Jimmy Cliff | Bongo Man

Living Legend Jimmy Cliff... 

This clip features a mix of the classic 'Bongo Man' track (Jimmy Cliff, Give Thankx, LP, 1978) with another Reggae classic, 'Rivers of Babylon', originating from The Melodians in 1970 and made popular by Boney M in a Disco cover.

We can see Jimmy and the band performing the song as a Nyabinghi chant, which carries a lot of spiritual meaning...

'Nyabinghi' is the oldest of the Mansions of Rastafari. These Rastafari pledge love to all human beings, and do not believe in violence, because they believe that only Jah has the right to destroy. They make this pledge because of the power of words, believing that only when all of Jah's children make the pledge together, the oppressors will be destroyed.

In addition to the power of words there is the power of sound: 'Nyabinghi' music and chanting. 

The rhythms of these chants heavily influenced Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae music. Three kinds of drums are used in 'Nyabinghi' music: bass, funde and keteh. The keteh plays an improvised syncopation rooted in Ashanti dance and drumming, the funde plays a regular one-two beat and the bass drum strikes loudly on the first beat, and softly on the third (of fourth) beat. 

'Nyabinghi' is at the root of Reggae music and Rasta culture, deeply tied to the African motherland.
'Bongo Man' is therefore not only a beautiful song but also a tribute to Jamaican culture and its African origins.

(this article was originally published July 24, 2012 and re-edited & published on Oct 10, 2020)