The commercialization of reggae exploits the Rasta culture to a greater extent solely because of what the religion and movement stood for in the first place. Modern society was “Babylon”, and the Rasta man’s ambition was to “tear down the walls of Babylon”. ”Paradoxically, while reggae acts as a voice of counter hegemonic change, it simultaneously consolidates the economic power base of the status quo.
This incongruity suggests that the perception of creative empowerment through the music’s dissemination must be tempered by a consciousness of how Babylonian forces are extracting oil from the well of reggae.” (Aiello, 100) The reason the commercialization of this culture exploited it so much was because it went against everything it stood for. Making money off such an art form and culture seems to undermine the essential message.
In Jamaica people take the Rastafarian religion very seriously. In a television show called “Madventures”, two Finish men explore Jamaica and visit parts that are not common for a tourist to go. In their travels, they meet a man known as “Big Dread.” Big Dread turned to the Rastafarian religion at age 49 and soon after left the city of Kingston and moved into the woods in the outskirts of the city. This man lives in a shack that he built out of sticks, and grows vegetables in a little garden by his shed.
He only owns a dog and a donkey and every Sunday he rides the donkey into town to sell his fruit. This garden is his sole livelihood and he does not even make enough money for clothes and food, but still he claims that he is the happiest he has been in his life. He says that JAH love and nature is all he needs to be happy. This is a testament to how powerful this religion really is. The fact that someone can stop their entire life to live in the woods, and be perfectly happy is perfect evidence for the purity and power of this religion.
Big Dread escaped Babylon by his decision, and that was all he wanted. Obviously, not all Rastafarians are like this, but the story behind Big Dread makes an interesting point. There is so much more to this religion than what is known by many westerners, and the stereotype of this religion as “just chilling and smoking” given by many westerners does it a significant amount of injustice. The use of ganja for Rastas is to enhance meditation and please JAH. Many Rastas do not even smoke marijuana recreationally, but solely at religious ceremonies.
The image that the western record labels gave ganja as associated to reggae as a rebellious act takes away from the true essence of why Rastafarians smoke the “wisdomweed.” In our society, almost everything has potential for profit. Because of this almost everything including art, music and culture have been commercialized to some extent. Some see it as “selling out.” Almost everyone knew a musician or artist that they have seen on a small stage at a bar or community room.
However, what art form in our society has not been commercialized? As sad as it is, it is a fact that in our modern capitalist society, everything is dependent on economic stability. Every art form that is created out of pure intentions and passion is inevitably going to be looked at by another person as a chance for profit. It is unfortunate that the world has to work this way.