39. Shashamane Land
Written & performed by Roman Stewart
7’’ single (Recession Beaters, UK 2002)



It’s the land that his majesty
With all his wisdom and mercy
Prepared for you and me
It’s the land that was granted
To the Rasta man to live
So come my brothers and sisters
And give what you can give
‘Cause Jah love is the only way

In Memory of Roman Stewart, 1957 – 2004

‘Oh so sadly and untimely we mourn the passing of popular Jamaican reggae singer and long-time New York resident Roman Stewart, popularly known as ‘Mr. Special’. Roman Stewart was born on the tropical isle of Jamaica on May 11, 1957 and sadly departed life on Sunday, January 25th 2004, at the youthful age of forty-six, after attending a concert of his friend of many years, Grammy-nominee, reggae singer Freddie McGregor at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

Roman performed later that night at a party in Brooklyn, and complained of not feeling well after his performance. He succumbed to heart failure the next day at Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, Long Island.

Roman migrated from Jamaica in the late seventies, and enjoyed living in New York. In the 1975 Jamaica’s Independence Festival song competition, he performed the winner ‘Hooray Festival,’ written by his older brother Tinga. They often performed duets on many concert dates, and recording two albums ‘Break Down the Barriers’ and ‘Brother to Brother,’ receiving critical reviews.

Roman had a special affection for ‘hanging-out’ in Brooklyn at popular recording studios including Don One Studio and Ed Robinson Studio, although he was a resident of the borough of Queens.’

Source: ‘Popular reggae singer Roman Stewart dies’, by Donovan Gopie, Sunday, February 8, 2004.

About Shashamane

‘Shashamane is a town in the southern part of the Shoa province (now known as Oromia State under the new Federal structure), roughly 150 miles from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Located in the Rift Valley at an altitude of 2000 feet, it is famous for its fertile land and lies on both sides of the Kings Highway, which leads to Kenya. Shashamane, originally established as a garrison town, dates back to the beginning of the 19th century.’

Source: The Shashamane Settlement Community Development Foundation, Inc., USA

Shashamane, February 3, 2005

‘Bob Marley celebrations throw spotlight on Rastafarian ‘promised land’’ (AFP, February 3, 2005)

As thousands of Bob Marley fans flock here for celebrations for what would have been the late reggae legend’s 60th birthday, the spotlight has fallen again on Ethiopia, a ‘promised land’ for Rastafarians that is perhaps better known for disastrous famines.

Marley, arguably the world’s most famous ‘Rasta,’ held, as other members of the sect still do, that Ethiopia’s former emperor Haile Selassie is a ‘living god’ and regard his impoverished Horn of Africa nation as their Jerusalem.

Born from a blend of colonial hatred and Biblical prophecy in the slums of Jamaica in the first half of the 20th century, Rastafarianism is a tribute to Ras Tafari Mekonen, Haile Selassie’s name until he was crowned emperor in 1930.

‘Rastafarians emerged at a time when education in Jamaica was mainly the province of missionaries,’ said Richard Panckhurst, an authority on Ethiopian history. ‘Kings coming out of Africa and Ethiopia will stretch their hands to God is what they were reading in the Bible in 1928,’ he said. ‘Two years later, Haile Selassie would become the emperor of Ethiopia, the only (African) country that has never been colonised.’

Thus, Ras Tafari Mekonen’s coronation as ‘His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie the First, King of Kings, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia’ had a powerful effect.

Despite the grand title, Haile Selassie was always uncomfortable with the Rastafarians’ belief in his divinity, but was careful not to alienate the movement which was picking up steam as North American and Caribbean blacks slowly began to agitate for their rights. Having offered land to Armenian victims of Turkish massacres in the 1920s, Haile Selassie was predisposed to making a similar donation when approached by Rastafarians who believed their past and future destiny lay in Ethiopia. ‘Hearing from the Rastafarians who wanted to come back to Africa, he gave them land but he didn’t accept the belief that he was God,’ Panckhurst said.

To this day, several hundred Rastafarians live in the community of Shashamane built about 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of the Ethiopian capital on land that Haile Selassie gave to the movement in 1948.

Sporting dreadlocks and outfits of green, yellow and red — the colours that also make up Ethiopia’s national flag — Rastafarians in the country are regarded as curiosities by most natives of their adopted country. ‘The average Ethiopian doesn’t know that they exist and (if they do) regard them as a bit unusual,’ Panckhurst said. And, of the little most people know of the movement, the one thing they are all aware of is the fact that many Rastafarians consider marijuana smoking to be a sacrament.

Marijuana possession is a crime in Ethiopia — a fact the US State Department deemed important enough to point out to Americans planning to attend the Bob Marley festivities here — and there have been spats over the weed between the authorities and Shashamane residents in the past. Yet the community has persevered for more than 50 years, through hardship, official harassment, revolution and reaction, and numerous natural disasters including devastating droughts, famines and pestilence.

‘Haile Selassie descended from King David of Israel,’ says Desmond Martin, the head of the Rastafarian Development Committee who has lived in Shashamane for nearly two decades. ‘We believe that God has revealed himself to us in the form of Haile Selassie and we want to be as close to the creator as possible,’ he says flatly. ‘Shashamane is the promised land for us,’ says Teddy Dan, a musician from Manchester, England, who has lived in Shashamane for four years. ‘It was given by His Majesty the emperor so that we could return somewhere in Africa. It is our Jerusalem.’

Source: World Religious News. ‘Bob Marley celebrations throw spotlight on Rastafarian ‘promised land’

Shashamane, February 6, 2005

Protests cloud Marley celebration, by Andrew Heavens, Scotland on Sunday, February 6, 2005.

‘Thousands of Reggae fans are expected to cram into Addis Ababa’s central Meskel Square today to watch a free nine-hour concert featuring five of Bob Marley’s sons, his widow Rita Marley and a host of World music stars. [Ethiopian World] Federation members are hoping to take advantage of the world’s attention to raise their grievances.

The Ethiopian World Federation, which claims to speak for a range of Rastafarian organisations and splinter groups, said it had sent letters to Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government departments, asking for face to face meetings.

BJ Moody, the federation’s chief resident, said: ‘As the words of Bob Marley’s music ring out over Ethiopia to ‘Get Up, Stand Up, and don’t give up the fight’ the federation is determined to halt this encroachment upon its heritage and is prepared to do whatever is necessary for its protection.’

The main controversy is focused on three hectares of land in the dusty town of Shashamane, around 150 miles south of Addis Ababa, where most of Ethiopia’s Rastafarians live today. The three hectares were part of a 200-hectare parcel of land set aside by Haile Selassie for black settlers from the West in the 1950s.

The land was quickly taken up by Rastafarians and other people from the West Indies, North America and Europe caught up in the ‘Back to Africa’ movement of the 1950s and 1960s. But large parts of the fertile acreage were taken back again during the repressive Marxist regime which ruled over Ethiopia over the next two decades.

The World Federation claimed the region’s local Oromia authority had allowed outside developers to move on to its last few plots.

King said: ‘We have three main issues. First we want the right to commercially develop front pieces of our land on the main road through Shashamane. Secondly we want the return of the full 200 hectares of land that was given to us. And thirdly there is the issue of citizenship. It is a scandal that we have second or third generation children here in their twenties who are still seen as foreigners.’

Source: Protests cloud Marley celebration, by Andrew Heavens, Scotland on Sunday, February 6, 2005. Meskel Square