Most people look at Rasta and Reggae like love and marriage where you can’t have one without the other. This assertion couldn’t be further from the truth.
People often intertwine the Rasta Movement and Reggae Music. The fact is, however, they are completely separate entities and each can exist independently without the other.
In 1920 the prophet Marcus Garvey told Blacks in the west to “Look to Africa, when a Black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand.” That is the statement that planted the seeds of what were to grow into the Rastafari Movement. At this point, Africans in colonial Jamaica were still performing waltzes and quadrilles that their fore-parents got from Europeans during the slavery era. Of course Africans had brought the Nyabinghi drumming from West Africa and still played it amongst themselves but they were required to play the quadrilles to entertain Europeans.
In 1930 when Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, the prophecy of Marcus Garvey were fulfilled, the Rasta Movement was no longer just a seed but it was now rooted and grounded. Two years later, after conferring with Marcus Garvey, Leonard Howell started the Rastafari movement. At this point, the Rastafari movement is in full swing and reggae has not even been created yet. In fact, it would be almost 40 years later before what we know as reggae would come into existence. In between the founding of the Rasta Movement up until the creation of reggae, Jamaica went through numerous musical transitions; mainly mento, rocksteady and ska. Interestingly enough, Rastas were not involved in any of these music genres.
In the late 1960s Jamaica moved from ska to reggae. While no one has been able to say for sure who made the first reggae song, many agree that the credit belongs to Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. What is for sure is that the main players in the reggae genre around this time were not Rastas. It was not until the Nyabinghi drums got infused into reggae that the music was not only embraced by Rastas but many ska and reggae artists who were not previously Rastas converted to the movement.
So today, while Rasta and Reggae has gone together like a hand and a glove, it is important to remember that they are still separate entities. The greatest Rastafarians including Marcus Garvey and Leonard Howell were never into reggae, they were before reggae. Reggae greats like Beres Hammond and Ken Boothe were never Rastas.