzla
  • ·         Sly & Robbie
  • ·         The Sons of Selassie
  • ·         Steel Pulse
  • ·         Sugar Minott
  • ·         Sylford Walker
  • ·         Tommy Cooks
  • ·         Toots & the Maytals
  • ·         Twinkle Brothers
  • ·         U-Roy
  • ·         The Upsetter
  • ·         The Viceroys
  • ·         The Velvet Shadows
  • ·         Winston Rodney
  • ·         Yabby U
  • ·         Yami Bolo



Dancehall Reggae  

Sean Paul

Dancehall is a type of reggae which developed around 1979, with artists such as Yellowman, Super Cat, Barrington Levy and others who went on to become the Roots Radics. It is also known by some as “Bashment” and in the early 1990s the term Raggamuffin was established. The style is characterized by a DJ singing and rapping or toasting over raw and danceable reggae music (riddims). The rhythm in dancehall is much faster than in reggae, with drum machines replacing acoustic sets. In the early years of dancehall, some found its lyrics as crude and bawdy (“slack”), though it became very popular among the youths of Jamaica. Like its reggae predecessor it eventually made inroads onto the world music scene. 

Like its reggae predecessor it eventually made inroads onto the world music scene.

This deejay-led, largely synthesized music departed from traditional conceptions of reggae. Dub poet Mutabaruka maintained, “if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains”. So far removed was it from its gentle reggae roots and culture that purists furiously debated as to whether it was genuinely reggae or not.

In the late 1990s, many artists returned to the Rastafari movement and changed their lyrical focus to “consciousness”, a reflection of the spiritual underpinnings of Rastafarianism. Various varieties of dancehall achieved some crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid- to late-1990s. In 2001, reggae pop star Shaggy went 6 times platinum with his album Hotshot. The next year, he received various nominations from the American Music Awards and the Grammy Awards, and he has won two World Music Awards. Also some Dancehall-tunes (voiced riddims) became popular during the summer of 2003, especially Sean Paul’s Get Busy.

Dancehall owes its name to the space in which popular Jamaican music was consumed and produced by the DJ. Dancehall is not just music therefore, but a space as well as an institution or culture in which music, dance and community vibes merge.

Dancehall can be understood as having two major highpoints between 1989-1994 and 1999-2004. In these periods artists like Buju Banton, Bounti Killa, Spragga Benz, Beenie Man, Capleton, Elephant Man, Shaggy, Sean Paul and Sizzla emerged. Today dancehall is perpetuated on the tongues of lyricists such as Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Sizzla Kalonji, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Buju Banton,Yellowman, Al beeno and many more.

Dancehall developed in Jamaica as a result of varying political and socioeconomic factors. Reggae as a style of music was heavily influence by the ideologies of Rastafari and was also spirited by the socialist movements in the island at the time. Dancehall the scion of reggae was birthed in the late seventies and early eighties, when many had become disenchanted with the socialist movement and harsh economic realities came to bear in the island. It is during this time that neo-liberalist ideologies and materialism started to factor into the live of many Jamaicans, and into the new music.

Dancehall has been condemned by high Jamaican society with little or no state endorsement. It has also faced the slaughter of intellectual criticism in the media, particularly by the likes of popular Jamaican journalists, like Ian Boyne.

Dancehall has also come to face scathing criticism from the homosexual community, as they claim that it perpetuates violence against homosexuals in Jamaica, most notably through its lyrics in songs by such DJs as Beenie Man and Buju Banton.

Dancehall is just short of being a movement but does have the characteristics of a cosmology, as it is a culture and a lens through which people see the world.

This cosmology and cultural phenomenon carries with it a linguistic component.

The Dancehall cosmology however is not easily understood and comes under heavy criticism from cultural and ethical absolutists who judge and evaluate Dancehall from their own cultural realms and sensibilities. Terms such as “bun” in the Dancehall, which translates to burn in standard English does not carry with it a very literal understanding as it may in European cultures. Hence, phrases like “bun sodomites” will not mean, to literally burn sodomites, but function more as a line of descent: it is an exaggeration used to indicate serious disapproval.

Ragga Reggae



Raggamuffin (or ragga) is a kind of reggae rap that includes digitized backing instrumentation. It is a form of dancehall, and has been popular since the middle of the 1980s; “(Under Me) Sleng Teng” (Wayne Smith; 1985) is usually recognized as the first ragga song. The instrumentation is usually behind dub singing, which is similar to rapping in its focus on rhythmic, assonating and rhyming words.

Ragga is the short form of raggamuffin, a term which held its present musical connotations since the late 1980s or beginning of 1990s. The term ragamuffin is derived from the Middle English personal name Ragamuffyn, which was usually employed in an insulting manner towards street children. The word later came to mean a person who is shabbily clothed and dirty, often applied to orphans. It was used in this way to describe Kingston ghetto youth, and the youth themselves took on the term to describe their new music. The name was used early on in album titles by Asher D & Daddy Freddy – “Raggamuffin Hip-Hop” as well as the Daddy Freddy songs “Ragga House” with Simon Harris or “Ragga Rock” with Led Zeppelin.

One of the reasons ragga music has gained such widespread use in Jamaica so quickly is the relatively low cost of building synthesized rythms. Many producers can turn out thousands of singles in a year, and producers often make “rhythm albums” entirely composed of beats for artists to record their own melodies and lyrics to. The style can be traced to the popularity of Wayne Smith’s 1985 single, “Under Me Sleng Teng,” which was produced by King Jammy, and featured a rhythm made on a Casio keyboard. The song boosted Jammy’s popularity immensely, and was followed by a host of imitators. The style remained popular

throughout the 1990s, and began to incorporate more and more elements of hiphop, both in the style of the beats and in the sampling techniques. This influence has allowed some tracks to become crossover hits in the United State’s urban music market. It has also been a major influence on the jungle/drum’n’bass scene in the United Kingdom.

List of Some Ragga musicians 

  • ·         Anthony B
  • ·         Asher D
  • ·         Buju Banton
  • ·         Pato Banton
  • ·         Al beeno
  • ·         Beenie Man
  • ·         Bounty Killer
  • ·         Charlie Chaplin
  • ·         Cocoa Tea
  • ·         Cutty Ranks
  • ·         Daddy
  • ·         Freddy
  • ·         Elephant Man
  • ·         Nichola Francis
  • ·         Tippa Irie
  • ·         Mad Cobra
  • ·         Sean Paul
  • ·         Shabba Ranks
  • ·         Tony Rebel
  • ·         Rupee
  • ·         Shaggy
  • ·         Wayne Smith
  • ·         Snow
  • ·         Papa Dee


Rastafari Movement | Rastafari Religion | Rastafari History | Rastafari Today | Rastafari Vocabulary |
Music & Rastafari | Roots Reggae | Dancehall | Ragga Reggae