Nyahbinghi Drums

Welcome to Knysna, South Africa’s Largest Rastafarian Community

Welcome to Knysna, South Africa’s Largest Rastafarian Community

Updated: 14 June 2017

In the heart of the Garden Route, just outside of Knysna, you’ll find a bustling and sustainable Rastafarian community. Members are committed to conserving the surrounding area and living an overall better way of life, while staying true to their Rastafarian ideals.
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History of Judah Square

Judah Square was established in 1993 in Knysna’s Khayalethu Township and is the largest working Rastafarian community in South Africa.

After being granted title deeds to the land, the community established Judah Square into a formal settlement which houses a variety of different organisations, within the Rastafarian belief system.

After the initial establishment of Judah Square, the Rastafari formed House of Judah (HOJ), a co-op that’s involved with different community projects as well as the Knysna Municipality, SANParks, Cape Nature and more.

Rastafari men in Judah Square

From youth programmes to fundraising through arts and crafts, everyone in the community works together to foster a peaceful lifestyle | Courtesy of Judah Square

Running a sustainable community

Each community member pays an annual membership fee of R50-R100 (£2.90-£5.80) and a further R1 (£0.06) a day. These contributions are used for the upkeep and general maintenance of the community.

There are also monthly meetings where members can express any concerns or ideas they might have to benefit the community. As far as community interaction goes, morning prayers – held in the tabernacle by The Nyabinghi Order – can be heard from far away and on the first Saturday of each month a large church service is held, welcoming Rastafaris from all over.

When members of the community relocate from Judah Square, their property has to be sold while ensuring the community stays true to its cultural ethics. The decision, therefore, is completely up to the HOJ council. First, an existing member can choose to buy the property; only once it’s established that no members are interested will an outsider Rastafarian be considered. The council also has to agree on any new members who wish to join the community.

House of Judah

An on-going project by HOJ involves cleaning the Khayalethu River and building an information centre | Courtesy of Judah Square

Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is one of the most celebrated events at Judah Square and is open to anyone who wants to attend, whether Rastafari or not. The celebration entails seven days of worship and a further three days of music, food and culture. The event is open to the public and is a fantastic way to experience the Rasta way of life firsthand.

Want to visit?

Tours are the community’s biggest source of income, and can be booked by contacting Brother Zebulon on (+27) 76 649 1034. Visitors are guided through Judah Square while being educated about the Rastafari way of life and can even spend an evening in the local B&B.

Earth Day celebrations

The annual Earth Day celebration is one of the main events at Judah Square | Courtesy of Judah Square

Semilla Negra – Program 35: Mountains of African music

Semilla Negra – Program 35: Mountains of African music

Courtesy of http://blog.africavive.es/2012/07/semilla-negra-programa-35-montanas-de-musica-africana/

We are already in July and, like every year, two music festivals center the road map of ethnic sounds in Spain. They are two veteran competitions that have overcome difficult economic times to bring to our country good selections of groups from five continents. And this year, as is tradition, Africa brings a good handful of artists. Semilla Negra , the musical program of the Blog África Vive, invites you to know what will come from Africa at the festivals La Mar de Músicas (Cartagena) and Pirineos Sur(Huesca). In strict chronological order we started at the Aragonese festival, which reaches its twenty-first edition. Between July 13 and 28, in Sallent de Gállego, Africans will come from Morocco, Algeria, Ethiopia, Gambia, Angola and Mali.

Components of Ethiopian group Ethiocolor

Components of Ethiopian group Ethiocolor

Ten artists integrate the offer of African music from the South Pyrenees, a festival in which Casa África collaborates. The African route will start this Sunday, July 15, with one of the most courageous proposals of the Huesca contest. Fábrica de Rimas is the slogan of the concert that will bring together three sets of hip hopfrom three continents: the Moroccan trio H-Kayne, the Colombian quartet C15 and the Spanish rapper of Argentine origin LE Flaco. Together they will write the first chapter of a project based on the use of urban music as a tool for social cohesion. This meeting, to which are added parallel activities such as graffiti or break-dance, will travel later to Medellín (Colombia) and Meknes (Morocco), the cities of origin of the two invited foreign groups.

Two days later, on July 17, Casa África will be celebrating with the visit of the Ethiocolor group and the Munit & Jörg duo, two of the three proposals that were selected during the last edition of the Vis à Visinitiative held at the beginning of February in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Ethiocolor is a large music and dance formation led by the dancer Melaku Belay and the singer Munit Belay. With traditional instruments such as the washint flute, the masinko violin, the kebero percussion or the Ethiopian lyre called kirar, Ethiocolor makes a kind of folk-popwith dances from the gurage, konso and wolaita ethnic groups, stitched with traditional sounds from the country of the imperial musicians Mulatu Astatke, Tilahun Gessese and Mahmoud Ahmed. Together with this group, Pirineos Sur programs the performance of the duo formed by the Ethiopian singer Munit Mesfin and the German guitarist Jörg Pfeil, whose repertoire combines their own songs in the Amharic and English languages ​​along with versions of Bob Marley and Tilahun Gessese.

Munit & Jörg

Munit & Jörg won, together with Ethiocolor, the latest edition of Vis-a-Vis

We continue the African route through the South Pyrenees. On July 21st, the Huesca festival offers another double program, this time with the Algerian-born musician Kamel El Harrachi and the Malian duo formed by the guitarist Amadou Bagayoko and the singer Mariam Doumbia. Perhaps the name of the young Maghrebi musician does not call attention to the first, but if we clarify that he is the son of the legendary author and singer Dahmane El Harrachi you can get an idea of ​​where the thing is going. Dahmane The Harrachi was one of the pioneers of the chaâbi song in the Algeria of the twentieth century Ecuador. Author, among others, of the emblematic piece Ya rayah, emigrant in France and returned to Algeria prior to the civil war of the 90s, El Harrachi left a vast legacy of popular music that now his son claims in the album Ghana fenou . The western audience of the Amadou & Mariam couple, two Malian musicians who jumped to the big European market with the disc Dimanche à Bamako , under the production of Manu Chao, has a greater degree of knowledge . Since then, the current trajectory of Amadou & Mariam continues to grow with collaborations with musicians as disparate as the New York group TV on the Radio or Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. In the Pirineos Sur festival they will present the songs of their new album, Folila .

The fourth night of African music at the Huesca festival will present the Moroccan musician Barry. Really named Mohammed Bahri, born 32 years ago in Casablanca, Barry joined the pioneering group of Moroccan rap musicians CasaMuslim and later joined Barry and Survivors. In 2005 he recorded the song Labelisé , which became a youth anthem in his country. Similar success reached with the song Dear mama before delivering the album Sleeping system (2006). In South Pyrenees, Barry will perform several of the songs from his new album, Siba , in which he combines rap with pop aromas and Moroccan rock stitching .

Three days later, on July 24, the British musician Justin Adams will return to the Spanish stage with his cross-cultural project along with the Gambia’s Juliot Camara. Acclaimed since its release with the album Soul science , recorded in 2007, Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara will present songs from their latest production In trance , where this transcontinental couple combines sounds from jazz, reggae and dub with deep African vocal laments, guitar scratches and bouncy melodies. “Recording this album was a bit like controlling a runaway horse that is terrified,” explains Justin Adams, who previously collaborated with PiL, Brian Eno and Sinead O’Connor.

The Moroccan rap group H-Kayne

The Moroccan rap group H-Kayne

The following day, July 25, Pirineos Sur will host the presentation of Batida, the new project of the Angolan-Portuguese Pedro Coquenao, better known as DJ Mpula. A native of Huambo (Angola), but raised in a suburb of Lisbon, this radio and documentary broadcaster reflects in his sonorous work the diverse influence of the cities of Europe and Africa with an agile combination of urban elements and music from the 60s and 70 with new rhythms like kuduro . And on July 27, one of the new values ​​of the African Mediterranean song returns to Spanish stages. Since its appearance in 1997, the young Algerian singer Souad Massi has developed an artistic career that matches her talent to the tradition of the Maghrebi song. Although it was not until 2005, with the publication of the album Mesk Eli, produced by the influential Jean Lamoot, usual partner of Salif Keita, when Souad Massi dazzled half the world with his Arabian melismas. His most recent work, Ô Houria , produced two years ago with the French singer Francis Cabrel (with whom he sings Toute reste à faire ), will center his long-awaited performance on the final stretch of the Pirineos Sur festival.

To close the African festival at the Huesca festival, and with this we complete the musical road map that Semilla Negradedicated to the twenty-first edition of Pirineos Sur, the national auditorium of Lanuza will host the presentation of a cultural exchange project led by the Spanish ensemble led by the flamenco guitarist Manuel Santiago and the Moroccan musicians Jamal Nouman (voice and Arabic lute), Farid Ghannam (gambri and electric bass) and Ibrahim Terkemani (percussion). Together, under the name of Alquibla, they will review the influences of Arabic music in Spanish flamenco to pay tribute to the old neighborhood of Alquibla, where the Arab population settled in Huesca. And we end with an added value of South Pyrenees: the traditional dance workshop of Ethiopia that the dancer and musician Melaku Belay, leader of the Ethiocolor group, plans to give from July 17 to 18 at the municipal sports center in Huesca.

Carlos Fuentes is the author of Semilla Negra . Journalist and music critic during the last two decades has published articles, interviews and reports on African music in national newspapers and magazines such asRockdelux or Series B .