Ras Michael was born George
Michael Henry in Kingston, Jamaica. He grew up in the Rastafarian communities of Salt
Lane, Dungle, Oxford Street, Pink Lane, Matthew's Lane, Trenchtown, Rosetown, Clock
Circle, Water House, Back a Wall, Cockburn Pen, in the ghettos of Kingston. His mother
Mercideth (known as Mercy)was a devoted Christian, she was born in the parish of St. Mary,
she left there and moved to Kingston where Ras Michael was born and raised, where he
learned hand drumming and eventually became an internationally acclaimed master-drummer.
The legendary musician is known throughout the world as a reggae vocalist and Nyabinghi
"burra" drum specialist whose style is roots, rock reggae.
"Nyabinghi" means righteous
vibrations stretching all the way back to the Motherland. Within the world of reggae, at
whose core is the celebration of African roots and culture, the name Ras Michael has long
been synonymous with the traditional drumming, dancing and chanting of the Nyabinghi
Rastaman, the man who answers to no man but that of Jah who lives within his heart.
"Wadada" - Amharic for love - is Ras Michael's favorite word, and Wadada is what
the music of Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus is all about. Ras Michael is a true
patriarch of reggae, among the purest of its sources, a constant conscience and keeper of
In the early 60's, Ras Michael formed the
Sons of Negus, a rastafarian group of drummers and singers and founded his Zion Disc
label, which continues to release most of his inventive and subtle albums to this day. Ras
Michael was also the first rastafarian to have a reggae radio program in Jamaica
("The Lion of Judah Radio" program first aired in 1967). In those times Ras
Michael along with Count Ossie were the main nyabinghi drummers to bring the sound of
Africa and the nyabinghi drum to the recording studio and blend it with reggae and jazz.
There is no artist alive today who has more continuously been the foremost exponent of
Rasta tradition worldwide.
Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus grew up
in the tradition burra drumming, one of the few surviving remnants of their African
heritage. In Jamaica, the burra and kumina drums first sounded to celebrate the religious
and social gatherings of the African people in Jamaica. Gradually, the Rastaman took over,
beating the drums at their prayer meetings, or groundation calls, the churchical
celebrations and thanks giving of song and dance that are the heart and inspiration of the
Nyabinghi. This churchical order dates back to the times of the priests & elders in
Lalibela Ethiopia, who played their drums chanting and praising Jah, and scolding the
wicked, in ancient churches hewn out of rock.
Ras Michael's music is drawn from an amalgam of biblical and African chants, he
distinguished himself from the other drummers in the early Rastafarian movements by
forging the connection between the traditional hand drums and the modern electric
instruments used in commercial music, thereby taking his message of equal rights and unity
from a few scattered communities in Jamaica's parishes out to the entire world
Ras Michael has worked, recorded and performed with
some of the most legendary musicians in the world, including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee
Perry, Burning Spear, Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack. He
performed with Bob Marley at the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica in 1978, one of the
most memorable music events of all time. Later that year, while in Paris, Marley was asked
what he thought of Ras Michael. "Ras Michael is a roots master and a Nyabinghi
specialist" he said. He tells it like it is."
Ras Michael has recorded more than 24 albums
over the years, including the memorable crossroads Kibir Am Lak (1977) (Glory to God) ,
the memorable Rastafari Dub featuring Peter Tosh, Robbie Shakespeare, and Earl
"Chinna" Smith , Promise Land Sounds Live (1980), and Love Thy Neighbor (1981),
Zion Train (1988), and Know Now (1990). His latest album, A Weh Dem A Go Do Wit It is on
the Lion Disc label distributed by ROIR-USA.
In 1980, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus
received the Martin International Award for Most Cultural Roots Band. Ras Michael is in
the British Guinness Book of World Records. In 1995, he was nominated to the Jamaica
Reggae Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was honored with the Ragga Muffin/Bob Marley Day Festival
Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a lifetime member of the Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide
In addition to acting as an evangelist,
ambassador and diplomat for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahido Church internationally, Ras
Michael is one of the founders and president of the Rastafarian International/Marcus
Garvey Culture Center in Los Angeles, and the Fly Away Culture Center in Kingston,
Jamaica. He is a speaker, lecturer and presenter. Recently, Ras Michael spoke at the
California Institute of the Arts on the subject "Jamaican Music with an African
Identity". His music is the heart of the African Rasta roots music.
Ras Michael continues to tour internationally
and spread his light on hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
"The music is spreading" Ras
Michael says, "and the people are getting more of an understanding. Remember, nothing
can leave how long you can hide from the truth and the rights- it swims like oil, it stays
on top. Without the one drop hard-core reggae music, without the Nyabinghi drop, reggae
would not be reggae and have no true identity. It brings the elders, it brings the old
man, it brings the young guys, it brings the ghetto people, the uptown people, downtown
and suburbs...everyone, with true expressions of themselves, so it is reality"
Ras Michael Links: