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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Continuing our talk in religion, today is a high holy day for followers of the Rastafarian religion. July 23rd marks the birth of Ethiopia's late emperor, Haile Selassie. For the Rastafarians, Selassie is God incarnate. On his birthday, Rastas around the world celebrate with feasts, prayers and by singing hymns in a style called Nyabingi.

(Soundbite of Nyabingi music)

CHIDEYA: Jamaican musician Ras Michael helped popularize Nyabingi music. He blended it with reggae during the 1970s and 80s. Michael is a devout Rastafarian. And for him, Selassie's birth, like that of Jesus in the Christian faith, affirms the late monarch's own divinity.

Mr. RAS MICHAEL (Musician): When His Majesty Empire(ph) Selassie came into this earth while rain fall. The Ethiopians made this holy...

(Soundbite of mouthing sound)

Mr. MICHAEL: Because the Jouett(ph) was broken (unintelligible). He was the 225th reigning monarch from the Solomonic Dynasty. So His Majesty, for the Rastafarians, as myself, is a tradition for all man.

(Soundbite of Nyabingi music)

Mr. MICHAEL: Nyabingi, it is a heart music. It's pure righteousness. It is a Orthodox set of music where it never change. It is for everyone.

(Soundbite of Nyabingi music)

Mr. MICHAEL: First, when I was a little boy, I used to read the Bible. It was fascinating because on Earth you don't see that real genuine love of mankind. You only see this kind of - you call it - competition against each other.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MICHAEL: (Singing) Children on the mountaintop drives only too far.

His Majesty came, tell us what the tunes of love was about. His Imperial Majesty is the bridge for the people and the west to come back to Ethiopia, Africa.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MICHAEL: (Singing) Ethiopia the land of fore fathers. The land where our gods want to be.

Everything that a man does on Earth, it's in the Bible, whether it be good or bad. We are our own witnesses. We know all the things that we do but we have our recorder now. That great recorder is the Almighty. So this 23rd of July is really special for the African people, the beret and the coming of His Imperial Majesty. That he reenergizes and reactivated the light that we can look to by going to the Bible again and glorifying his birth.

(Soundbite of Nyabingi music)

CHIDEYA: That was Jamaican musician Ras Michael. To hear more Nyabingi music, go our Web site, nprnewsandnews.org

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