Reggae gig opens up Ivory Coast's "Rasta Village"

Mon May 10, 2010 2:40pm EDT
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By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - With its wooden shacks on a beach shaded by palm trees, Ivory Coast's "Rasta Village" could be anywhere in West Africa -- if it wasn't for all the dreadlocks, Ethiopian flags and murals of the Lion of Judah.

This weekend the villagers in Ivory Coast's Rastafarian colony, near the port of Abidjan, made a rare opening to the outside world with a four-day reggae festival that culminates in the anniversary of Bob Marley's death on Tuesday.

Reggae bands pumped out loud bass lines. Devoted Rastafarians with big dreadlocks sipped beers at tables painted in the red, yellow and green of their adopted Ethiopian flag, each named after one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

With its curious blend of Old Testament Christianity and pan-African nationalism, Rastafarianism -- Rastafari as its followers prefer to call it -- is usually more associated with its birth place in Jamaica than the continent it yearns for.

But Africa's Rastafarians, whose tell-tale dreadlocks can be spotted across the continent from the beaches of Zanzibar to the streets of Johannesburg, insist they're the real thing.

"It's all the same culture," reggae singer and resident Ras Kaloudja told Reuters at the festival.

"For us, it originates in Africa, then it went to the Caribbean, then it came back here. It's the same spirit everywhere, although there are musical differences."


<p>A resident works in front of a mural of Bob Marley at the "Rasta Village" of Port Bouet in Abidjan May 8, 2010. REUTERS/Luc Gnago</p>