Jamaican Bible Remix
The Jamaican Bible Remix is a theo-musical Black theology of liberation
The Jamaican Bible Remix is a conceptual gospel album and a ground-breaking theo-musical remix of the translation of the New Testament into Jamaican Patois. The project was a collaboration with producer Tony Bean from 5 AM Records and the Bible Society in the UK and the West Indies.
The Jamaican translation of the New Testament, Di Jamaikan Nyuu Testament, was published in 2012. The Jamaican Bible Remix studio album samples audio from the Jamaican translation and mixes it with contemporary urban music (grime, two-step, R & B, drum and bass), accompanied by a spoken biblical commentary by, among others, academic professor Lez Henry, vocal artist Justice Inniss, rapper and MC Juice Aleem and the first female Black bishop in the Church of England, Bishop Rosie Hudson-Wilkins.
Black Theology, as an academic discipline, has neglected contemporary gospel music while contemporary gospel music is immune to the theological imperatives of black theology. Beckford suggests a new sonic communicative strategy mediated by Rastafari reggae decoloniality that delinks gospel music from colonial Christianity. The album triangulates postcolonial Biblical hermeneutics, contextual theology (drawing from black and womanist liberation theologies) and theo-musicology that inscribes theological ideas into music practice. It brings together multiple voices and sounds in a cultural affirmation of a people in the act of redemption and liberation.
The Jamaican language has a theological meaning. Read as a secular liberation atonement theory, the use of the language is liberation from the imperial linguistics of colonialism. It addresses how captured Africans found ways of keeping their language and their culture alive in the way they spoke. The project demonstrates the complexity of translating and interpreting the Bible in a language often derided as Patois and offers a re-evaluation of Jamaican Patois as a legitimate, non-colonial language for Christian worship.
The studio album is the product of the Jamaican Diaspora in Britain. Diaspora people live in two worlds and draw ideas and experiences from the Caribbean and contemporary Britain. The studio album offers a theology of resistance and affirmation in an increasingly hostile Britain. The result is a Black liberation theology that is, in the words of one reviewer, 'the rhythmic proclamation of a social justice gospel draped in Black' (Powery, 2018).
R. Beckford (2017), 'The Jamaican Bible Remixed', BBC Heart and Soul. Listen to the full recording here.
R. Beckford (2006), Jesus Dub: Theology, Music and Social Change. London: Routledge.
Robert Beckford (2014), Documentary as Exorcism: Resisting the Bewitchment of Colonial Christianity. London: Bloomsbury.
R. Beckford (2016), 'Is David Starkey Right or Has the Jamaican Bible Movement Lost Its Mind?: Language and Atonement’ in K. Andrews and L. Palmer (eds), Blackness in Britain. London: Routledge, 101-114.
R. Beckford (2021), 'Handsworth Revolution: Reggae Theomusicology, Gospel Borderlands and Delinking Black British Contemporary Gospel Music from Colonial Christianity' in W.' L'. Henry and M. Worley (eds.), Narratives from Beyond the UK Reggae Bassline: The System is Sound. Palgrave Studies in the History of Subcultures and Popular Music). Palgrave Macmillan, 289-314.
Luke A. Powery (2018), 'Jamaican Bible remix', Black Theology, 16:2, 184-186.
Robert Beckford was from 2011-2019 Professor of Theology and Culture in the African Diaspora at Canterbury Christ Church University. He is now Professor of Theology at the Queen's Ecumenical Foundation, Birmingham and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. The author of several books exploring the interface of religion and black culture in Britain, he is a scholar-activist researching the intersections of faith and racial justice in and through diverse media texts. Beckford is also a BAFTA award-winning documentary filmmaker. He has written and presented over twenty films for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery USA. His films explore a range of themes including political critiques of the British Empire, biblical history and North Atlantic popular cultures.