World's Rastafarians gather in Ethiopia, jammin' to celebrate Bob Marley

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TENS OF thousands of reggae fans gathered in Ethiopia yesterday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Bob Marley's birth, winding their bodies to the sound of the drumbeat.

Rastafarians from around the world converged in Meskal Square, Addis Ababa, for a concert which included performances from Marley's five sons and his widow, Rita.

Waving red, green and gold flags, thousands partied to songs played in tribute to the Jamaican legend who brought reggae from the ghettos of Kingston to the world stage, marrying revolutionary lyrics with a belief in "One Love".

Angelique Kidjo, Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour joined Marley's former backing singers in jammin' to the international crowd.

Marley, who died in 1981, considered Ethiopia the spiritual home of his Rastafarian faith. It was the first time that his birthday had been celebrated outside Jamaica. For Rastafarians the concert was an affirmation of their faith, which considers smoking marijuana a sacrament sanctioned by the Bible and worships Ethiopia's late emperor Haile Selassie, who died in 1975, as a living messiah.

The free event, called Africa Unite, was organised by the Bob Marley Foundation, the United Nations children's agency and the African Union. His widow plans to rebury him in Ethiopia.