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Roger Steffens Biography

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  • Roger Steffens Biography

     

    Roger Steffens is a long-time observer of the Jamaican music scene, who has shared many friends over the years with Keith Richard. When asked to conduct an interview for Keith's website, Steffens said, "I'm overjoyed. I've always wanted to speak with him because of our mutual love of reggae." Steffens was an early supporter of Keith's Nyahbinghi album project, " Wingless Angels," writing about its progress in the international reggae/world beat magazine he co-founded, The Beat.

    Nyahbinghi is the roots music that is based in the Rasta faith that began in Jamaica in the 1930s, with the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia, an event that many Jamaicans believe was foretold in the Bible as signifying that "the day of deliverance is near." They pointed to him as a returned Christ, noting that Selassie was directly descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The name Rastafari was the title he held before becoming Emperor, and literally means "Head Creator." Therefore the Rasta says, "So who create the head? Check it out - Him must be God!"

    Nyahbinghi men were early dreadlocked warriors seen in '30s newspaper pictures hurling spears at the tanks and planes of Mussolini's invading forces. Their uncombed "knotty" hairstyle began to be copied by Rasta adherents in the hills of Jamaica, who pointed to Biblical injunctions against trimming one's hair or beard.

    Remnants of the original rural Rasta encampments still abound in Jamaica. It was a group of them that Keith met when first he moved to the Isle of Springs in the early '70s. The ancient songs and knowledge that they carry forth as a mostly oral tradition fill the grooves of "Wingless Angels."

    Steffens discussed Keith's gradual absorption into the local Rasta community, and the birth of the recordings that led to this timeless-sounding album. Along the way, Keith recalls early ska influences in Swingin' Sixties London. Another topic centers on Hazrat Inayat Khan, a turn of the last century sufi mystic, whose stunning writings on the mysticism of sound and music still carry great weight a hundred years onward.

    Steffens' own involvement in the music includes a decade-long stint at KCRW, L.A's NPR outlet, co-hosting the "Reggae Beat" show. "Bob Marley was our first guest," he recalls, "followed soon after by Ras Michael, and several other of the deepest Nyahbinghi musicians. They are like modern prophets, roaming the lengths of Jamaica, and now the world, bringing their admonitions and ancient wisdom to the people with the soundtrack of reggae's most abiding rhythm. The secret of this music is that it is the beat of the healthy human heart at rest. Regardless of whether the language is understood, there is a universal visceral reaction to this riddim, and that's why it is played all over the earth today. Keith has really done history an extraordinary favor by preserving it in its most honest form, free of studio restriction. This is the music of the Rastafarian movement at its most elemental and essential. Who would have thought that someone almost always associated with the Dark Side should help shine such glorious light on such noble creations."

    Steffens' Reggae Archives, reported to be the largest of their kind, were the subject of an eight-month long exhibition at the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California in 2001. Additionally, Steffens lectures worldwide on The Life of Bob Marley. Herein, a transcript of their recent conversation about "Wingless Angels."

     

    Posted by: WebCrew
WebCrew's picture
on April 14, 2010

 

Roger Steffens is a long-time observer of the Jamaican music scene, who has shared many friends over the years with Keith Richard. When asked to conduct an interview for Keith's website, Steffens said, "I'm overjoyed. I've always wanted to speak with him because of our mutual love of reggae." Steffens was an early supporter of Keith's Nyahbinghi album project, " Wingless Angels," writing about its progress in the international reggae/world beat magazine he co-founded, The Beat.

Nyahbinghi is the roots music that is based in the Rasta faith that began in Jamaica in the 1930s, with the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia, an event that many Jamaicans believe was foretold in the Bible as signifying that "the day of deliverance is near." They pointed to him as a returned Christ, noting that Selassie was directly descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The name Rastafari was the title he held before becoming Emperor, and literally means "Head Creator." Therefore the Rasta says, "So who create the head? Check it out - Him must be God!"

Nyahbinghi men were early dreadlocked warriors seen in '30s newspaper pictures hurling spears at the tanks and planes of Mussolini's invading forces. Their uncombed "knotty" hairstyle began to be copied by Rasta adherents in the hills of Jamaica, who pointed to Biblical injunctions against trimming one's hair or beard.

Remnants of the original rural Rasta encampments still abound in Jamaica. It was a group of them that Keith met when first he moved to the Isle of Springs in the early '70s. The ancient songs and knowledge that they carry forth as a mostly oral tradition fill the grooves of "Wingless Angels."

Steffens discussed Keith's gradual absorption into the local Rasta community, and the birth of the recordings that led to this timeless-sounding album. Along the way, Keith recalls early ska influences in Swingin' Sixties London. Another topic centers on Hazrat Inayat Khan, a turn of the last century sufi mystic, whose stunning writings on the mysticism of sound and music still carry great weight a hundred years onward.

Steffens' own involvement in the music includes a decade-long stint at KCRW, L.A's NPR outlet, co-hosting the "Reggae Beat" show. "Bob Marley was our first guest," he recalls, "followed soon after by Ras Michael, and several other of the deepest Nyahbinghi musicians. They are like modern prophets, roaming the lengths of Jamaica, and now the world, bringing their admonitions and ancient wisdom to the people with the soundtrack of reggae's most abiding rhythm. The secret of this music is that it is the beat of the healthy human heart at rest. Regardless of whether the language is understood, there is a universal visceral reaction to this riddim, and that's why it is played all over the earth today. Keith has really done history an extraordinary favor by preserving it in its most honest form, free of studio restriction. This is the music of the Rastafarian movement at its most elemental and essential. Who would have thought that someone almost always associated with the Dark Side should help shine such glorious light on such noble creations."

Steffens' Reggae Archives, reported to be the largest of their kind, were the subject of an eight-month long exhibition at the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California in 2001. Additionally, Steffens lectures worldwide on The Life of Bob Marley. Herein, a transcript of their recent conversation about "Wingless Angels."

 

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