Origins of Binghi
What is Nyabinghi and where did it come from?
In short, Nyabinghi was a movement that involved chanting and drumming rhythms.
These Nyabinghi rhythms shaped reggae music as we know it today.
Writers use the word Nyabinghi, but sometimes shorten that to "Binghi". In essence, Binghi is more than just a musical style. In the same fashion, it is a sacred art, and an act of worship. Rasta fans enjoy the music during nighttime drumming and dance rituals, usually held on Rasta holidays and special occasions.
For instance, some of the holy days Rastas honor are the birthdays of H.I.M Haile Selassie I and Marcus Garvey. They also praise H.I.M.'s visit to Jamaica on April 25, 1966, and the Emancipation from Slavery, to list a few. In spite of these, scholars believe the term "Nyabinghi" began in East Africa. Moreover, it came from a religious, spiritual, and political movement that first began in the 1850s, lasting until the 1950s.
A series of strong, devout women led this movement, by drawing support for army actions against white settlers. To put it in another way, the first binghi drummers were spiritual women in Uganda.
These Nyabinghi warriors led the Binghi movement to fight black and white tyrants.
About The Nyabinghi Movement
The Binghi movement centered around a woman healer named Muhumusa.
Her followers saw in her a view of the Divine Feminine energy. Additionally, her followers believed that she possessed the spirit of a fabled Amazon Queen, surprisingly known as Binghi.
In other words Queen Nyabinghi is a warrior princess.
As a result, people followed when she organized an armed resistance against the German soldiers. The British detained her in Uganda in 1913.
Like with Muhumusa, the spirit of Binghi possessed mostly women in these early days. However, men who led uprisings against the British in later years also became possessed by the spirit.
Binghi or Witchcraft?
On the other hand, British effort to destroy the Binghi movement was tried, banning it as witchcraft!
Through the Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912, the European forces in Africa aided in the spread of the Christian faith. Also, they encouraged other local anti-Nyabinghi cults.
To that end, the British used basic witch burning procedures from the 1500s. These brutal punishments were central in the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist relations in Europe.
Binghi Chants For Days
Binghi chants can last for several days.
They bring together hundreds of Rastas from all over Jamaica. What's more, the rhythms of these chants had an impact on famous ska, rocksteady and reggae music.
Niyabinghi drumming is not exclusive to the Niyabinghi order, and is common to all Rastafarians. Its rhythms are the basis of Reggae music. To most Rastas, Nyabinghi songs and chants are their gospel music.
Furthermore, Binghi drumming is seen as the voice of Rastas rediscovering their African roots.
Lastly, Nyabinghi music is typically played on three drums in a 4/4 time signature.
Three Binghi Drums
- Thunder Drum: It is a double-headed bass drum, played with a mallet.
- Funde Drum: The funde is the middle drum. It maintains the dominant heartbeat rhythm.
- Repeater Drum: The repeater or keteh, is the smallest and highest pitched drum.
The Binghi Spirit & Meaning
Some scholars believe the word Nyabinghi means"
"She who owns many things."
However, according to early Rastas in Jamaica, the term literally means "death to the Black and White oppressors."
Again, this movement was based on the recognition of the Nyabhingi warrior princess in Africa.
Nyabhingi is a chant down to the oppressor.
Nyabhingi is also the oldest order within Rastafari and arguably one of the strongest to date, in terms of the current movement. If the Nyabinghi order of Rastafari interests you, then you should check of the Nyabinghi Creed and Anthem.
By dancing Binghi against a known oppressor, a Rasta believes they invoke the Power of Jah. This is a sure way of banishing or destroying any oppressor. During the Dreadlocks Era, Rastas would dance binghi against oppressors. However, today, these dances are purely symbolic festivals which can last for quite a few days.